Chicano theatre in transition: The experience of El Teatro de la Esperanza

Dolan, Maureen (1994) Chicano theatre in transition: The experience of El Teatro de la Esperanza. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Chicano theatre is the theatrical expression of people of Mexican origin resident in the United States. It emerged in the mid-1960s in tandem with Chicano participation in the American civil rights movement and began to revive and recuperate a long history of theatre in Spanish in North America. Initially, it was a theatre of, and for, the marginalised people of Mexican ancestry who suffered discrimination in the United States and encompassed a rejection of American society and culture and a commitment to the struggle for social justice. Through activism, Chicanos were able to benefit from increased grant support to minority arts but with the waning of the civil rights movement and the loss of this political and social impetus, funding for Chicano theatre became scarce and its practitioners were obliged to find new modes of survival, including the courting of an affluent audience base. El Teatro de la Esperanza of Santa Barbara, California, is one group which has had to make this transition, and this thesis follows their development from amateur theatre group to professional troupe, still aiming to perform for the disenfranchised, but with links to commercial theatre. The historical and social context of Chicano theatre is also studied. Chapter One examines the history of people of Mexican origin in the United States and illustrates that after the Mexican American War of 1846-1848 Anglo Americans invaded and colonized Mexico and subjected her inhabitants to a century of discrimination on the basis of race, language and culture. However, Chapter Two illustrates that far from submitting to this oppression, Mexicans and Chicanos have struggled against it, particularly in the 1960s. Part of this resistance has been cultural, and Chapter Three outlines the development of Chicano theatre. While stressing its achievements, it nonetheless illustrates that while the groups that have survived into the 1990s have developed in terms of artistry, this is often sacrificed to narrow social analyses in terms of content. This criticism is ultimately apt for El Teatro de la Esperanza. Their history is outlined in Chapter Four and the remainder of the chapters, from Chapter Five to Chapter Nine, study their work over a twenty-five-year period. This thesis concludes that they have sought, not entirely successfully, to evolve a model through which to perform left-wing theatre in politically conservative times without abandoning their original working-class audiences.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Professor Nicholas Round
Keywords: Theater, Hispanic American studies.
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities
Supervisor's Name: Supervisor, not known
Date of Award: 1994
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1994-71001
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 09 May 2019 14:28
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2021 11:22
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.71001

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