Houston actress and writer Jasminne Mendez says that she stopped auditioning for plays because she felt like there weren't any roles that fit her.
"There is Latino theater in town, but I think that as far as a lot of the other major or regional theaters that exist, there has been a lack of representation for the Latino community," she said.
Mendez is on the task force of the first annual Sin Muros (Without Walls): A Latina/o Theatre Festival, being presented by Stages Repertory Theatre, Feb. 1-4.
She calls the festival "groundbreaking," the first of its kind in Houston to the extent of what it offers: four days of performances, workshops and readings that will focus on the voices and stories of Latino playwrights and actors.
Events are open to the public, with some performances incorporating Spanish and the majority in English – to reflect the Texas experience and to be inclusive of diverse and multi-generational Latino audiences, who may or may not be fluent in Spanish.
Mendez describes the local Latino theater community as vibrant and growing, with playwrights often exploring home, family, love, grief and loss – themes that resonate universally.
"I've seen so many young Latinos – both poets and writers, and playwrights – coming up here in Houston, and they're really excited about the possibilities," Mendez said.
She hopes that a festival like Sin Muros will help nurture these artists and entice them to remain in Houston, instead of relocating their talents to the East or West Coast.
With the city's Hispanic population expected to be the majority by 2050, Mendez notes that "we have to be able to create artistic spaces that highlight their experience and their narrative, and I think this is a great step forward."
There is a complete schedule of festival events on the Stages website.
Listen to the complete interview with Jasminne Mendez below: