Tlaloc Rivas

Last updated
Tlaloc Rivas
BornJune 26
Baja California, Mexico
OccupationDirector, Writer, Activist
Education Cabrillo College
University of California, Santa Cruz (BA)
University of Washington, Seattle (MFA)

Tlaloc Rivas is a Mexican-American writer, producer, and theatre director. He is one of the co-founders of the Latinx Theatre Commons, which works side by side with HowlRound to revolutionize American theater and to highlight and promote the contributions and presence of Latinos in theatre. [1] Central to Rivas' work is the Latino experience, but also exploring the American experience through the lens' of underrepresented voices. Rivas focuses on writing and directing plays that significantly explore Latino identity and history. [2] Additionally, Rivas has also translated and adapted plays from the Spanish language and directed Spanish-language and bilingual plays such as Mariela in the Desert by Karen Zacarias and classical works such as Peribáñez y el Comendador de Ocaña .


Early life and education

Tlaloc Rivas was born in Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico and is a Chicano/Mexican immigrant of Indigenous (Cora People/Nayarit), Afro-Venezuelan, and Spanish descent. He is named after the Aztec God of Rain and Fertility, Tlaloc. He spent his early childhood in Mexico and has noted that his family members were oral storytellers. The early exposure he had to storytelling helped Rivas shape and develop his own storytelling skills at a young age. [3] His parents were both involved in the Chicano Movement from the late 1960s into the 1970s while living in San Diego, and Rivas' honorary godfather at his baptism was civil rights leader Rodolfo Gonzales.

Rivas' family later moved from Escondido, California to Watsonville, California where he attended Watsonville High School. Spurred and marked by the events of the Watsonville Canning Strike, [4] the Gomez v City of Watsonville [5] Supreme Court voting rights decision, and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, he deferred college for several years to remain involved as a community organizer and voting rights activist. He later enrolled at Cabrillo College, where theatre classes prompted him to get involved with theatre in general. In 1993, after having interned with El Teatro Campesino for nearly two seasons, Rivas along with three other classmates (Manuel Montez, Leonard Maestas and Renee Sola) founded Chicano TheatreWorks, [6] a company created in response to the passage of California Proposition 187.

In the Fall of 1993, Rivas transferred to The University of California, Santa Cruz. He graduated with honors from UC Santa Cruz within a two-year period, obtaining a B.A. in Theater Arts. [7] During his time at UC Santa Cruz, Rivas focused on acting and stage management, but transitioned into directing with a production of The Colored Museum by George C. Wolfe, which toured to South Central Los Angeles communities in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles riots with support from Stevenson College. [8] [ circular reference ] His senior thesis production of The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa by acclaimed playwright Luis Valdez [9] was honored with a Dean of the Arts award, Chancellor's Honors, and the Regents Presidential Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research. [10]

In 1996, Rivas departed Chicano TheatreWorks after being only one of two directors nationwide accepted into the School of Drama at the University of Washington. As a student in the Professional Directors Training Program, he studied under M. Burke Walker (founder of the acclaimed Empty Space Theatre in Seattle, Washington) and Valerie Curtis-Newton. He directed productions such as José Rivera's The House of Ramon Iglesia, The House of Bernarda Alba by Federico García Lorca and Octavio Solis' El Paso Blue. [7] [9] During his final year of graduate studies, he completed a Directing Fellowship with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, serving as assistant director on their productions of Othello, The Good Person of Szechwan, and Rosmersholm. Rivas graduated with a Master of Fine Arts degree in Directing from UW in 1999. [11]


Tlaloc Rivas started writing and directing plays in California and has since then done the same in other states including New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Georgia, New Mexico, Washington, and Iowa. [12] While still an undergraduate student, Rivas served as Artistic Director of Chicano TheatreWorks, a company which he also helped establish. [7] Then, while he was in graduate school, he further dived into his professional career as a director with a position as Artistic Associate for The Group Theatre in Seattle. [9] Upon obtaining his MFA in Directing, Rivas was appointed Artistic Director for Venture Theater Company. [7]

In the early 2000s, Rivas was selected for the Career Development Program for Directors, [13] administered by Theatre Communications Group and the National Endowment of the Arts. Rivas continued working by adjuncting or guest directing at Bryn Mawr College, Arcadia University and University of the Arts. Through this program, he assisted and observed many esteemed stage directors, including Oskar Eustis on Homebody/Kabul, Emily Mann on Anna in the Tropics, Joseph Chaikin on Shut-Eye, and Lisa Peterson on Chavez Ravine by Culture Clash.

