Monday, April 28, 2014

eSe Teatro hard at work promoting and educating Latino actors

Charise Castro Smith

On April 13th, on a relatively balmy afternoon at ACT Theatre, eSe Teatro artistic director Rose Cano managed a new effort to introduce Latino actors to the Seattle theaters for consideration in near-future productions.

For the first ever NW Regional Latino Auditions, approximately 45 mostly local actors, but also from as far away as Chicago and Los Angeles, strutted their stuff before a powerhouse list of regional companies: Seattle Repertory, Book-It Repertory, ACT Theatre (host company), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Miracle (Milagro) Theatre Group, Latino Theatre Projects, Washington Ensemble Theatre and a few more. Washington Ensemble is mounting Charise Castro Smith’s play, The Hunchback of Seville, opening June 5th.


Each actor was given the standard three minutes to perform and many presented two short pieces. The mix of pieces ranged from very contemporary to classic Shakespearian and Spanish plays. Many of the performers chose to perform pieces that mixed Spanish and English to show their ability to perform in both languages. A number of performers were young men and women who are studying at Cornish or UW.

Rose Cano says that’s one of the reasons she wanted to create this special audition opportunity. “Latino artists are coming out of Cornish and UW and leaving (after graduation). We’re losing talent to other places. Portland has all this action, Oregon Shakes Fest has all this action. They (OSF) just produced a play by Tanya Saracho. Where is Seattle? My point is that in our region, the big regional theaters haven’t produced Latino plays in a while. We also want to strengthen independent productions that go up.”

Rose and her company have been working tirelessly to promote and enhance Latino theatrical offerings. Some reasons listed for producing a special audition day included notions of making artists comfortable to audition. Many currently likely believe that mainstream audition opportunities, like TPS Generals, are either too hard to get into (there are never enough spots to include hundreds of actors around town who desire to be seen), or the theater companies won’t find a character to cast them in, anyway.

Many Asian-American actors feel like they will only be cast in shows by companies like SiS Productions or ReACT, the “Asian-focused” companies in town, so why audition for others? Many African-American actors also feel like they’re best chances of getting parts are in shows at Langston Hughes or projects from the Hansberry Project.

Another reason for these auditions is “To create a data base of NW Latino talent, to be shared with Latino theatres across the country as part of a National Latino Theatre Alliance (Latino Theatre Commons).” eSe Teatro is connected to national efforts to improve awareness of Latino plays and artists.

 In March/April/May 2014, playwright Caridad Svich, who won the Obie Lifetime Achievement award in 2012, spearheaded an effort to read 30 (Latino) plays in 30 days (the 30/30 project at www.nopassport.org/3030). Not all the readings were in 30 days, and indeed, two of them are here in May:

May 6th: Stranger by Martin Zimmerman, reading by Latino Theatre Projects at Annex Theatre, 7:00PM free/donations. https://www.facebook.com/events/616168095138360/

May 10th: University of Washington/Hansberry Project reads Learn to be Latina by Enrique Urueta at Penthouse Theatre at UW-Seattle directed by Val Curtis-Newton at 7:30 PM. Free.

Rose says, “We did her (Svich) Archipelago on  March 21 at ACT Theatre as a 30/30 reading.”

Another effort in May is to offer professional enhancement trainings. Rose says, “Obviously not everyone is studying at Cornish or PATP, so we asked artists what they would need and they said to have professional development to be able to perform at the highest professional level. Latino talent in general should be able to walk into any audition and perform at the same level expected at any regional theater.

“So, we’re offering these two workshops by these national theater artists, one thanks to Portland… and one thanks to WET. These aren’t just for Latino actors and playwrights, they’re open to everyone in general.”

The workshops, one for playwrighting and one about Shakespeare are called “eSe Taller/eSe Workshops.” (Note: English speakers, don’t read “taller” as the opposite of shorter…it’s the Spanish word for workshop and the two “l”s sound like a “y”.)

Enrique Urueta
Award-winning playwright Enrique Urueta (via Milagro Theatre of Portland, where a production of his play Learn To Be Latina opens May 1st) will teach (on the 4th floor of the Center House known as “TPS 4”) two three hour sessions: Thursday, May 8, 7:00pm-10:00pm and Saturday, May 10, 4:00pm-7:00pm. Both sessions cost $95 (a very reasonable cost for instruction) and can be purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/642875

Actor/playwright Charise Castro Smith (having recently graced the London stage with the Royal Shakespeare Company) will also teach Acting for Shakespeare in two three hour sessions: Saturday, May 17 4-7pm and Sunday, May 18 4-7pm. Both sessions cost $95 (a very reasonable cost for instruction) and can be purchased here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/643052

Rose says, “It’s wonderful to offer these role models at a very affordable price. Sometimes regional theaters may think that if they want to do a Latino play, they might have to bring people from elsewhere to do these plays. When Seattle Rep did The Cook, everyone was from outside of Seattle. I’m hoping Seattle will be recognized as a hub for Latino theater. In the long run. It’s going to take some time.”

Certainly, if Rose has her way, that time-line will be as short as humanly possible.