10 Latinx, Hispanic, and Chicano/a Playwrights You Should Know

Written by Ashleigh Gardner

January 6, 2017

These Latinx, Hispanic, and Chicano/a playwrights have revolutionized theatre with their plays that address the struggles, successes, and nuances of their individual cultures.

María Irene Fornés (1930 –     )

A leading playwright of avant garde theatre, Fornés was born in Cuba and immigrated to the United States when she was 14. In 1954, Fornés moved to Paris; while living there, she saw a production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. This inspired her to become a playwright. Fornés’ plays focus on social and personal issues, oftentimes using theatre as an immersive experience. She would later win the 1985 Obie Award for Best Play for her work, The Conduct of Life.

Trivia: Before Fornés was a playwright, she was a painter of abstract art.

Popular Plays: The Conduct of Life, Fefu and Her Friends, Mud, Sarita, Letters from Cuba

Estela Portillo-Trambley (1936 – 1999)

Born in El Paso, Texas, Portillo-Trambley earned a B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of Texas at El Paso. For her work in Chicano literature, she was inducted into the El Paso Women’s Hall of Fame in 1996.

Trivia: She is the first Chicana to publish a short story collection and the first Chicana to write a musical comedy for the stage.

Popular works: Puente Negro, Autumn Gold, Blacklight, Sor Juana

Luis Valdez (1940 –     )

Valdez is regarded as the father of Chicano literature in the United States, having brought the lives and culture of Chicano America to the attention of the theatre and arts world. He is a founding member of the California State University, Monterey Bay Teledramatic Arts and Technology Department, which helps prepare students for careers in filmmaking, writing, cinematography, and sound design.

Trivia: Valdez received the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature in 1992.

Popular works: Zoot Suit

Ariel Dorfman (1942 –     )

Dorfman’s work, largely influenced by his experiences after the Pinochet coup, deals with the consequences of tyranny and struggles of exile. His college thesis examined the absurd works of Harold Pinter, and after its completion, prompted a positive relationship between the two playwrights.

Trivia: The night of the Pinochet coup, Dorfman was supposed to work the night shift but switched with a friend, narrowly escaping the chaos that was to follow.

Popular works: Death and the Maiden

Luis Santeiro (1948 –     )

Santeiro was born in Havana, Cuba and left the island with his family for Miami at age twelve. A writer for the Carrascolendas children’s show in Austin, TX, Santeiro went on to be a writer for Sesame Street in 1979. In 1995, he was awarded the with National Hispanic Academy of media Arts and Sciences Award for his play A Royal Affair.  

Trivia: Santeiro wrote for numerous other children’s shows, contributing both scripts and song lyrics.

Popular works: Our Lady of the Tortilla, The Lady from Havana, A Royal Affair

Milcha Sanchez-Scott (1953 –    )

Born in Bali, Indonesia, this playwright of Chinese, Dutch, Indonesian, and Colombian heritage graduated from the University of San Diego where she studied literature, philosophy, and theatre. Discouraged by the lack of roles for Hispanic and Latinx performers, Sanchez-Scott became a playwright.

Trivia: Sanchez-Scott attended many cockfighting games for research for her play Roosters.

Popular works: Roosters, Latina

Migdalia Cruz (1958 –    )

Produced at Playwrights Horizons in New York, the Old Red Lion Theatre in London, and the National Theatre of Greece in Athens (among many other places), Cruz’s work has been translated into Spanish, French, Arabic, Greek, and Turkish. Her work is characterized its bold poetic language and theme of making something ugly beautiful.

Trivia: Migdalia Cruz worked closely as a student of María Irene Fornés and has dedicated poems and scripts to her mentor.

Popular works: Another Part of the House, Fur, Salt

Nilo Cruz (1960 –     )

Born in Cuba, Cruz immigrated to Miami, FL in 1970 with his family on a Freedom Flight. He studied theatre at Miami Dade Community College and would soon go on to study under María Irene Fornés and Paula Vogel. He is also the author of a musical with Jack Murphy — Havana.

Trivia: In 2003, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his play, Anna in the Tropics.

Popular works: Anna in the Tropics, Two Sisters and a Piano, Beauty of the Father

Caridad Svich (1963 –     )

Svich has written over forty full-length plays and fifteen translations in her career as a playwright. A majority of her work also includes poetry and/or songs written by her. Her work addresses the struggles and intricacies of Latinx life.

Trivia: Svich is the founder of NoPassport, an international theatre alliance and publishing house.

Popular works: Any Place but Here, Twelve Ophelias, Luna Park

Anne García-Romero

Greatly influenced by her cultural background, García-Romero attempts to bridge the cultural divide between white and Latino communities. In this way, her work is accessible to a larger demographic and creates an inclusive, welcoming environment for white and Latinx audiences.

Trivia: García-Romero’s work focuses on the concept of Latinidad, the shared cultural experiences of Latin American people and their identity as separate but similar nationalities and backgrounds.

Popular works: Juanita’s Statue, Paloma, Earthquake Chica, Provenance

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Ashleigh Gardner received her AA in Theatre/Drama/Dramatic Arts from Valencia College and her Bachelors Degree in English Literature and Masters Degree in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies from the University of Central Florida. She is a playwright and an actor.