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    “I don’t have too much time to be wasting on silly stuff,” says Haydee Canovas, who helped found the Spanish-language theater company Teatro Tercera Llamada. The group’s plays, she says, “are either going to affect families by creating happy memories or (are) going to be about some social issue that I want to address.” When I meet her in a booth at Panera Bread on Bardstown Road, she has just returned from a directors’ symposium in Spoleto, Italy. On the table, she lines up several glass block frames of past production fliers, autographed in black Sharpie.

    Since its inception in 2013, the theater company has produced 12 full-length plays at venues throughout the city. (The name Teatro Tercera Llamada means “theater third call,” a common phrase before Latin American theater performances, indicating that it’s show time.) In January last year, they did Las Mujeres Verdaderas Tienen Curvas (Real Women Have Curves), the first Spanish-language play (with English supertitles) onstage at the Kentucky Center. Canovas and her two partners, Jay Marie Padilla-Hatyer and Carlos-Manuel Chavarria, have teamed up with Looking for Lilith Theatre Co. several times and performed with the Derby City Playwrights at the annual Fringe Festival. The company has produced a bilingual children’s play for the past three summers, and on Sept. 1 wrapped its public-library tour of La Cucarachita Martina, a play about inner-beauty, reading and sacrifice written by Chavarria. The company will do additional performances of it with the traveling Arts Caravan in October.


    Teatro Tercera Llamada performs Las Mujeres Verdaderas Tienen Curvas. // Facebook

    Canovas says she used to charge $5 to see the family plays until a woman with three children asked about a discount. “I said, ‘That’s it. I’m not charging anymore for these plays,’” says the 55-year-old nurse practitioner, whose parents emigrated from Cuba. She has since gotten grants from friends and organizations like the Fund for the Arts initiative Imagine Greater Louisville 2020, which granted close to $5,000 to produce La Cucarachita Martina this year.

    Teatro and Looking for Lilith are teaming up again for a play that will be onstage next March called Just Like Us, about a journalist who shadows four high school immigrants, two of whom are undocumented. Canovas wrote Guiando a Molly (Molly Driven), which was performed in January at the Kentucky Center. It was her response to hours of interviews with victims of human trafficking and researchers in town.

    Guiando a Molly // Facebook

    Other plays Canovas has written include: The Disappearance of Florence and Gladys, an age-and-gender-discrimination commentary inspired by an occasion when Canovas and a friend were ignored by wait staff at a restaurant in Chile; Peety, Canovas’ absurdist response to her father’s open-heart surgery and the health care system in Miami; and Silent Night, inspired by a woman Canovas met who shared with her a harrowing personal story and was deported last year. That last play debuted at the University of Louisville’s Thrust Theatre as a monologue in 2015 and Canovas adapted it to a duologue this year as one of the 10-minute plays at the local Ain’t I A Woman Playfest, which features original works by women of color.

    One by one, Canovas meticulously wraps the glass blocks in hand towels and puts them in her bag. “I became the producer because I’m an organizer,” she says.

    “I’m seeing in the future that I’m writing more because I love living in my imagination.”

    You can learn more about Teatro Tercera Llamada by visiting their website or following them on Facebook and Twitter.

    This originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of Louisville Magazine on page 88. To subscribe to Louisville Magazineclick here. To find us on newsstands, click here.

    Cover photo: La Cucarachita Martina, Teatro Tercera Llamada // Facebook

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    Part of "33 Reasons We Love Our Arts Scene"

    Mary Chellis Nelson's picture

    About Mary Chellis Nelson

    Mary Chellis Nelson is the managing editor of Louisville Magazine.

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