Date of Degree

2-2020

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

M.A.

Program

Liberal Studies

Advisor

Karen R. Miller

Subject Categories

American Studies | Latina/o Studies | Performance Studies | Social History | Theatre History

Keywords

Pregones Theater, The Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, New York City, Latinidad, Performance, U.S. Latinx

Abstract

In December 1966, Miriam Colón, a Puerto Rican actress, starred in The Oxcart at the Greenwich Mews Theatre in New York City. The play, written by Puerto Rican playwright René Marques in 1951, told the story of a Puerto Rican family’s migration from the countryside to San Juan, and finally, to New York City. One-year post-production Colón founded the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater (PRTT) as a response to the lack of diversity she saw in the audiences at the Greenwich Mews and everywhere else she performed during her prolific acting career in the 1950s and 1960s. Thirteen years later, Rosalba Rolón, Luis Meléndez, and David Crommett founded a very different Puerto Rican theater in New York City—Pregones Theater. They sought to share the rich history of Puerto Rican theater, which they saw lacked from the City’s burgeoning Spanish-language theater scene of the 1970s.

This thesis analyzes the first plays at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater and Pregones Theater, as well as these theaters’ contemporary programming. These historically Puerto Rican theaters merged in 2014 and became Pregones/PRTT. This thesis argues that these theaters have worked to build a sense of home in diaspora for multiethnic Latinx New Yorkers by allowing Latinx artist-activists the opportunity to use theater as a strategy for community organizing and empowerment. It explores how and why the plays, programming, and missions at Pregones/PRTT have expanded their representations of Latinx New Yorkers beyond Puerto Ricans. It will also examine the impact these theaters, alongside cultural institutions with similar visions and missions, have had on Latinx identities as New York City’s Latinx populations continue to become more and more multiethnic.

As a result of these demographic and historical changes, both Pregones and PRTT—separately and more effectively, together—have broadened their theatrical oeuvre to represent Puerto Rican New York stories, and now an increasingly diverse array of the lived experiences of multiethnic Latinx New Yorkers in the 21st century. Pregones, PRTT, and, now, Pregones/PRTT have used their institutional power as prominent theaters in New York City’s cultural landscape to bring Latinx community members together and make “every day” NYC Latinx stories more accessible. They thus empower New York City’s Latinx community with a space to belong, on the stage and in their community programming, through the performances they stage. Pregones/PRTT works to build a collective identity among New York’s Latinx enclaves, a process that is invoked by the characters and stories produced on their stages, and that asserts Latinx theater’s belonging in the framework of American theater.

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