Playwright and teaching artist Jelisa Jay Robinson, who is African-American, grew curious about speaking Spanish ever since her father began teaching her a few words when she was in the fifth grade. But when she starting learning the language, she received pushback from some of her classmates.
“Why are you trying to be Mexican?” they asked.
As a young girl, she began exploring cultural identity and remembers searching the phrase “black people who speak Spanish” online. In an Austin360 interview last spring, Robinson said that after discovering Latino reggaeton artists who looked like her but were singing in Spanish she saw that “there isn’t just one way to be black.”
Robinson’s first full-length play, “Stories of Us,” takes an in-depth look at black and Latino relations. Last spring the play was among those chosen for the Austin Latino New Play Festival, which helps emerging playwrights workshop their scripts. After readings of her play resonated with the crowd during that festival, Teatro Vivo is now presenting the full production of the play at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. “Stories of Us,” which is directed by local actress and Salvage Vanguard Theater Managing Director Florinda Bryant, runs through May 8. Thursday-Saturday shows start at 8 p.m. while Sunday matinee shows are at 2 p.m.
“This is our first production that looks at Afro-Latinidad,” Teatro Vivo co-founder Rupert Reyes said in a statement. While they’ve presented other plays over the years that have addressed racism within the Latino community, he said “Stories of Us” has much more depth and insight into the Afro-Latino experience.“The conversation that explores the similarities between blacks and Latinos needs to begin or continue,” he said. “I don’t know what the forces are at play that divide us. I do know that we can be one of the forces that unite us. We hope that all of our plays create a movement for more unity on the community level, the local level.”
Tickets, which range from $12-$20, are available online at teatrovivo.org.]]