Texas Public Radio recently received its largest private gift – $2 million from The Gambrinus Company – to create a black box theater inside the Alameda Theater.
As a Chicana artist with two decades of experience in Latinx theater, I was disappointed to hear this. TPR is not a Mexican-American organization and should not be responsible for cultural programming at the Alameda.
I sent emails to both TPR and the City of San Antonio. Assistant City Manager Lori Houston responded by saying the historic Alameda Theater will be completely restored.
The City has been trying to restore the theater for well over a decade. The interesting thing about Houston’s and TPR‘s email responses is that they both distinguished between the historic Alameda Theater and the non-historic Alameda building. Apparently TPR ‘s black box theater will be located in the latter part.
Since it will in the non-historic part, Chicanos have nothing to complain about, right?
According to the City, TPR will be responsible for programming the black box theater in the non-historical part of the building, while the Alameda Theater Conservancy will manage programming in the historic Alameda Theater. You know, the big chingón space that will be too chingón expensive to produce in.
I’m a triste teatrista with a 20-year history in producing, directing, writing, and performing Latinx theater – but with limited access to a City-supported black box such as the Tobin Center’s Carlos Alvarez Studio Theater. I once directed a play there – ay que lovely a space! – but it was not the play I wanted to direct. The Tobin’s rental fees are just too expensive for a local, independent teatrista and inaccessible to theater organizations as well. While the Tobin has a resident symphony, ballet, and opera, it does not host a resident theater company.
TPR’s black box theater also may not become home to a theater company, and community access dates will be limited.
Stated TPR in its email to me: “Indeed, the TPR black box theater will primarily be used for TPR events, but will also be made available for use by community organizations, when schedule permits.”
While I’m a fan of Terry Gross, David Sedaris, and National Public Radio, I am not a fan of how our local affiliate, TPR, has programmed in a Latinx-majority city. And now it is moving into our historic cultural corazón? Where Cantinflas and Maria Felix gave abrazos to Westside gente, our Chicano audiences?
TPR‘s current Latino programming, including the notable Fronteras, is not enough. How much Latino coverage can a 30-minute program fit? Further, although I am a fan of current full-time Latinx employees Norma Martinez and Joey Palacios, does TPR plan to increase Latino programming once they move into the Alameda?
I challenge TPR to provide programming that reflects our 60 percent Latino y más majority population in San Antonio. That includes, but is not limited to, 60 percent representation on the board, administration, on-air personalities, and on-air and black box programming. That’s what it’s going to take for me to buy into the idea that TPR, a non-Chicano organization, is moving into our cultural corazón.