Teatro Luna is a national ensemble of Latinx and Women of Color artists, organizers, scholars, agitators, creatives, teatristas, dreamers and thinkers who collaboratively create original performances and produce multi-genre events towards a social justice purpose. Founded in Chicago 2000, Luna originally organized for the purpose of exploring the varied experiences and cultures of Latina women.
Since 2013 Luna develops and showcases the creative talents of Womxn of Color in addition to the Latinx femme-identified individual and provides both live and virtual forums for artistic, social, political, and educational outreach into our varied communities. In 2014 Luna opened a second site and ensemble in Los Angeles, California that serves multiple cities on the West Coast with Teatro Luna West.
As Luna continues to grow it remains dedicated to expanding the range of opportunities for artistic collaboration on the local, national and international stage by creating new and original work, the study and exploration of the power of ensemble practice, and experimentation in storytelling through an interdisciplinary approach. Forged through a history of activism, Teatro Luna believes that theatre is one of the best tools for bearing social change into our lived experience.
Teatro Luna was founded in 2000 as a response to the lack of multiplicity and range of representation of the Latina in the arts and media. It was founded as a political act-- without entirely knowing it at the time.
Fifteen years later in our story--four ensembles later-- and tremendous growth, struggle, and love, we think we are better equipped to know that every choice we make, no matter its magnitude, is political. Por ejemplo, expanding our definition from Pan-Latina to Pan-Latina/All-Women of Color ensemble, provoked racially charged questions and expressions of a sense of loss. Yet, our move recognized the quickly shifting demographics in the United States and the history of colorism in the Latinx community and we realized we needed to shift. To not expand our circle, our brave space, would not only exclude important voices in our story, but would perpetuate the denial about who and what it is to be Latina today- anthropologically and politically speaking. As we approach our 20th year we have a much better idea of where we need to strategically carve out our own space within the ecology of The American Theatre in the USA. Most importantly, we have earned through trial and error, through risk-taking, and through sheer rebellion an organization that is fluid by nature and structurally ever-responsive in its shifts to the mainstream.
Who we are now, today, at 19 does not deny the heritage of the movement/s that have come before us.
Primeramente, we acknowledge our indebtedness to the Teatro movement and are most dedicated to our continued work inside of and for la causa, but also true is that many (definitely not all!) of the women when first beginning to work with us might have not ever heard of the Latino Theatre Movement of the 60’s, Luis Valdez and Teatro Campesino, and are probably not familiar with the implications of what being Chicano means. Without this knowledge they are still being called forth from somewhere inside to make change through their art. They are called to share their gifts with a larger whole, and Teatro Luna is that playground
None of that makes us any less rooted in the US Latino Theater tradition and movement. In fact, we think it’s the diversity of our nationalities and our experiences that makes us quintessentially Pan-Latina and embracing of all Women of Color. The fact that we are an entry point for many young women who are just starting to learn about intersectionality, about identity politics, about feminism, about Latina/o history, grounds us as the place where women (who did and didn’t have access to that history) can both learn it and choose to embrace their latinidad; we are the place where they are finally able to see themselves on stage and in American history.
Most importantly, we must plainly state that we are the result of the work of those who came before.
We were born into a certain level of freedom and with a certain access because our historic teatros had figured out how to dip their toe into the institutional mechanisms of funding and grants and touring. We were born with the freedom of doing culturally specific work inside the systems of the regional theatre (and all the complications therein).
Our most crucial relationship to the teatros of the past, besides a dedication to work that is political, is that structurally we are steadfastly and unequivocally a collective of artists, an ensemble of fierce women with varied strengths and talents in an even wider pool of artistic genres. Collective and ensemble work is challenging and intensely personal. It is a practice that requires a group mindset that challenges us to our very core: putting the interest of the other before our own in order to bring to life art that matters to our marginalized communities. It requires self-awareness and a commitment to keep our eyes always open to what we seek to represent. It is, therefore, a significant and radical political practice.
We embrace the fact that we are a bridge between audiences and teatristas of many traditions, from resistance to mainstream. We have come to a time in our history when we don’t shy away from naming our place in the larger context of US Latino Theater as fluid.
We are unapologetically community based, community centric. We are also professional. We are American and we are Latinx.
We blend community and professional artists in everything we do.
