Pan-American Playhouse

The International Festival of Hispanic Theater.

Courtesy of Teatro De La Luna

I Call Her Rusita Rojas, performed in 2013 by Teatro de la Luna.

Every October, Spanish-language theater companies travel from far-flung places, including Uruguay, Chile, Spain and Argentina, to perform in Teatro de la Luna’s International Festival of Hispanic Theater in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month.

This fall marks the state’s only bilingual theater company’s 17th festival. With administrative offices in Washington, D.C., Arlington has been Teatro de la Luna’s creative home since the company was founded by husband and wife team Mario Marcel, 77, and Nucky Walder, 67, in 1991. Today Walder, who hails from Paraguay, is the company’s producer and festival organizer, while Marcel, a native of Argentina, directs most of the company’s productions. The festival takes place at the Gunston Arts Center, a small space that holds true to the black box tradition, eschewing glitz and spectacle for performances that are provocative and intimate.

“The plays are about words,” says Walder, the festival’s co-founder and producer. “This is not physical theater, acrobatics or dance. These plays are about characters and their stories—the real human experience as interpreted by Hispanic theater artists.”

This year’s festival will include performances of Gracias por Todo (Thanks for Everything), by Uruguay’s Compañía Nidia Tellez, the story of a woman who stands before a mirror and looks back at her life, unveiling her secrets and her desires; Pasos al Azar (Random Steps), by Si Acaso Teatro of Spain, about three popular actresses who find themselves alone on the Moors of Castille and discover that their director has suddenly died; and from Chile’s Teatro Hermanos Ibarra Roa, Luis Emilio I, the tale of a dying patient who celebrates his birthday in a Chile of the future where euthanasia is legal.

All shows are performed in Spanish, but English audiences may follow the show via supertitles projected above the stage or listen to live interpretation via headphones. After the show, the cast and director sit on a panel for a bilingual Q&A emceed by Walder.

“We’ve braved many challenges over the years,” says Walder. “From funding cuts to snowstorms back when we used to hold the festival in the winter. But no matter what, we strive to bring the best Hispanic theater to our community.”

For more information and a full schedule of performances, go to TeatrodelaLuna.org

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