On Critics and Creating Work

On Critics and Creating Work

On December 3rd, I opened a new show called TOUR GUIDES. The piece, a collaboration between 10 poets from different neighborhoods across the city, is an ode to everything we love and hate about living in Chicago. We talk about big things (segregation, gang violence, gentrification) and little things (beer, parades, germs on the CTA). Performed by (most of) the poets who wrote it, TOUR GUIDES is often a raw experience, an act of poetic truth-telling from people who are not seasoned or polished performers but who love their city in the way it seems only Chicagoans do: protectively, fiercely, and cynically, bracing against harsh weather and even harsher racism but warmed by summer and the beautiful sight of city lights reflected in the lake. As the director of the piece, I’m proud of the work the poets involved have done. But beyond that, I genuinely love the show. I find myself remembering lines from TOUR GUIDES as I move about the city, “whispering to myself that so much is still unknown.”

Critical reception of the show, however, has been decidedly mixed.

One critic accused us of trotting out “musty white-people-are-like-this, people-of-color-are-like-that setups,” while another argued that our take on Chicago neighborhoods is clichéd and “blatantly reductive.” Both complain that we take cheap shots at Lincoln Park, a criticism I find baffling, if only because we talk about Lincoln Park for less than a minute of a show that lasts 90 minutes, and in the context of a piece that trashes neighborhoods ranging from Rogers Park (smells like pee) to Back of the Yards (smells like smoked meat). Though I disagree with both of these critics’ assessments of the show, I don’t bring up these reviews to defend myself against them.  I bring them up because many of the people who read/come to Proyecto Latina are trying to figure out how make their way as Latina writers, artists, and performers. Proyecto Latina has long served as both a platform and a forum for emerging Latina artists, and a space to discuss the ins and outs of making work as mujeres y Latinas.

There was a point in my career when reviews like this would have made me cry. I remember reading a review of S-e-x-Oh! (a show I created with Teatro Luna) that called the piece “incomprehensible.” Despite sell-out houses and rave reviews elsewhere, this review made me sob for an hour, hunched over the steering wheel of my car.  Even today, I can’t remember a single nice thing a critic wrote about S-e-x-Oh! but that review (written, incidentally, by the same critic who called TOUR GUIDES “musty”) is burned into my brain. When I went to one of my mentors for advice on how to handle bad reviews, she told me to handle them the same way I would handle a good review: “not at all.” She warned me that if a review could change what you think of your own work, you aren’t creating from a place of confidence or certitude. To be an artist, you have to have a vision of what you want to make; you have to believe in what you set out to do.  This is not to say that you shouldn’t be open to criticism—indeed, as artists there is little more valuable than friends and collaborators who offer us the kind of feedback on our work that pushes it to a better place. But that kind of commentary is rarely found in a newspaper, a facebook status, or twitter feed. It is developed through community and relationship with people who are rooting for you, who want you to be the best artist you can be. (It is developed in spaces like Proyecto Latina!)

Now, when someone criticizes my work, I do pay attention. I look for patterns (are lots of people saying the same thing? Maybe there’s some truth to it.) I look for point of view (Who is saying this? What social position—race, class, gender, nationality—is driving their opinion?)  But most of all, I ask myself if any of it rings true? On a fundamental level, do I agree? If so, I challenge myself to do better next time. And if not, I let it go.

This time, I’m letting it go. I think TOUR GUIDES is a beautiful piece. But you don’t have to take my word for it. See it for yourself December 10, 11, 17, or 18th at 7:30 pm at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets and info at www.guildcomplex.org And then, tell me what you think. I promise, I’ll listen…

November Lunacy

November Lunacy

If we didn’t know better we’d say there is a full moon out! This week kicks off Teatro Luna’s full remount of LUNATIC(A)S – “We’ll Show You Crazy!” The insanity returns with new stories and more musical numbers.

“We are so excited to be revisiting this piece…this play is quintessentially Luna, it tackles our namesake, The Moon (La Luna) and places our true-life stories in the context of myths and superstitions about women, Latinas and the moon,” says Director Tanya Saracho.

Featuring some of your favorite Ensemble Members: Belinda Cervantes (Machos, S-e-x-Oh!) Maritza Cervantes (Machos, S-e-x-Oh!) Yadira Correa (Machos, S-e-x-Oh!, Jarred) Miranda Gonzalez (SîLO Tœ, Jarred) Suzette Mayobre (S-e-x-Oh!, SîLO Tœ) with Artistic Associate Maria Enriquez (S-e-x-Oh!: The Remix) and New Lunaticas Christina Nieves (S-e-x-Oh!: The Remix, The House on Mango Street), and Mari Stratton (The House on Mango Street)

For reservations / performance dates and times visit Teatro Luna.

Photography by Johnny Knight

Mangos, Chismes y Mucho Más

Mangos, Chismes y Mucho Más

This month’s Proyecto Latina honors Sandra Cisneros and includes a sneak peak at Tanya Saracho’s adaptation of The House on Mango Street. We encourage you to bring your Mango themed poems, stories and chisme! As always it’s FREE and we look forward to seeing you!

Join us on Monday, April 20, 2009 @ 7 p.m. Held at Radio Arte, 1401 W. 18th Street.

Proyecto Latina welcomes Tanya Saracho back this April, we will be featuring a sampling of the full-length play and her adaptatation of the Sandra Cisnero’s book The House on Mango Street. Tanya will also share the art process of how she took a lyrical narrative and modified it for the stage.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is celebrating its 25th anniversary in print. This Spring its been chosen as the One Book One Chicago for the city to read.