We blend serious and hilarious too. We are experimental.
We develop new single-author work and we devise original performances through collective creation.
We don’t operate with traditional heirarchies.
We exist in more than one city at the same time.
We are always attempting to expand current business models of theatre so that WOC artists have a shot at financial security one day.
We view technology as a tool that is inseparable from how we make theatre, and it has expanded for us the definitions of what is performance, who is the audience. As we look to our future we want to deepen our relationship to creating and presenting work with new media. We embrace technology as the best vehicle to continue dialogue and make change.
No somos de aquí, ni de allá, and instead of feeling loss over not entirely belonging, we embrace those multiplicities.
Our work honors the feminine and seeks to create a positive attitude towards the privileging of the domestic, private and intimate spaces of our shows and performances in ways that most mainstream US American theater has prefered not to produce.
We do not wish, as a Pan-Latina / WOC theatre company, to limit the scope of our inquiry to the prescriptive or expected by a class of critics that for the most part has very little knowledge of the trajectory of our art and a narrow view of our history in this country.
We have seen the limitations of focusing on border politics poised for the consumption of a dominant audience. Remaining true to a theatre of resistance, our aim is to resist the commodification of our culture, our bodies, and our issues and transform feelings into actions into solutions.
Back in 2015 as we entered our 15th season we decided that we should articulate and share some of our core beliefs and “golden rules” on how to live your ensemble practice, or, our prescriptive notions on best practices for how to make change in collaborative or co-creative all-female setting:
Radical collaboration creates better work, no matter what. Equality in an ensemble cannot exist if we privilege one singular “genius” or one singular point of view. We acknowledge there are truly visionary artists at various points of development in their work that perhaps thrive in solitary creation. But at our company, the vision is plural and we thrive in plurality. We are committed to creating and perpetuating:
a safe space to fail.
We actually have to live through the failure to get to the art.
a space to grow.
We must allow each other as colleagues space and a belief that you never “know” an artist’s limits or full potential.
mutual mentorship. We are a multi-generational company with different experiences in diverse areas. We all need the support and guidance that another can provide. The oldest is not always the wisest and the youngest not always the most green. Respect must always be what we move with.
2.Relationships over opportunities. We cultivate the notion of sisterhood. Even if we tend to profess community over individualism, we still have to grapple with the reality that our theatrical community is no different from the Westernized capitalist individualistic system that dominates us. In order to get ahead, or to succeed, we many times end up replicating those practices. We strive to focus on relationships instead.
Privileging sisterhood is a decolonizing belief in action.
3. Honoring our roots while fearlessly engaging with the present and designing our future. We refuse to tell only the stories that depict women solely as super mom, super activist, super wife, super mujer, siempre. We are bruised and can bruise each other. Not all of us are nurturing future madres or esposas and that is ok. To deny the “less appealing” parts of womanhood, to whitewash it, to sanitize it, is our biggest threat. We also owe it to ourselves, our relatives, our partners to show our our ugly crying, uncertain of what to do next. All Latinas are not the same, and Latinidad is beyond tight definition. Our work is an act of resistance to any attempt to limit the fullness of our spectrum.
As a self-proclaimed activist body, sometimes we are pigeonholed. we just have to keep reminding ourselves that sometimes the creation of INCLUSIVE, HONEST beauty and its promotion into the mainstream is the most radical form of activism we can engage in.
4. Allow for an ever-expanding definition of identity
Intersectionality is key.
5. Extending grace as everyday ritual.
To each other, to our audiences, to our communities and to ourselves.
6. You will never be ready, or prepared, or fully resourced. You will never be fully right. If we waited to do shows until we had all the money secured or waited to build a strategic plan until we had the next office space, or that perfect final board of directors, we would always be waiting. And we aren’t very patient ladies!
But the art remains. The art is what we have. The art is our reason for being.
In our work, we are a hybrid of many forms and approaches. Latinx arts have always been an amalgamation of styles and forms that ensures its survival and relevance through generations. We, having been conceived out of a necessity to create a space for Latina (and now all Women of color) artists to tell our story and play characters that were relevant to our everyday life instead of the stereotypes we were forced to play, continue to be true to that tradition, evolving with and for the women we represent, and looking to a future where we are the rule, rather than the exception. Ojalá.