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A very happy National Hispanic Heritage Month to you, theatre lovers! Celebrated annually from September 15 to October 15 in the United States, this time is set aside to recognize the contributions and influence of Hispanic Americans.
From overall cultural impact to innovations, achievements and everything in between, National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate. And what better way for On The Stage to honor this holiday than by showcasing theatre and other media created by and representing the Hispanic American community?
By: Octavio Solis
Set in the 1970s on the Texas border with Mexico, Lydia explores the dynamics between the Flores family and the lead, Lydia, an undocumented maid. Lydia is originally hired to care for the Flores’ disabled daughter, who was in a devastating car crash on the eve of her quinceañera. An immediate connection between Lydia and the daughter leads to a shocking journey of discovery.
By: Josefina Lopez
Type: Play with a 2002 movie adaptation
Real Women Have Curves follows five Latina women – Ana, Estela, Carmen, Pancha, and Rosali – through their lives in east Los Angeles; the group works together at a sewing factory and discusses dodging immigration agents. A compelling look at gender politics, the Latina immigrant experience, and the shifting of perspectives through generations, Real Women Have Curves mixes nuanced social commentary with enjoyable comedy and drama.
By: Lin-Manuel Miranda and Quiara Alegria Hudes
Type: Musical with 2021 film adaptation
The winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical in 2008, powerhouse musical In The Heights is an ode to the New York neighborhood of Washington Heights. The show follows a variety of residents, including Usnavi, a first generation Dominican-American bodega owner who’s worried about the rising rent. Exploring the power of community, the effects of racism and gentrification, and the power of dreams, In the Heights combines Latin rhythms with stunning choreography for a must-watch piece of media.
By: José Rivera
Following the titular Marisol Perez, a young Latino woman living in New York, Marisol showcases her life as a copy editor in Manhattan. Although she’s climbed the ladder of success, she still lives in the Bronx neighborhood where she was raised. The play begins with a close call for Marisol, who is nearly attacked near her home. Afterwards, she’s visited by her guardian angel, who tells her that things on Earth are about to change. Marisol’s life then begins to shift drastically for the worse, sending her and a variety of other displaced New Yorkers into a war to save New York – and the world at large.
By: Giannina Braschi
If you’re looking for something a bit more experimental, United States of Banana is described as a “postmodern allegorical novel” that blends experimental theatre, prose poetry, short story, and political philosophy. The book explores American life post 9/11, with commentary on Latin American immigration, Puerto Rico’s colonial status, and general power dynamic issues in the Americas at large
By: Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, and Stephen Sondheim
Type: Musical with 2021 film adaptation
Inspired by star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, West Side Story shifts to 1950s New York. There, two gangs – the Puerto Rican Sharks and the white Jets – fight for turf, love, honor, and respect. When two members of rival gangs fall in love, they realize true love overcomes (almost) everything.
By: Nilo Cruz
Set in a Cuban-American cigar factory in 1929 Florida, Anna in the Tropics explores the plight of working class immigrants. During this time, workers still had to roll cigars by hand, so ‘lectors’ were hired to come in and entertain as they work. When a new lector arrives and reads aloud from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, the workers are inspired to revolt against the class that holds them down.
By Alexander Dinelaris, Gloria Estefan and Emilio Estefan
Following the real lives of musical powerhouse duo Gloria and Emilio Estefan, On Your Feet! explores how the couple rose to fame through rousing musical talent and a non-stop energy. With hits like “Rhythm Is Gonna Get You”, “1-2-3”, and “Conga,” this one’s a toe-tapper perfect for audiences of all ages.
Take some time in the coming weeks to rent, stream, read, or otherwise explore a few of these pieces, honoring the stories and work of Hispanic Americans. Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month!