Bilingual performance explores the experience of Ithaca's Latinx community

What does "Latinidad" mean in the snowy upstate town of Ithaca? Being Latinx in Ithaca was explored in Habla/Speak, a bilingual collective creation performance that ran from Feb.28 through March 2. Performers told stories from their lives and shared music, dance and poetry.

Co-produced by Debra Castillo, the Director of the Latina/o Studies Program and the Emerson Hinchliff Professor of Hispanic Studies in the College of Arts & Sciences, and Annette Levine, associate professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at Ithaca College, the performance was directed by Cornell alumna Ana Florencia Lopez Ulloa '11. 

"We have focused this project on Latinidad in our community," Castillo said. "We did not put any strict parameters around how people understand, 'Latiness' and 'community.' It brings together the voices of people from all across our town."

Preparation for the project extended over two semesters. Collaborators generated material last fall by shaping the stories through story circles and workshops focusing on how to tell stories through dance, movement, vocalization and improvisation. Although the play has bilingual elements, Spanish was not required to fully enjoy the performance. 

"I am a confused Latinx undergoing many obstacles and looking for guidance," said Estefani Romano '19, an applied economics and management major who collaborated on the project. "Habla/Speak is a performance that highlights a variety of individual Latinx folks' stories undergoing some form of healing."

Performances took place at the Black Box theatre in Cornell's Schwartz Center and the company has been invited to do additional performances in numerous schools and community centers in the area. The group is also planning "zap panel" performances for Ithaca College. 

"In essence, the zap panel functions like a flash mob, intervening in classes with the professors' pre-knowledge and permission, to do a short performance and facilitate a panel discussion with actors and class members," Castillo said. 

"This was designed as a flexible, mobile project," Castillo said. "Performers tell stories from their lives, share music, dance, poetry." 

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 Performers during Habla/Speak
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