Chicano theatre collective Teatro de la Esperanza formed in 1970 as a group of theatre students organized with UC Santa Barbara's MEChA. The first director, Jorge Huerta, then a PhD student at UCSB, directed students though creación colectiva exercises that generated actos or sketches very much in the style of Teatro Campesino that dealt with the lives of the actors as Chicano students at UCSB. In 1974, the group was invited to a vigil in the town of Guadalupe for three local activists who had been arrested. Teatro de la Esperanza decided to create a docudrama about the incident. Inspired by the work of Enrique Buenaventura, the group expanded their creación colectiva process to include research and oral history interviews, and in four short months of improvisation, scripting, revising and rehearsing scenes, the group premiered Guadalupe on May 5, 1974. The process created the foundation for a Brechtian epic style popular theatre aesthetic that Esperanza members continued to develop after breaking ties with the university system to become a professional theatre collective in 1974. Works like La víctima, which premiered at UCSD in 1976 exemplify their signature approach. La víctima is a fifteen-scene episodic docudrama that imparts twentieth-century Chicano history through the saga of a family that is torn apart by the violence of the U.S.-Mexico border. Drawing on a multiplicity of approaches, creación colectiva, corridos, melodrama, Marxist critique, and Brechtian epic theatre, La víctima historicizes scapegoat deportation politics in different historical contexts and estranges border policing, the use of force and "American" patriotism, while it "demystifies" hegemonic U.S. mainstream ideology as the source of an internalized racism that divides Chicanos, Mexican-Americans and Latin/o American immigrants. The members of the collective who created the piece were Estela Campos, Michael Cordero, Nilda Cordero, Rodrigo Duarte Clark, Marta Hernández, Romelia Morales, Santiago Rangel, and José Guadalupe Saucedo. Later plays like Hijos (1979), a gritty domestic realism piece, demonstrate the versatility of Teatro de la Esperanza.
Teatro de la Esperanza toured their works widely, across the United States and internationally. They performed La víctima at INTAR in 1978 and toured the piece through Europe in Poland, Yugoslavia, and Sweden later that year. They performed regularly at the TENAZ festivals (Teatro Nacional de Aztlán) and the Teatro Popular Latinoamericano Festival in New York, where they presented Hijos in 1982. Teatro de la Esperanza was involved in the Nuevo Teatro movement in Cuba in particular. Company director Rodrigo Duarte Clark attended the First Meeting of Latin American and Caribbean Theatre Artists in Havana in June of 1981 and along with Nuyorican theatre collective Teatro 4, Esperanza formed the East Coast-West Coast Theatre Brigade (Brigada Chicana-Latina) that went to Havana in August of 1981. Collaborating with Teatro 4 and Carrefour Culturel de l'Amitié Québec-Cuba, Teatro de la Esperanza hosted the tour of El Grupo Teatro Escambray through the United States and Canada in 1982. The collaboration between Escambray and Esperanza is one of the best examples of the many cross border connections that propelled the Nuevo Teatro movement. Following Escambray's tour to the U.S., Teatro de La Esperanza toured to Havana in 1983, performing La víctima at the Sótano theatre, as well as a concert of songs and poems at La Casa de las Américas. The touring cast of seven included Ana Olivarez-Levinson, José Luis Valenzuela, and Evangelina Fernández. Members of the collective, like Ana Olivarez-Levinson, returned to Cuba to work with Teatro Escambray in La Macagua from October of 1984 until April of 1985.
Blanca Acosta, "Un Grupo Esperanzador," Conjunto 56 (1983): 106-107.
Jorge Huerta, Chicano Theatre: Themes and Forms (Ypsilanti, MI: Bilingual Press, 1982).
Jorge Huerta, Necessary Theater: Six Plays About the Chicano Experience (Houston: Arte Público Press, 1989), 208-211