Yo Solo festival of Latino solo performance

Collaboraction and Teatro Vista combine to produce a first annual fest spearheaded by Sandra Delgado.

Photograph: courtesy of Collaboraction and Teatro VistaJuan Francisco Villa in Empanada for a Dream

“Actors are, in general, almost helpless,” jokes Sandra Delgado, producer of the new performance festival Yo Solo. “We wait for the call to be auditioned; we wait for the call to say we got the part. I want to empower actors to realize that they are creators, too.”

Delgado, who appears regularly at Steppenwolf and the Goodman, is a Teatro Vista ensemble member and a cofounder of Collaboraction; the latter two companies are combining forces for the fest of actor-generated Latino solo pieces. Like most of the six artists chosen for the program, Delgado is marking a personal first as a playwright performing her own work.

“When I had my daughter, something inside me just shifted and I became obsessed with creating,” she says. “I have all these ideas for shows, but I’m not a writer. So what do I do with that?”

A couple of years ago, Delgado went out for drinks with fellow company members following a Chicago Fringe Festival performance of Juan Francisco Villa’s Empanada for a Dream, then in its first incarnation (it played the NYC soloNOVA Arts Festival earlier this summer). That night, Delgado and company explored the idea of soliciting performers to try out their own voices. “We thought it would be a great way to share completely different points of view. It just got us excited,” Delgado says.

Approached recently by the Chicago Community Trust to create a performance for Latino audiences, Collaboraction and Teatro Vista seized the chance to commission new plays, reaching out to the community and yielding unexpected interest.

From Chicago to the East Coast, entries poured in. “As someone who’s been doing this for 15, 16 years, I thought that I really had a pulse on what was going on in Latino theater, and then getting all these submissions, I happily saw that I was wrong,” Delgado says. “There’s so much stuff happening in the neighborhoods, in Pilsen and Little Village, that I didn’t know about. The submission process for me was so gratifying and edifying because I got to meet all these artists. [It] showed me that we need to be doing this.”

In Delgado’s piece, para Graciela, a woman finds closure following her father’s death via perfume making. Other works cover such topics as the immigrant experience in Chicago and a land-grant war in New Mexico. Joining Delgado onstage are Febronio Zatarain of Spanish-language theater company Colectivo El Pozo, seasoned performer and director KJ Sanchez, bilingual poet Rey Andujar, recent DePaul graduate Lisandra Tena, and Villa, restaging Empanada in Chicago before taking it on tour.

For Villa, Yo Solo provides an opportunity to expand his character base and address the unique challenges of one-man shows. “I don’t have an actor to play off,” he says. “I can’t leave a show and be like, ‘That guy didn’t give me anything.’ It’s only me up there. It all falls on you. There’s an accountability that I don’t think can be matched when it’s someone else’s script.”

Already, Villa has seen a payoff for his craft and range. “People [saw] Empanada in New York and are saying, ‘I never would have thought of casting you for a role like that, but now I can see you do it.’ I never thought that was going to be a benefit. Now that people are saying that, I’m thinking, Oh, it’s on me. I can’t think, Why do I never get called for this? Here I am. I’ve created it.”

Yo Solo previews Thursday 26 and opens Sunday 29 at [node:15243751 link=Collaboraction ;].

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