Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Creating Latino Theatre Audiences

Rupert's Blog 4.28.09 - ¿Donde está la raza?

Austin's Fuse Box Festival, which takes place this week in venues and public spaces all across the city, is a theater festival that is being done right. Since its founding in 2007 by Ron Berry of Refraction Arts, the festival has grown into historic proportions. It presents renowned international acts and national artists either free of charge or at very low cost. In addition, Fuse Box offers daily lunchtime meetings called Fusebox Talks, where audience members can meet and talk with the artists, and nighttime gatherings, Fusebox Late Night Hangout at Spider house's US Art Authority.

I've had the privilege of attending a couple of Fusebox events this year, and I've seen shows I never could have imagined (most notably érection, an astonishing dance performance by Pierre Regal and Aurelien Bory that follows the evolution of humankind from primitive to modern times). One thing I haven't seen at the festival, however, is a significant Latino audience. The intent of this blog is to raise the question of why.

How much effort do the organizers of cultural events that are not specifically geared towards certain ethnic groups put into marketing for minority audiences? Do they just publicize along traditional wavelengths--English-language press releases to the Statesman and the Chronicle, publicity photos, English-language posters around Downtown? Or do they try to get creative, but somehow fail to generate minority interest?

As artistic director of Teatro Vivo, the only theater company in Austin committed to producing bilingual (English-Spanish) theater accessible to all audiences, I am constantly working to grow audiences from among people who do not typically attend cultural events. In particular, there is a large and growing Latino population in Austin which, as I have seen first-hand at numerous cultural events in this city, many organizers don't seem to be able to reach.

Teatro Vivo enjoys its relationship with all the artists in town. We enjoy being around them both on a professional and on a personal level. We have always been welcomed to events and performances. This blog in no way intends to level or insinuate any type of discrimination or insensitivity on the part of the organizers and their supporters.

It does, however, intend to call attention to the fact that there's a huge segment of the population of this city that is not taking part in its cultural events. As artists and organizers, we have an obligation to figure out why, and to work to change that. Encouraging the participation of Latinos and other minorities in cultural events will benefit everyone--not only the people who attend the events, but artists, promoters, and Austin as a whole.

No comments: