Latino/a playwrights’ anthologies–passport to the archive?

25 Feb

One of the exciting parts of the No Passport conference in New York was the NoPassport Press launch of three new books of collected plays by Oliver Mayer, Anne Garcia-Romero, and Alejandro Morales. They look beautiful and two of the three are listed on Amazon already–they are print-on-demand books from lulu.com.

It’s interesting to consider the potential effects of small-scale, DIY printing such as lulu.com offers. It means that a group like NoPassport can make plays available in print–though distribution is always the mighty elephant in the room when it comes to publishing. However, maybe the Internet really is starting to change this, allowing for rhizomatic networks of communication and interest, not just “tree” hierarchies of value and access (I’m borrowing Deleuze’s terms: rhizome and tree knowledge).

In The Archive and the Repertoire, Diana Taylor makes the point that “the archive, from the beginning, sustains power”. That is, what’s archived, what makes it into print or onto microfilm or into material form such as sculpture and painting has a better chance of remaining in historical memory because archived materials can be collated, researched, and bear the author-ity of the signature. Since theatre is an embodied artform—its knowledge exists in bodies and practices—in repertoire— and much of the work is ephemeral (very few plays get published relative to the numbers written and performed), it tends to disappear without trace. A vicious circle for many playwrights (as well as performers whose texts are stored in their body tissue and memory): the most commercially successful plays get published, which tend to come from a fairly conservative aesthetic; the more experimental or diverse work doesn’t, so it’s harder to find, so people know the already canonized works, so they get done more, etc. etc.

So good for No Passport (and the amazing Caridad Svich) for pioneering this DIY series. People have to be able to find Latino, queer, aesthetically challenging, etc. work before they can stage it. A counter-archive?

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