Austin Script Works, the State Theater, Teatro Vivo, and a dedicated committee of local and regional artists are organizing the area’s first Latino Playwrights Initiative.

“One of this region’s greatest strengths is the Latino community,” says C. Denby Swanson, artistic director of Austin Script Works, “and yet there is an absolute dearth of new works for the theater by Latino writers on our stages. This initiative will work to change that.”

The Latino Playwrights Initiative will provide a framework to develop and advance Latino/Latina writers in the Central Texas region, and will include things like Mentorship, Commissions, Inspiration, Readings, Workshops and Networking.

Rupert Reyes, Artistic Director of Teatro Vivo and a local member of the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, says that the LPI is timely. “When you watch the credits at the end of TV shows, films or check out the listing of plays in the paper, you see very few Latino names,” he notes. “So who is telling our stories? Many of the films you have seen recently in theaters began as plays. Right now, theater remains the best source for filmmakers and TV producers looking for Latino stories and images.”

The Latino Playwrights Initiative has three Phases.

Phase One is a process of identifying existing writers and reaching out to inspire new writing and build small writing groups in the region. In March, ASW will announce the rules for a new short play festival, modeled after the “Weekend Fling” that ASW has organized for its general membership for the past eight years. There will be three “ingredients” provided by guest artists and writers will be invited to submit 10-20 minute plays that somehow include those ingredients until mid-June. Over the summer, 8-10 short plays will be selected by a committee made up of artists and community members. These plays will be produced in a weekend of staged readings at the State Theater in September, which will also include panel discussions, workshops, and mentorship by nationally-recognized writers.

“Austin Script Works supports writer at all stages of their process,” Swanson says. “This initiative serves our mission by creating new opportunities that every writer in Central Texas can learn and benefit from.”

Phases Two and Three will focus on commissions, development, and, hopefully, production by regional powerhouse theater companies, starting in 2007. “Our plan is to implement Phase One on an annual basis, so that we are continually looking for and connecting with new Latino writers. It’s not one isolated weekend; it’s a substantial, long-term program.”

Local playwright and performer Amparo Garcia notes that “The recent ‘deaths’ of South Coast Repertory Theatre’s Hispanic Playwriting Festival and the Mark Taper’s Latino Initiative have been a substantial loss to Latino/a playwrights like myself who were developed there.” These were longstanding programs that provided a platform for underserved writers and consequently launched them into national productions. “For Austin Script Works to recognize this loss and choose to create a hub for regional writers to fill that void – while also seeking out the mentorship of nationally established Latino artists – is both visionary and practical. Everyone benefits since Texas is home to huge and underserved Latino communities. Austin already has a thriving ‘original works’ theatre community, now it just needs to expand its palette for the over-due inclusion of stories that mirror its demographics.”

Michelle Polgar, Artistic Director of the State Theater, shares Garcia’s enthusiasm. “This a great partnership focused on a much-needed program, especially with the loss of other development programs across the country. Central Texas is rich with Latino talent and culture, so this is perfect place for this initiative.”

The Latino Playwrights Initiative committee to date has included Swanson, Reyes, Garcia, ASW’s Christi Moore, the State’s Michelle Polgar, Teatro’s Joanne Reyes, Guadalupe Arts Center’s Marisela Barrera, and local writers J. Jimenez-Smith (SONAV Productions), Dolores Diaz, and Kirk Lynn (Rude Mechanicals).

Austin Script Works is a playwright-driven organization that seeks to promote the craft of dramatic writing and protect the writer’s integrity by encouraging playwright initiative and harnessing collective potential. ASW is funded in part by the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division and by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts, The Marchbanks Family Foundation, and individual donors. For more information about Austin Script Works call 512-454-9727 or email:

The State Theatre Company creates and produces theatre performances, presentations, workshops, and meetings. The Company’s goal is to raise the bar for theater professionalism in the Austin community, engage the finest artists and technicians available, and offer the highest production values and most thrilling theater experiences. The State also provides mentorship and shares its facilities on an annual basis selected arts groups, most recently Austin Script Works.

Teatro Vivo is dedicated to producing quality bilingual theater accessible to all theater audiences and artists. Teatro Vivo reflects the heart and soul of the Latino reality by opening a unique window for all to share in this experience.