The editor's note below differs from the version in the December 2016 print issue, which was written and sent to the magazine's printer before the Nov. 8 election, and which presumed a more sanguine outcome.
The name of this magazine is not U.S. Theatre, though frankly it might as well be. Like much of the English-speaking world, we reflexively use “America” and “American” as synonyms for the United States. We haven’t ignored the other Americas in our coverage, with regular dispatches from Colombia’s Iberoamerican Theatre Festival, two recent special issues on Latin American theatre (May/June ’10 and ’15), and one on Canadian stages (May/June ’12). But American Theatre is a magazine primarily about theatre made in the U.S., with a secondary mission of following trends in world theatre for the benefit of U.S. readers. We are both mirror and lens, but whether looking inward or outward, our perspective is undeniably rooted in the U.S. American experience.
But while we’re looking inward, let’s admit—nay, insist on—a more complicated view. The U.S. is not, despite what the recent election result and its aftermath seemed to ratify, a monoculture. Indeed, though in legal effect ours has until quite recently been what Jamelle Bouie calls a herrenvolk democracy—i.e., a nation designed to advantage a single ethnic group—in its lived history our nation has never been defined by a single race or creed, or even by a single immutable set of principles. It is instead defined by entanglement, by intersectionality, by interdependence, even or especially in this current moment of discord and disquiet. The word “diversity” is too mild, too settled a word for the knotty, unstable multiplicity of the American experiment. But now is a time more than ever to double down on our nation’s resolute un-simplicity.
For while the America of the immigrant, the refugee, the marginalized may face renewed threats in Trump’s America, neither the demographic ascendance of the so-called “majority minority,” nor the perceived danger it poses to entrenched power and hence that power’s fierce backlash against it, is new. It must be affirmed now more than ever that this nation, formed from the blood and toil of indigenous and enslaved people, the aspirations of migrants and workers, the contestations of soldiers and merchants, the struggles of advocates and agitators, has always been as much black and brown, as Muslim and Jewish and free-thinking, as gender-fluid and feminist and queer, as it has been straight, white, male, and Christian. That’s our actual history; and despite the Trump victory and the temporal reassertion of white supremacy, multiplicity remains our destiny. The question now, of course, is what fresh contests and struggles lie in store in reaching that inevitability.
Which is a long way of introducing this issue’s special theme: the legacy and future of Latinx theatre in the U.S. If American Theatre has not covered Latin American countries with as much attention as we’ve given the U.S., in covering our own multiplicitous America in its fullness we must recognize the U.S. as, in many crucial senses, a Latin American culture itself (with all the additional postcolonial baggage that brings with it). Much as we’ve been the official magazine of the roughly half-century-old U.S. resident theatre movement, in this issue we shine a renewed light on a parallel stream bubbling alongside and increasingly within that mainstream—a movement that effectively began in the fields of central California with El Teatro Campesino, and in Off-Broadway theatres with INTAR and the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, and now dots the entire U.S., from Tucson, Ariz.’s Borderlands Theater to Broadway’s Hamilton, as well as the annual convenings of the Latina/o Theatre Commons. It is, in short, a definitively, quintessentially American theatre tradition, not a subculture, an outlier, a trend, just as surely as Latinx culture is a bedrock of our continental identity, not an overlay or an encroachment upon it.
Perhaps we should acknowledge that even in its strictly U.S. context, “America” is effectively a plural, not a singular word.