VALEN-MARIE SANTOS: Radius Theatre was kind of born out of a frustration between me and my good friend Alessandra. We felt like there wasn’t enough of a community and enough attention on theatre majors, and artists in general, of color. And not enough prioritization of representation and opportunities being presented to us.
WILSON CHAPMAN: From the Daily Northwestern, I’m Wilson Chapman. This is Podculture, a podcast covering arts and entertainment on and around Northwestern’s campus. This week, we’ll delve deep into the life of spoken word on campus through Radius Theatre’s recent event, “Descoloridos.”
GABRIELA FURTADO COUTINHO: In high school, I organized a lot of open mic nights. I’ve been actually missing that a lot here. I’ve always loved poetry. I perform poetry and monologues. I really like to talk about topics of inclusivity and issues of identity and speaking my truth at the time, whether that be feminist poetry, or Latinx related topics, or thinking about people with disabilities, because my brother has a very severe disability.
WILSON CHAPMAN: This is Communication freshman Gabriela Furtado Coutinho, whose poetry and spoken word was featured in the most recent Radius event.
GABRIELA FURTADO COUTINHO: I think it’s crucial because it offers a space for people to speak their truth when they’re not usually able to as much, because the space is now theirs. And so this space that we’re trying to create is going to be that of the artists. It’s going to be that of people who identify as Latinx, and we invite people to join us in celebrating that. I’m definitely still learning from my family, in terms of experience and strength, and I think that you can take that beauty away from that no matter how you identify.
WILSON CHAPMAN: “Descoloridos” was an event hosted at Shanley Pavilion centered around various types of art by Latinx students on campus.
VALEN-MARIE SANTOS: So basically, it’s a night where we have a lineup of dancers, and we have a filmmaker showcasing his documentary film. We have art installations. We have a painting. We have a collage being put up. We’ll have some musicians. We have some stand-up poetry, as well as poetry that will be displayed. So, just a whole variety of art that will be displayed and performed throughout the night.
WILSON CHAPMAN: This is Communication junior Valen-Marie Santos, one of the co-founders of Radius Theatre.
VALEN-MARIE SANTOS: We started this group to empower artists of color and create that space for support for them. And we also do a lot of dialogue work. We will host community dialogues about issues that are particular to minority students. So, trying to engage the community in those conversations to try to address the issues that we see here at Northwestern.
WILSON CHAPMAN: The co-founders of Radius Theatre had been hosting smaller-scale events until they had the opportunity to host their first big event at Shanley Pavilion.
VALEN-MARIE SANTOS: Both me and my fellow co-founder, we’re both Latinx, so that was something that was really close to our hearts, and when we were given the opportunity to have a weekend at Shanley, seeing as we’re still pretty small and a large scale production probably wouldn’t be feasible, we thought that an event where we gathered people around the community who are Latinx and have art to share and something to say, would be something that we could do.
WILSON CHAPMAN: Santos sees her involvement in Radius Theatre as an opportunity to become more immersed in the Latinx art scene.
VALEN-MARIE SANTOS: In the entertainment industry, Latinx people are so unbelievably underrepresented. It’s such a huge minority in terms of influence in the United States and an identity that is so diverse and has so many factors to it that I don’t think people understand as much. I think one thing in particular with this event is being Latinx doesn’t mean one thing at all for anybody because there’s so many places you can come from to be Latinx and so many different cultures that you can come from that have a lot of big differences that I don’t think people realize. It’s an attempt to tell people, “Hey, we’re here. We have something to say we have art to share.”
WILSON CHAPMAN: Communication junior Alessandra Hernández was inspired to advocate for people of color when she saw this diversity on Broadway. In fall of 2017, the incoming freshman class was all granted tickets to see Hamilton as part of Northwestern’s One Book One Northwestern program. We talked with her on the phone, so she might be hard to hear.
ALESSANDRA HERNÁNDEZ: So we all had to see Hamilton, remember that? I saw them, all lined up on stage, every single one of them. None of them looked unattainable to me. None of them were blond, white girls, you know, who seem to get all the roles. You know? And I cried. It sounds so cheesy. I was like, this is finally accessible to me.
WILSON CHAPMAN: As a co-founder of Radius Theatre, Alessandra took these diversity initiatives to Northwestern.
ALESSANDRA HERNÁNDEZ: I lived in a lot of places growing up and a lot of the time I just didn’t have access to performing. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to do, really. And when I did have access to performing, which was mostly in high school, I was delegated pretty much to playing men and old people. The blond, white girls were the ones who always got the chance to be the young pretty ladies. And they got the chance to have solos, and I didn’t. Even though I trained for years and years and years on my voice. I wanted a chance to right that wrong.
WILSON CHAPMAN: But for Alessandra, this is more than just theatre. This is a problem she sees throughout Northwestern’s campus.
ALESSANDRA HERNÁNDEZ: 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 are not necessarily in theater is really doing more outreach than maybe just a show would. Shows are great and I hope we can do them in the future. But I’m really excited for this because of that greater outreach aspect.
I think now that we’re in college, and I think people are ready to learn more and ready to break out of their bubbles and be like, “Oh s–t, there really are people who are from the Bronx and not from Manhattan.” I mean I’m talking to one of them right now. Now’s the chance if we’re going to be able to cram some perspective into their heads. It’s going to be now.
WILSON CHAPMAN: That’s it for this episode of Podculture. Thanks for tuning in, and we’ll see you next week.
WILSON CHAPMAN: This episode was reported and produced by me, Wilson Chapman, and Nafi Soumare. It was edited by Kalen Luciano and Heena Srivastava. The Editor-in-Chief of The Daily Northwestern is Troy Closson.
— MSA promotes inclusion at Latinx Heritage Month kickoff
— Radius Theater celebrates Latinx art with Descoloridos
— Esther Gabara discusses the politics of Latin American pop art at block event