Radius Theater celebrates Latinx art with Descoloridos


Courtesy of Valen-Marie Santos

Graphic for “Descoloridos: A Night of Student Activism.” The event will feature work from Latinx student artists on campus.

Wilson Chapman, Arts and Entertainment Editor

When Valen-Marie Santos first arrived at Northwestern, she and her friend Alessandra Hernández quickly became frustrated with the lack of opportunities they saw for artists of color in Northwestern’s theater community. Deciding to take matters into their own hands, the two Communication juniors founded Radius Theatre, a group dedicated to empowering and providing a space for artists of color, during their sophomore year.

Now, Santos is producing Radius’ first student mainstage show, “Descoloridos: a night of artistic activism.” The show will have two performances on Friday and Saturday in Shanley Pavilion and will feature work from Latinx student artists that encompasses a wide variety of media, from visual art to documentary filmmaking to poetry to musical performances. Radius is co-producing the event with Multicultural Student Affairs.

“Both me and my fellow co-founder, we’re both Latinx,” Santos said. “So that was something that was really close to our hearts, to build a space specifically for Latinx artists.”

Santos, who serves as president of Radius, said the theater group has already hosted several events, including a multicultural variety show called “All Tea, All Shades,” as well as community dialogues. The group received the opportunity to host an event in Shanley from the Student Theatre Coalition co-chairs, who informed them that the space was available during this specific weekend.

Santos said the event is intended to have an informal and relaxed atmosphere, where people are allowed to come and go as they please. Artwork and poetry will be posted around Shanley in a museum-style format, interspersed with live performances from some of the artists.

Radius vice-president Hernández will perform “I Will Always Think of You,” a song written by Lin-Manuel Miranda featured in Season 4 of the Netflix animated dramedy “BoJack Horseman,” in “Descoloridos.”

Hernández said she struggled as a Latina in theater for a long time; in high school, she always played old people and men, and was never given the chance to play a lead. At Northwestern, she found although there was talk about diversity in theater, the theater community at Northwestern still struggled with the same issues of inclusivity. Hernández said Radius was important to her because she wanted an outlet to address these issues on campus.

Hernández said the group initially considered hosting a staged reading of a play, but decided to produce a special event because of their limited resources as a very new, grassroots organization on campus. However, she said in many ways the event is more interesting than a staged reading because it is uncommon for a theater group on campus to produce a special event showcasing artists from multiple mediums.

“I want this to not just be theater, and I feel like the fact that we are showing other kinds of art, and showing a video, and showing stories from Latin people who aren’t necessarily in theater, is really doing more outreach that a show would,” Hernández said.

Communication freshman Gabriela Furtado Coutinho will be presenting poetry at “Descoloridos.” Some of her poems will be posted on the walls of Shanley, and she will also perform a spoken word set during the event. Coutino said with her poetry, she explores ideas of biculturalism, of not being American enough in one context and not being Latinx enough in another context. In addition, one of her spoken word poems calls attention to underprivileged and impoverished communities in Brazil.

Coutinho said she was born in Brazil and lived in a South Floridian community with a large first-generation immigrant population. Coming to Northwestern, she said it was a shock for her to not find that environment, and she has sought out Latinx communities where she could find them on campus. Coutino said she thinks the event is important because it helps provide an opportunity for Latinx people on campus to celebrate their diverse heritages.

“(This event) offers a space for people to speak their truth when they’re not usually able to,” Coutino said. “Because the space is now theirs. This space that we’re trying to create on Friday and Saturday is going to be that of the artist, going to be that of people who identify as Latinx, and we invite people in celebrating that.”

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