The Puerto Rican Traveling Theater: Constructing a Space of Belonging for the Diasporic Puerto Rican Community in New York City
Derieux-Cruz, Juan Jose
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Puerto Ricans possess, by birth, a second-class American citizenship, while simultaneously sharing with other communities the categorization of a minority group. This sense of non-belonging inspired the founding of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre (PRTT) in 1967. Located in heart of the Theatre District of New York City, PRTT has the main objective of creating a space for more accurate representations of Latino peoples, specifically for the Puerto Rican Diaspora. By foregrounding the lived reality of Hispanics in the United States, they also connect alienated second and third generation Nuyoricans through performance. Programs such as their Training Unit and Playwrights Unit gives access and recourses to beginners and professional artist members. In addition, the work they create shows a more complex and realistic image of the Puerto Rican/Latin American experience. The PRTT reaches a wide audience by performing each play in Spanish and English and brings new inclusive ways of incorporating (and not casting aside) the cultural origins within the Latin American community. In this thesis, I will argue realistic narrative based plays and musicals performed and written by members of the PRTT offer an experiential reference to hybrid identity and functions as a dose of self-esteem for the Puerto Rican Diaspora. By performing plays in both Spanish and English, the company also gives Anglo audiences the opportunity to see complex representations of the Latin American/Puerto Rican/Nuyorican community as opposed to more common stereotyped images. This paper will argue that the PRTT brings access to cultural repertoire through the embodiment of ignored voices. By analyzing PRTT’s diversity of programs and the construction of the characters in Simpson Street, Bodega, Ariano, and I Like It Like That, I will argue this cultural work creates a space of belonging by validating a non-stereotyped perspective. This paper will also explore the ways the PRTT has helped create an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding. The company succeeds in its mission to present the Puerto Rican Diasporic Community, like other Latin American minorities, as a productive part of American society.