Rupert's Blog 5.06.09 - La Raza in the Casa
In my last blog, “¿Donde está la raza?”, I raised the question of why there are so few Latinos and other minorities among Austin cultural audiences. One of the most interesting responses suggested that Latinos have to behave differently at certain art functions "West of IH 35".
The writer suggested that when Latinos are at an event where there are lots of their own, they can relax and be themselves. When attending an event where they feel isolated, they have to act like someone else.
I would agree somewhat, but I would be a little more specific and say that when attending an event governed by another culture’s behavioral code, they have to guess what these rules are and act accordingly.
So where are the Latino Audiences? At home watching TV, I would imagine. Because watching a TV show in your own home where you can laugh as loud as you want and talk back to the actors is probably a lot more enjoyable than going to an event where you spend the whole time trying to figure out how to behave.
I can think of two solutions to this problem. First, traditional theater-going audiences must become more accepting of audience reactions outside the norm. So what if someone laughs a little too loud at a crude joke? So what if someone lets out a grito at an opera performance? If people pay for a ticket, they have a right to enjoy the show.
The second solution has to do with education and is not so much a project as a lifelong commitment. Latino youth must be encouraged to attend as many theater performances as possible in order to develop a culture that is comfortable sitting in an audience.
Many Latinos have never experienced a play. My understanding from students of the former Johnston High School (now Eastside Memorial) is that the theater department at Eastside Memorial High School has gone years without a play being produced on their stage. I know there is a new theater teacher there this year, and I wish her the best.
So how can you talk to a student or their families about theater when they have little or no information about it? How can you describe a play to someone who has never seen one or experienced one? You can't.
Here are a few suggestions:
We need to get funds to get local theaters to produce free shows at the high schools, middle schools and elementary schools with high minority enrollment, to begin to expose the students and their families to these shows.
How about "trailers for theater"? You could have groups come and do 30 minutes of a play for a school and then distribute tickets to see the rest.
These are just a couple of ideas I can think of off the top of my head. If you can think of more, please add them in the comments section. I think it is time to start a dialog on this subject. Students are the future. To paraphrase Luis Valdez, if you can't get the students to the theater, get the theater to the students.