The following was originally published in GESTOS, a multi-lingual journal devoted to critical studies of Spanish, Latin American and US Latino theater.
Evelina Fernández is a longstanding Chicana teatrista, who has been involved in various aspects of theater and film making in Los Angeles —as a theater and film actress, a playwright, a film and television script writer, and an activist— since the late seventies. She is first and foremost one of the founding members of the Latino Theater Company (LTC), where she is playwright-in-residence. Fernández has written at least a dozen major plays and has received accolades and prestigious awards, such as the “L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Writing of a World Premiere Play” (2012) for A Mexican Trilogy. Still, most of her plays are not yet published or not easily accessible, and most commentaries on her work are found in L.A. based theater reviews, online pieces, and interviews. The timely publication of Premeditation in this edition of Gestos —its staged production described as a “Chicano-Noir inspired journey through the intricacies of marriage” (LATC)— is a momentous opportunity to get acquainted with Fernández’s artistic trajectory, her work, and her important place in Chicano/Latino theater.
Fernández, who was born and raised in East Los Angeles, started writing short stories and delivering speeches in elementary school, and became interested in theater during her years at Garfield High. During the course of her studies at California State University, Los Angeles, she got involved in the Chicano movement, and consequently, in Chicano theater. While at Cal State, Fernández auditioned and was cast in the leading role of Della in Luis Valdez’s historic staging of Zoot Suit, which opened in 1978 at the Mark Taper Forum. By 1981, Fernández had become a member of the legendary Teatro de la Esperanza, which at the time was located in Santa Barbara. Her acquaintance with Teatro Campesino and Teatro de la Esperanza influenced her theater themes and aesthetic views, and made it possible for her to establish long-term personal and working relationships. These included Mexican director José Luis Valenzuela (whom she married), and long time fellow actors Sal López, Geoffrey Rivas, Lucy Rodríguez, and Lupe Ontiveiros (d. 2012), founding members of the Latino Theater Company (LTC), all of whom she considers her theater family (Fernández, “In Her Own Words”). In 1985, Fernández relocated to Los Angeles and has been a member of this important theater group. Her plays have been influenced and molded by the collaborative work method of the ensemble, as she specifically writes for the actors in the group.
Today, the LTC is at the forefront of Chicano/Latino theater in Los Angeles. The Company operates the Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC), and their programming brings together diverse Angeleno ethnic communities. The LATC’s annual presentation of La Virgen de Guadalupe, Dios Inantzin— adapted by Fernández from the 16th century text Nican Mopohua and consisting of more than 100 actors, singers and dancers— reenacts the story of Juan Diego’s vision of the Virgin of Guadalupe. This theatrical tradition is staged in Spanish in early December, free of charge, at the altar of the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, and it has attracted thousands of viewers since 2002. Aside from its involvement in themes relevant to the Latino communities of Los Angeles, the LATC is also very committed to an ongoing national dialogue on the place of Latino theater within mainstream American theater. Last November, the LATC hosted Encuentro 2014, a theater festival designed to reflect on the current state of Latino theater and its multifaceted themes, as well as on its diverse regional aesthetic expressions. Premeditation was the play the LTC chose to showcase at this historic event.