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Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month! This commemoration, which runs from September 15 to October 15, recognizes the contributions Hispanic and Latinx Americans have made to the fabric of the United States.
It’s no secret that Latinx people have given much to America in our history – after all, Hispanic and Latino Americans are the largest ethnic minority in the U.S., comprising 18.9% of the population! Latinx are indeed responsible for writing, producing, and performing in some of our country’s most beloved pieces of media and art.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re highlighting a few prodigious Hispanic playwrights, as well as organizations to support today – and every day.
Actor, composer, lyricist, filmmaker, playwright
Perhaps the best-known modern-day Latinx playwright, Lin-Manual Miranda, is most commonly lauded for creating Broadway musicals, including In the Heights and Hamilton.
Additionally, Miranda has jumped into the world of animated film by writing and producing the soundtracks to such Disney hits as Moana, Vivo, and Encanto. He also made his directorial debut with the film Tick, Tick…Boom! in 2021, starring Andrew Garfield.
His talent has clearly not gone unnoticed; he has received three Tony Awards, three Emmy Awards, five Grammy Awards, two Laurence Olivier Awards, a MacArthur Fellowship, and a Pulitzer Prize. And he’s only 43!
Playwright, actor, television writer, showrunner
Mexican-American actor, playwright, and showrunner Tanya Saracho co-founded Teatro Luna – an all-Latina theatre ensemble based in Chicago – and was the theatre’s co-artistic director for ten years. Additionally, she co-founded the Alliance of Latinx Theater Artists (ALTA) of Chicago.
Known for centering on the “Latina gaze,” Saracho has penned various works, including plays like Generic Latina, Hushabye, The Good Private, and Machos. She was a staff writer and story editor on television shows, including Devious Maids, Looking, and How to Get Away with Murder, and was the showrunner for Vida – for which she won a GLAAD Media Award.
Saracho was heavily awarded; she was named Best New Playwright by Chicago Magazine and was given the very first Revolucionario Award in theatre by the National Museum of Mexican Art. She has also won a Goodman’s Ofner Prize, a 3Arts Artists Award, and a National Endowment for the Arts.
Actor, playwright, comedian, producer, screenwriter
While most know John Leguizamo solely as an actor, he has written and produced not only films but plays and experimental theatre, as well.
A few theatre projects written and acted by Leguizamo include Freak, Sexaholix, Ghetto Klown, and Latin History for Morons – the last of which earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Play in 2020. Alongside his creative contributions, Leguizamo stays involved in charitable efforts and social justice; he is a supporter of Voto Latino and also co-founded NGL (Next-Generation Latinx.)
Leguizamo has won two Primetime Emmy Awards, two New York Emmy Awards, and a Special Tony Award – a non-competitive honorary award for lifetime achievement.
The writer of over one hundred plays, Elaine Romero, presents a prolific body of work that includes When Reason Sleeps, Hoverland, Walk into the Sea, and Ponzi.
She has won various accolades for her work, including an American Blues Theater’s Blue Ink Playwriting Award, a Tennessee Williams One-Act Play Award, a Chicano/Latino Literary Award, and an Edgerton New American Play Award.
In addition to her work, Romero is involved with Latinx Theatre Commons, which runs a contest for Latin playwrights to support up-and-coming artists. She is currently an associate professor at the University of Arizona, teaching playwriting, scriptwriting, and dramaturgy.
Playwright, educator, translator
Cuban-American playwright and pedagogue Nilo Cruz has penned works including Dancing on Her Knees, Lorca in a Green Dress, Bathing in Moonlight, and Anna in the Tropics. For Anna, Cruz was awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama; he was only the second Latino to be honored, behind Nicholas Dante.
Additionally, Cruz received the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for a distinguished American playwright in mid-career and was honored with an honorary doctorate of Humane Letters from Whittier College.
In addition to penning his own works, Cruz is an expert translator and has translated both English and Spanish plays, including La Vida Es Sueno and Hamlet, Prince of Cuba.
Playwright, producer, lyricist, essayist
Best known for writing the book for the musical In the Heights, Quiara Alegria Hudes also penned the screenplay for its 2021 film adaptation. For In the Heights alone, Hudes received the Lucille Lortel Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical, as well as the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors HOLA Award for Outstanding Achievement in Playwriting.
Hudes has written various other musicals and plays, including Yemaya’s Belly, Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue, Water by the Spoonful, and Miss You Like Hell.
For her other works, Hudes has won the Clauder Competition for New England Playwriting, the Paula Vogel Award in Playwriting, the Kennedy Center/ACTF Latina Playwriting Award, and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Playwright, screenwriter, director, actor
Regarded as the father of Chicano literature in the United States, Luis Valdez brought the lives and culture of Chicano America to the theatre world. He is best known for his play Zoot Suit, as well as his movie La Bamba, and his creation of El Teatro Campesino – a Chicano theatre company in California.
Valdez was also a founding member of the California State University – Monterey Bay Teledramatic Arts and Technology Department, which helps prepare students for careers in filmmaking, writing, cinematography, and sound design.
Valdez received the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature in 1992 and has also won a Cartagena Film Festival award, Peabody Award, and Aguila Azteca Award.
Alongside streaming works, buying tickets, and following people on social media, there are many other ways to support Latinx creators – most notably through organizations helmed by (or uplifting) Latinx voices. A few include:
HOLA was founded in 1975 by a group of Hispanic actors working in New York to address the inequities created by the casting system that underemployed Hispanic actors and relegated Latino characters to negative stereotypes. Now, HOLA functions as a leading advocacy organization in the industry for such actors working on stage, on television, streaming, and in films.
Learn more here.
The National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures is the nation’s premier nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to the Latino arts field.
Learn more here.
The Latino Theater Company’s (LTC) mission at The Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC), is to provide a world-class arts center for those pursuing artistic excellence, a laboratory where both tradition and innovation are honored and honed, a place where the convergence of people, cultures, and ideas contribute to the future.
Learn more here.
The Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA) is a transformative cultural engine helping drive their local Latino theater community to a more prominent level.
Learn more here.
So – a very happy Hispanic Heritage Month, theatremakers! Now, go support Latinx creators!