February 9, 2018
Seth Miller, Interim Director
The Grand Theatre
1575 South State Street
Salt Lake City, UT 84115
Dear Mr. Miller,
We recently learned of a series of plays about a fictional “Spanish” character named Juanito Bandito being performed in your area. This series of plays uses offensive (and outdated) stereotypes of Latinx people to mine its “humor.” Not only is this kind of “Brownface” in poor taste, it is racist.
We also learned that “Juanito Bandito’s Christmas Carol” recently played at the Grand Theatre. These racist plays have created what can be considered a mini industry within Utah and beyond; questionable merchandise such as moustache-branded T-shirts for kids and hats are available on your theatre website, and numerous YouTube videos and a Facebook page maintained by the creator TJ Davis help sell tickets -- all of which further propagates racism against the Latinx community.
According to the 2010 census, over 20% of Salt Lake City’s population includes people who identify as “Hispanic or Latino,” so this choice of programming demeans and excludes effectively one-fifth of your community. We sincerely hope you reconsider your programming choices and avoid putting racist, hurtful entertainment into your space in the future. Not only is it offensive and insensitive, but it hardly seems a good fit for a theatre that describes its mission as involving “educational outreach programs and cooperative partnerships to enrich the community."
We understand that it may not have been your intention to offend, and appreciate any efforts you make moving forward to make your venue and programs more welcoming to all members of your community. As an organization attached to a state-run community college (which we assume means you receive state, if not federal, funding), we also beseech you to rethink why you felt it appropriate to present work that is racist, stereotypical, and in poor taste.
What any theatre chooses to present can have reach and impact beyond its immediate audience. Everything you produce or present expresses your organization’s values, and helps others to shape theirs. If you have questions about how to move forward with this, we encourage you to seek out any number of resources found online, some of which we have included here:
We thank you for time and your willingness to expand your programming beyond offensive tropes of the past, and we welcome any conversation that comes as a result of this. We hope this letter has illuminated a gap in your perception, and that in the future, you work to challenge your audiences to see Latinx people as more than just offensive stereotypes. We are your neighbors, your friends, your family, and perhaps someday, patrons at your theatre.
Diana Burbano, Literary Director at Breath of Fire, Los Angeles, CA
Rachael Carnes, journalist, educator and playwright, Eugene, OR
Dusty Wilson, Resident Playwright at Mercy Street Theatre Company, Chicago, IL
Nelson Diaz-Marcano, Playwright, New York, New York
Briandaniel Oglesby, (Latino) Playwright, Austin, TX
L.C. Bernadine, Playwright, Chicago, IL
Jordan Elizabeth Henry, playwright, Chattanooga, Tn
Jess Pillmore, Artistic Director at Creatively Independent, Austinville, VA
John Hendel, Playwright, Los Angeles, CA
Bryan Stubbles, Playwright and SLCC alumnus, LAYTON, UTAH
Bill Arnold, Playwright and Technical Director, Hole in the Wall Theater, New Britain, CT
Larry Nehring, Playwright and Director, Cleveland, OH
Galia Backal, Director, New York, NY
Mark V. Jones, playwright, actor, director of Altadena, Ca.
Fran de Leon, Artistic Director, Will & Company, Los Angeles CA
Maria Velazquez, Actress, Chicago, IL
Alison Garrigan, Director and Actress, Cleveland, OH
Asher Wyndham, Playwright, Minneapolis, MN
Everett Robert, Playwright, Hays, KS
Andrew Siañez-De La O, Playwright, Boston, MA
Tanya Perez, Actress & Playwright NYC
Emily Aguilar, educator and director, prof. at Bowling Green State University
Exal Iraheta, MFA Candidate: Writing for the Screen and Stage Northwestern University; Chicago, IL
Jeremy Jusek, Poet and Playwright, Cleveland OH
Carrie Pozdol, Actor, Director, Sketch Comedy writer, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Elenna Stauffer, Actress and Playwright, New York, NY
Robin Rice, playwright. New York City.
Gwydion Suilebhan, playwright, Washington, DC
Tlaloc Rivas, co-founder of the Latinx Theatre Commons, Director, Playwright
Adam Esquenazi Douglas, Game Writer at Telltale Games, Playwright, San Rafael, CA
Max Sparber, playwright, Minneapolis, MN
Sylvia Blush, director-actor-choreographer, MFA Directing Candidate, UCLA
Armando Huipe, Theater Management MFA Candidate, Yale School of Drama
Jake Disch, playwright and screenwriter, Los Angeles, CA
Sol Crespo, Theater Artist and All Around Badass, The Bronx, NY
Gugun Deep Singh, Actor & Writer, Los Angeles CA
Courtney Flores, Costume Designer, San Leandro, CA
Hugo E Carbajal, Actor, Director, Teacher. Los Angeles, CA
Kelly Strickland, Actor, Writer. Los Angeles, CA
Carol Lashof, Playwright, Berkeley, CA
Carlos-Manuel Chavarria, Playwright, Director, Actor, Theatre Producer, and Theatre Professor, Richmond, CA
Ali-Rose Wonderland, Actor, Opera Soprano, Playwright, Portland, OR
Maggie Keenan-Bolger, Director, Actor, Teaching Artist, Founder of Honest Accomplice Theatre, New York, NY
Lorca Peress, Artistic Director
MultiStages, a multicultural multidisciplinary theatre company in NYC