In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Latinx Theatre Commons:A Commons-based Approach Movement
  • Teresa Marrero (bio)

The innovative model proposed by Latinx Theatre Commons (LTC) joins theatre artists, scholars, and students both virtually and in-person through an effective, volunteer-basis model that creates opportunities for theatre practitioners of all ages, races, and gender identities, while advancing the state of Latinx theatre in the United States. As such, it is the most important movement of the new millennium, one that picks up the spirit of the former Chicano theatre movement's TENAZ (Teatros Nacional de Aztlán) of the 1970s through the '90s as a national presence. This Note from the Field addresses the identity and functioning of LTC through a commons-based approach; it traces the emergence of LTC and HowlRound (its partner), and offers insight into LTC convenings, demographic composition, and initiatives produced during 2013–16. As such, this research contributes to the narrative archive of US theatre histories, and maps the performative, organizational strategies of a nascent movement within the American theatre.

How Does LTC Define Itself?

LTC defines itself as a movement, and not as an organization with membership. Thus I avoid using the word member, but instead use participants or volunteers, even though the committee structure often necessitates using member. The mission statement of LTC is as follows: "The Latinx Theatre Commons (LTC) in partnership with HowlRound is a national movement that uses a commons-based approach to transform the narrative of the American theatre, to amplify the visibility of Latinx performance-making, and to champion equity through advocacy, art making, convening, and scholarship" ("What is the Latinx Theatre Commons [LTC]?"). Its stated goal to "transform the narrative of the American theatre" alludes to disarticulating the ways in which US theatre and cultural studies are organized in a mainstream/minority discourse dichotomy. In a more practical perspective, the aim is to reimagine, both in theory and practice, American theatre beyond dichotomous episteme-based hyphenated (X-American) frameworks.

What Is a Commons-based Approach?

According to Indiana University's Digital Library of the Commons, "the commons is a general term for shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal interest" (n.p.). Historically, the term commons is derived from the medieval English legal term for land that was designated by the lord of the manor for use by common folk for their own sustenance. This was known as the commons. The term commoner emerged from he/she who toils on commonly held lands (van Laerhoven and Ostrom). The term was popularized as a shared resource term by ecologist Garrett Hardin in 1968.1 There are several types of commons in practice today: environmental commons;2 digital commons;3 and cultural, social, and intellectual commons. HowlRound and LTC are examples.

The notion of commons is deeply rooted within early US history. In his books The Gift and Common as Air, Lewis Hyde4 cites Benjamin Franklin among those who rejected attempts at patenting, [End Page E-11] an early attempt at the privatization of knowledge, based on the fundamental idea that commonly held knowledge benefits the greater good through open circulation. The idea and practice of the commonwealth is predicated on the notion that all citizens assume a degree of responsibility for sharing labor, knowledge, natural resources, and contributing in public works for the common good of the community. A commons-based approach stands in contrast to the enclosure and privatization of knowledge, but more importantly it creates opportunities for new ways of conceptualizing possibilities through collaborations using existing infrastructures. P. Carl,5 one of the cofounders of HowlRound, on the subject:

The thing that most impresses me about the commons-based approach is that things get done as a result of it! The LTC has been the most impressive example of the power of the commons to activate people around shared goals and values to accomplish more than a single organization or person ever could. The commons is an intervention-based approach rather than an approach that requires building infrastructure first. We didn't create a Latinx Theatre Commons . . . in other words we didn't hire a leader and a development person and a marketer, etc. . . . So often when...