Mendoza Credit: Courtesy the artist

In the early 2000s, if you’d asked Ricardo Gutierrez to name every Latinx actor in Chicago, it wouldn’t have been much of a challenge.

“Ten to 15 years ago,” says the executive artistic director of Teatro Vista, “there were shows that I would not have been able to cast with an all-Latinx cast of actors because they simply were not here.” But times have changed. “I can’t keep up. They just keep coming, and they’re trained and talented.”

The second Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, titled Destinos, begins September 20. Teatro Vista and a coalition of international, national, and Chicago-based companies, including Victory Gardens, Chicago Shakespeare, and Steppenwolf, will showcase and celebrate a broad range of Latinx theater artists with seven weeks of shows, panels, and workshops.

The 2018 edition expands the number of productions from ten last year to 14. It will be “more robust and ambitious,” says Myrna Salazar, executive director of the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance, the producer of Destinos. “It’s just so many stories that are so close to the heartbeat of this country.”

Born out of a collaborative effort between Carlos Tortolero, director and founder of the National Museum of Mexican Art; Carlos Hernandez, executive director of the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance; and Pepe Vargas, executive director of the International Latino Cultural Center, the festival will feature companies from LA, Dallas, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, and Puerto Rico.

New Destinos partners this year include the Goodman, which will copresent Mexico City-based Los Colochos’ Mendoza on October 2. “Audiences can expect a radical reimaging of Macbeth,” says John Collins, the Goodman’s general manager, who describes the play as a “dark, thrilling, and at times, bloody” production set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and evocative of the 2014 Ayotzinapa massacre.

Gutierrez, whose production of Ed Cardona Jr.’s American Jornalero runs at Victory Gardens October 18 through 21, describes Destinos as a continuation of Chicago’s leadership role in fostering work by Latinx artists. “The health, the energy, the vibrancy of Latinx theater here in Chicago may be unmatched in the States,” he says. The Alliance of Latinx Theatre Artists, which he founded with Tanya Saracho “is now serving as a model for other cities. They’re reaching out and saying, ‘Hey, how did you guys do this?'”

And when it comes to financing Latinx theater, Salazar similarly notes an evolution in funders’ values over recent years: “There’s more conversation about equity and inclusion in each and every one of the boardrooms.”   v