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ix Preface Latinx Theater in the Times of Neoliberalism emerges from a combination of frustration in the rehearsal room and the throes of political rage. Its first inkling came when I was directing a production of Cherríe Moraga’s The Hungry Woman in 2006 in the midst of a national debate on immigration policy which resulted in marches and activism throughout the country.1 The play tells the story of a queer Medea in the midst of a transnational custody dispute on the Mexican border in a post-​ NAFTA apocalyptic world. Riffing on the classic Medea myth, The Hungry Woman is a meditation on geopolitical violence on the border. A dramatic iteration of her famous 1992 “Queer Aztlán” essay, the play confronts the economic violence of the 1980s and 1990s in North America as its characters come to terms with the failures of cultural nationalism.2 Moraga’s critique of the neoliberal project in hemispheric iteration was at the center of my concerns, although I am (at least) a generation removed from the historic Chicano cultural nationalism that frames the play. Staging The Hungry Woman made me confront the near impossibility of representing the lived material experience of the neoliberal condition onstage. How exactly does one stage the destruction and denigration caused by savage capitalism in the wake of the demise of the U.S. social welfare state and the move to free-​ market economies throughout the hemisphere ? How can one adequately represent the structural inequality created therein or the spaces it most frequently inhabits? To literally represent the U.S.-​ Mexico border on stage is to risk reifying its violence in a too localized manner. Alternately, to be allusive (or elusive) is to stage a metaphor devoid of material reality. Four years later, I faced the problem again when I directed En Las Manos de la Muerte, a play written by a student about narcotraffic and the enigmatic Mexican popular saint Santa Muerte (Saint Death).3 Representing the insatiable violence of transnational business risked the play being made into something like a stock blockbuster action movie: a parade of young men making bad choices down there rather than being soldiers of commerce for us up here. I asked myself: How does one render economic violence as viscerally as the physical violence that propels the action of narco-​ realistic representations? How does one make the connection between these forms of violence palpable? How does one represent transnational consumerism on stage? How and when does one step out of realism so as to avoid reifying violence as spectacle, allowing it to do the political work Tiffany Ana López claims of the violence in Migdalia Cruz’s plays?4 Or, alternately, when x Preface does one employ theatrical realism to avoid metaphor? The problem of how to render economic violence and its “real” embodied iterations theatrically without resorting to simplistic metaphors, cheap equivalency, universalism, or over-​ literalism haunts me years later.Although I have no fail-​ safe theatrical or dramaturgical solution to these conundrums, the plays and performances I write about in this book sketch out contours of possibility. I adamantly believe that the very problem of representing geopolitical economic violence onstage has consequences for thinking about these problems offstage. It is for this reason that I am dedicated to close reading theatrical performance as a mode of political thinking under neoliberal capitalism. I define neoliberalism as a political and economic philosophy whose proponents espouse free markets and privatization of state enterprises as the mode by which prosperity and democracy are best reached. These policies, which include IMF interventions, NAFTA, shifts in immigration policy, the escalation of border industrialization initiatives, and varied austerity programs have also created the conditions for many of the most tumultuous events in the Americas in the last forty years. These phenomena include the support of dictatorships in the Southern Cone, the 1994 Cuban Rafter Crisis, contemporary femicide in Juárez, Mexico, the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas, Mexico, and the rise of narcotrafficking as a violent and vigorous global business throughout the Americas. In Latinx Theater in the Times of Neoliberalism , I explore how Latinx artists’ concerns with these conditions in the Americas have encouraged them to develop innovative theatrical modes of representation to address this violence. I use the term Latinx to signal a gender neutral cultural signifier, so as to be truly inclusive of all genders of persons of Latin American cultural identity without resorting to a gender binary.5 This book differs...


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