Tanya Saracho was born in Sinaloa, México and moved to Texas in the late 80′s . She is the Co-Founding Artistic Director of Teatro Luna: Chicago’s All-Latina Theatre, and a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists and Teatro Vista. Tanya’s writing has been featured in most of Teatro Luna’s ensemble-built works including “Generic Latina,” “Dejame Contarte,” “The Maria Chronicles,” “SOLO Latinas,” “SOLO Tú,” “S-E-X-Oh!” and “Lunatic(a)s.” Her plays include: “Our Lady of The Underpass” with Teatro Vista (2009), “Surface Day” with Chicago Children’s Humanity Festival (2008 ), and “Jarred (A Hoodoo Comedy)” with Teatro Luna (2008). Tanya’s play “Kita y Fernanda,” a finalist for the 2003 Nuestras Voces playwrighting competition, received productions at Teatro Luna (2003) and 16th Street Theatre (2008). Other Awards include: The Ofner Prize given by the Goodman Theatre, Finalist for the Christopher B. Wolk Award at Abingdon Theatre in NYC, nominee for the Wasserstein Prize and winner of the Khan Award. Saracho’s solo play “Quita Mitos” received a world premier with Teatro Luna in November of 2006 and has toured colleges and festivals, including the International Hispanic Theatre Festival and the Goodman’s Latino Theatre Festival. Tanya is working on a fellowship in a collaboration between The Goodman Theatre and the Institute for Women and Gender Studies at Columbia College on an interview-based piece titled “27″ where she will interview one woman from each of the 27 countries that make up the Latin Diaspora. She is also under commission from Steppenwolf Theatre to craft a musical adaptation Sandra Cisnero’s “The House on Mango Street” slated to open in the fall of 2009. Directing/co-directing credits include: “SOLO Tú,” “S-E-X-Oh!” and “Lunatic(a)s.” the remount of “Generic Latina,”The Maria Chronicles,” “Jarred (A Hoodoo Comdey)” and “SÓLO Latinas.” Tanya’s performing credits include: Neil Labutte’s Fat Pig” with Renaissance Theatreworks in Milwaukee, Migdalia Cruz’ “Another Part of the House” with Teatro Vista, “Living Out” with American Theatre Co./Teatro Vista, “Electricidad” at Goodman Theatre and “La Casa De Bernarda Alba” with Aguijon Theater. Tanya’s voice can be heard around the country in radio and television commercials.

Check out our interview with Tanya here.

Proyecto Latina provides a platform to showcase work by Latinas. In it’s fourth year, the reading series takes place the third Monday of every month, it includes a feature, an open mic and a a chisme box! Proyecto Latina Radio Airs Sundays @ 6 p.m. on WRTE, 90.5 F.M.

Tanya Saracho & Sandra Marquez tell us about the discipline & power in theatre

Tanya Saracho & Sandra Marquez tell us about the discipline & power in theatre

Proyecto Latina speaks to the two leading women behind the making of the play Our Lady of the Underpass, which was presented earlier this year by Teatro Vista. Learn about the art process behind each of these women: Sandra Marquez, director, tells us about the required discipline when working in theater and Tanya Saracho, playwright, tells us where to find the power in theatre that will insure that more plays by and for Latin@s are produced.

Part I: Interview with Sandra Marquez, 14:01

Part II: Interview with Tanya Saracho, 21:38

Directorial debut @ S-e-x-oh! remix

Directorial debut @ S-e-x-oh! remix

Erika Sanchez, our correspondent for Proyecto Latina Radio show is spending her spring break in Ireland and we hope she’s enjoying herself and drinking a Guiness or two. As she was packing to leave for her big trip, she dashed out to Berwyn’s 16th Street Theater to interview Yadira Correa and Dana Cruz–its a directorial debut for both ladies with the production of S-e-x-oh! the remix. Listen to Ericka’s interview with both ladies.

Part I: Interview with Yadira Correa and Dana Cruz, 3:47

Part II: Interview with Yadira Correa and Dana Cruz, 2:22

Part III: Interview with Yadira Correa and Dana Cruz, 3:07

Part IV: Interview with Yadira Correa and Dana Cruz, 4:17

Part V: Interview with Yadira Correa and Dana Cruz, 4:33

S-e-x-oh! the remix runs through March 29th. You can get ticket and show details here.

interview by Ericka Sanchez

TL Chicas Talk S-E-X-OH!

TL Chicas Talk S-E-X-OH!

Everyone needs a little S-E-X-OH in their life…

This month Proyecto Latina gives your ear some stimulation. Proyecto Latina Radio Correspondent Erick Sanchez had an opportunity to interview co-directors Dana Cruz and Yadira Correa. From what I hear she had a blast interviewing them on the remount of of S-E-X-Oh.

Check back for more details on when the interview will air. Your ears will thank you for it. Proyecto Latina Radio airs every Sunday at 6 p.m. on WRTE 90.5 F.M. We will also be posting the audio here.

I saw the show the first time it was produced and really enjoyed it. I’m excited to see the new cast which features a new crop of Latina Talent: Stephanie Gentry Fernandez, Hannah Gomez, Diane Herrera, Christina Nieves, Maria Enriquez, and Selene Mojica

Originally produced to great acclaim and sold-out houses, S-E-X-Oh! is Teatro Luna’s fourth original ensemble built show, taking up the intersections between sex, gender, and latinidad. Based on Teatro Luna’s true life stories, plus a few strategic re-imaginings, S-E-X-Oh! takes aim at sexuality in irreverent and fearless Teatro Luna fashion: Anything from the Virgin Mary, to Biblical Stories; from Video Games to Trader Joe’s is up for grabs.

The production runs through March 6 -29
16th Street Theater in the Berwyn Cultural Center, 6420 16th Street, Berwyn
For reservations log on to
www.16thstreettheater.org and www.teatroluna.org