Arts & Culture

Production reimagines Latina stereotypes

By
Contributing Writer
Friday, September 28, 2012

“On the count of three, do everything that goes against what you were taught about watching theater,” Alexandra Meda, executive director of Teatro Luna, announced at the start of the production “GL 2010: Not Your Generic Latina.” “Don’t be shy to throw something at the girls, though they might throw something back at you,” Meda continued, setting the tone for the feisty show.
A quasi-revival of the Chicago-based company’s show “Generic Latina,” “GL 2010: Not Your Generic Latina” reimagines the Latina community’s battle against stereotypes – both negative and positive – that permeate society today. With a new cast on its first nonlocal tour performing the reinvented show, Teatro Luna’s presentation at the opening convocation of the Latino Heritage Series was anything but stale. The series is part of an organization dedicated to raising awareness of Latino issues through collaboration with the Third World Center and other heritage series.  
The Latino Heritage Series’ theme for the year is “Next Generation Latinos,” which explores changing paradigms in the Latino community, said Holly Doerflinger ’13, one of the student programmers.
“This show captures our cheeky fun-ness with our founding principles of using authentic, real original stories that use stereotype to challenge oppression and all those other -isms,” Meda said. Unlike most theatrical works, the material for GL 2010 derives largely from the personal stories of Teatro Luna associates.
The show, a fast-paced series of autobiographical vignettes told through short dialogues, monologues, raps and songs, was frequently accompanied by enthusiastic clapping from the audience. Each vignette offered a unique Latina perspective on everything from Brazilian waxes to intra-Latino discrimination. The script comfortably dealt with these issues while engaging students with pop culture references, at one point referring to the targets of suburban racism as “anything darker than a caramel macchiato at Starbucks.”
Despite the relatively small turnout in the Martinos Auditorium in the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts , Teatro Luna was not intimidated by the empty seats, seizing the opportunity to involve their audience in a more inclusive show. Audience members were frequently heckled, most notably when a cast member pointed at a woman in the front row and suggested “you should try that one, honey” in the midst of a song about Brazilian waxes.
The clear strengths of the show were the myriad Spanish one-liners that never failed to incite a new eruption of cheering from the audience. Many audience members saw their own “tías” and “abuelas” embodied in the recurring trio of characters known as “comadres,” three gossipy Latina mothers.
Immediately after the show, Meda and the cast of GL 2010 moderated a talk back in which audience members reflected on the performance and its treatment of Latina culture. Almost every statement was echoed by appreciative snaps of agreement by the audience.
Sporting matching black shirts with a smorgasbord of pink accessories, the “Ladies of Luna,” a nickname they coined for themselves, seemed to have strong ties despite hailing from various Latin American communities. Very few of the actors’ responses were not interrupted or completed by another in a rapid-fire stichomythia of Spanglish.
Judging from the audience’s uproarious reactions to the Spanglish repartee, the majority of viewers seemed to have had similar experiences.
“Even though the audience was mostly Latino, it should have been attended by the rest of the University so they can understand us, not just tolerate us,” Kendra Cornejo ’15 said.
“In terms of academics, (stereotypes) can be a hindrance,” said Diana Garcia ’13, another series student programmer. “Latinos don’t tend to go to four-year, Ivy League institutions. Information like that is always in the back of your head. You only hear about the high drop-out rate or Latinos in jail. That’s what we’re here for, just like the Third World Center and the (Minority Peer Counselors).”
The need to dismantle these stereotypes in today’s political climate was another discussed topic.
“In an election year, you hear soundbytes of trying to capture the ‘Latino vote.’ There is no Latino monolith,” said ensemble member Kristiana Rae Colón. “You can’t target a marketing campaign as though the Latino community is thinking from the same background. You can’t expect for there to be one voice.”
“There is no such thing as a generic Latina,” said artistic associate Amanda DeLaGuardia.