Chat with Mario Ernesto Sanchez, founder of Hispanic Theater Festival

Key Biscayne Founder of Hispanic Theatre Festival shares stories from the stage

Mario Ernesto Sanchez is Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Teatro Avante. The arts and culture not for profit is hosting its 34th Annual International Hispanic Theatre Festival of Miami/Festival Internacional de Teatro Hispano de Miami running at venues: Teatro Avante, the Adrienne Arsht Theatre, and Miami Dade County Auditorium from July 11 to 28.

He talked with Islander News on how and why the event got started and highlights from this season’s performances. For more information visit: or call 305.445.8877.

IN: How long has the festival been going on?

MES: The Festival open in 1986 in an effort to enhance Hispanic theatre in Miami.

In 1988 it became national thanks to the support of the Ford Foundation and in 1989 it became international thanks to the support of the Rockefeller Foundation.

We are now celebrating our 34th edition and the 40th anniversary of Teatro Avante, the company producing and presenting the award-winning International Hispanic Theatre Festival of Miami.

IN: How did it start?

MES: With the assistance of the Department of Cultural Affairs of Miami-Dade County and several sponsors we were able to present the First Hispanic Theatre Festival. The idea behind it was to promote and enhance Hispanic theatre in a city with an Anti-bilingual ordinance at the time that lasted 10 yrs. No public funds could be used for anything in Spanish. So we had to advertise in English, our festival in Spanish.

IN: What was the purpose/vision behind your beginning?

MES: The mission of the festival as well as of Teatro Avante has not changed through the years:

“To preserve, enhance and further develop our Hispanic cultural heritage through the production and presentation of universal theatre and educational programs”.

IN: What is new about this year?

MES: The Festival presents seven productions representing four countries: Argentina, Chile, Spain and the U.S. We are opening with a very important production from Nueve de Nueve from Zaragoza, Spain, Extinct Poetics.

Blessed Gloria is also from Spain, produced by Albanta and directed by Pepe Bable, who is the Life Achievement in the Performing Arts Award this year. Also from Spain we have Seven Little Goats to celebrate International Children's Day, produced by the popular Los Claveles from Murcia.

Chile is bringing Letters from Jenny - the insignificant epic of Jenny Masterson, written and directed by Gustavo Meza, a significant author and director from Santiago.

From Argentina we are bringing two productions: El Bululu. The Itinerant Actor, a Devilish Anthology, this monologue, written and directed by Leticia Gonzalez de Lellis and Osqui Guzman, received excellent reviews at the International Theatre Festival of Buenos Aires (FIBA). Also representing Buenos Aires is a very significant production, Millions of Seconds, the story of a 5 year old transsexual teen counting the seconds he has left to live in an alien body.

And the entry from the U.S., our theatre (Teatro Avante), representing Miami, a world premiere, Bayamesa, where a theatre company comes across unpublished manuscripts of the poet Maria Luisa Milanes (1893-1919), a fascinating story of a dangerous clash with patriarchal tyranny.

IN: What is the magic about bringing it together for you?

MES: Wish it would be magic. It's a lot of hard work throughout the year that I love, and when you love what you do it's not work but enjoyment. I just wished it would be easier, but Miami is not an easy city to present theatre. However, I truly believe this city is rapidly changing to become a major metropolis of the U.S., and in order to become such a city, arts and culture must be included in our daily lives.

IN: What do you hope audiences take away from the experience?

MES: Audiences from all nationalities are able to experience a piece of their own country of birth. They have the opportunity to witness high artistic talents from their own playwrights, directors and actors.

IN: Anything else you would like to share?

MES: Come to the Festival because theatre is not a luxury but a necessity in a city that must become unique in matters that enhance the spirit and satisfy our hearts.