Latinauts: La Frontera Finál is ColdTowne’s newest MainStage show. Set aboard the L.S.S. Edward James Olmos, the crew explores new worlds, seeks out new resources for their home planet Earth, and passionately goes where no Latinx has gone before. Carlos LaRotta and Lilli Lopez (co-producers) and Ben Bazan (co-director, alongside Mical Trejo) got together to discuss the show amongst themselves, their background and the genesis of the show in this chat.
Where are we all from? And where is your family originally from?
CARLOS: I’m from Houston, Texas. I’m a first gen dude. My family is originally from Colombia, South America.
LILLI: I’m from Edinburg, Texas. A lot of my family is from Mexico, specifically Monterrey. My mom’s parents were first generation Texans.
BEN: I’m a sixth generation Texan from Garciasville, Texas. My grandparents and great-grandparents were from Mexico.
What do telenovelas mean to you?
C: Telenovelas make me think of my abuelita in Colombia. She, and later with her nurses, would always watch telenovelas in her little house in Bogota. They were Mexican telenovelas. If you know your geography, Mexico and Colombia are pretty far apart. But still, Colombians consume and enjoy a lot of Mexican culture – from food and music to television. However Colombians will always claim to speak better, more eloquent Spanish. Colombians, whaddya gonna do?
L: Telenovelas make me think of when I was really small and our babysitters would have novelas on. I remember watching the telenovela Luz Clarita, and thinking the little girl was so cute and wanting to know what she was saying. A few years ago I got really into watching La Reina del Sur with my mom on Netflix, and again, I remember thinking “I wish I could watch this without subtitles.” Soy pocha.
B: Telenovelas remind me of the times when I got stuck having to watch them with my mom, sister, and aunt. Mari Mar was one of their favorites. It also reminds me how passionate and dramatic we can be.
What are your thoughts on the two genres becoming one for your show?
C: I know from when we first started talking about this idea of mashing a sci-fi show with a telenovela, some of the cast didn’t feel too strong about their sci-fi knowledge, which worked for me because I didn’t know much about telenovelas. If I’m honest, I’m not a huge sci-fi buff either. I don’t know what I’m doing here!
L: I was a little worried leading up to our run that not knowing much about sci-fi was gonna be difficult for me, and some of the others on the team who weren’t into sci-fi specifically, perhaps creating some roadblocks. But that hasn’t been the case, because we work great as a team to create the space around us and understand it for the show. And we made it a goal for the show to focus on relationships and that very much informs how the show is laid out. And it reminds me of just being around a bunch of people who understand me. I feel very confident that everyone is gonna support me, and that scenes we do together are informed from the common cultural background that we all share.
Why is it so weird to see a crew of Latinos in space? What does that say about the people of Latin American and the way they’re treated in history or technological fields, or how they have been portrayed in film and tv?
CARLOS: When Dave Buckman asked us to think of a concept that doesn’t put latino/as in a stereotypical setting, the first thing I thought of was “Latinos in Space!” – which, you know, made me laugh a lil bit. Adding “in space!” to anything is already kinda fun in a cheesy way. But for some reason it was weirder because astronauts and other space-faring sorts are typically caucasian folks in real life (big ups to the Chinese Space Program) and in fiction. And while it’s humorous to me, the fact that it’s a stretch kinda bothered me. Will I or my children ever see a mostly POC space crew in real life? Probably not, right? And that’s when the idea started getting really exciting: Fuck it, we’ll see it on the ColdTowne Stage.
How did we start planning and how did the cast get chosen?
Lilli: Okay so that takes us a little back in history. There was an all female Latina troupe called Prima Donas and at some point they asked the latinos in the scene to join together and we had our first show at Say It Loud! Produced by Ryan D.
We were invited to play where all the performers of the night were POC. I submitted us for the upcoming ColdTowne schedule, then Dave asked me if we were interested in a run. NO DOI!
That’s when Carlos messaged me with the “Latinos in Space” idea and I loved it! I really wanted it to be like a telenovela as a nod to our roots. Also, I really wanted the opportunity to get *~dramatic~*.
The cast was chosen from the original Prima Donas lineup and then we added another couple of ladies and now we are here living our best lives.
What do you hope the show will accomplish?
C: Me personally, I hope that more young latino funny people will see the show and see us up there and think, “Yeah, there’s room for me too.”
L: I agree with that, I grew up watching and listening to white actors and artists. I never 100% related to any of my available “role models.” I think that makes confidence and self-love hard. I want to see more America Ferreras and Gina Rodriguez’s on TV. If someone sees themselves in a character at a local improv show, that could be the beginning.
B: I hope it inspires and encourages other Latinx artists to continue to push the boundaries and tell stories that usually don’t get told on stage.
The cast of La Frontera Finál
C: I sincerely believe this cast is full of the funniest improv/sketch folks performing in Austin who at the same time are Latinx – and that was important to me from the get-go. Sure, we all had to be brown, but we also all had to be funny and talented improvisers. Growing up, I always saw Latinxs being portrayed so cartoonishly – slurring, farty, horny, sleepy characters – or they were violent drug dealers. Or one dimensional Latin lovers. That’s about it. But dammit, we’re capable of everything under the sun – from being hilarious comedic actors to working for NASA to just being regular old people with hopes and dreams and Old Navy giftcards we don’t care about.
And I want you to see all of that. But I gotta admit, I’m most concerned with you seeing how funny we are. (It’s a lot.)
Experience new frontiers in comedy with Latinauts: la Frontera Final every Saturday at 8:30pm through May 6th. Advanced tickets highly recommended due to show popularity.