In 2004, he moved to New York City and continued his freelance career as a director. In 2009, Rivas directed an acclaimed production of The Caucasian Chalk Circle by Bertolt Brecht at Queens College and the following year he took the position of Assistant Professor of Theatre at The University of Missouri- St. Louis. From 2012 to 2018, he taught at The University of Iowa as Assistant Professor of Directing while also teaching within the university's Latino Studies program. [7] In the Summer of 2018, he was honored with a Presidential Post-Doctoral Fellowship at Carnegie Mellon College of Fine Arts, School of Drama. [14]

Rivas maintains a high professional directing profile with regional productions across the United States. Rivas has directed at companies such as Aurora Theatre Company, Cleveland Public Theatre, Halcyon Theatre, Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis, New Harmony Project, Salt Lake Acting Company, Los Angeles Theatre Center, Quantum Theatre and Merrimack Repertory Theatre, among others. [7]

In 2015, Rivas directed his most recognized original written piece: Johanna: Facing Forward. [15] Also during 2015, Johanna: Facing Forward brought him to win second place in the MetLife Nuestras Voces Playwriting Competition. [16] In addition to this recognition, Rivas has also been a recipient of the Sir John Gielgud Fellowship in Classical Directing and honored by a Most Ambitious Production award from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for The New World. [7]

Written works

Johanna: Facing Forward

Tlaloc Rivas' original work Johanna: Facing Forward is based on actual events. In 2007, Joanna Orozco was shot in the face by her ex-boyfriend. Johanna, who was only 18 years old at the time, went through intense recovery and post-recovery she went on to advocate for the rights of victims of domestic violence. [12] To write his play, Rivas focused on the special series that Rachel Dissell wrote about Joanna Orozco for The Plain Dealer. [17]

In its entirety, Johanna: Facing Forward is a bilingual play that primarily grapples with abusive relationships, assault and trauma, and survivor empowerment. [18]

Other plays

Additional works can be found on the New Play Exchange website.

Awards and honors

Rivas has been the recipient of the following: [19]


Rivas has been affiliated with the following: [21]

Productions supervised

Professional productions supervised

Rivas has supervised the following professional work: [19] [26]

ProductionOriginal authorTheatreYear
The Revolution of Evelyn SerranoTlaloc Rivas fr. Sonia Manzano New Hazlett Theatre 2021 (upcoming)
Abigail/1702 Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Merrimack Repertory Theatre 2016
Peribañez Félix Lope de Vega Quantum Theatre 2016
Wit Margaret Edson Aurora Theatre Company2016
In Love and Warcraft Madhuri Shekar Halcyon Theatre Company2015
Johanna: Facing ForwardTlaloc Rivas Cleveland Public Theatre 2015
Mariela en el desierto Karen Zacarías Los Angeles Theatre Center 2014
Mariela en el desierto Karen Zacarías Aurora Theatre Company2014
Fox on the Fairway Ken Ludwig Insight Theatre Company2012
Cymbeline Shakespeare Richmond Shakespeare Festival2012
The New WorldNancy Bell fr. Shakespeare Shakespeare Festival St. Louis2012
Becky's New Car Steven Dietz Insight Theatre Company2011
La Llorona: A Love StoryKathleen Anderson CulebroAmphibian Stage Productions2010
Summer and Smoke Tennessee Williams Big Sky Theater Company2008
Five Kinds of Silence Shelagh Stephenson Boundless Theatre Company2008
Generic Hispanic Noemi de la Puente Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre2007
The Dumb Waiter Harold Pinter Ward 10 Productions2006
The Crucible Arthur Miller Penobscot Theater Company 2004
undone Andrea Thome INTAR - New Works Lab2004
DisappearingActMartha Michaela BrownPhiladelphia Fringe Festival2003
AngelTameka JonesPhiladelphia Young Playwrights2002
LongDistanceMartha Michaela BrownBlueBox Productions2002
Sonya's Dreamstation, TooEduardo AndinoWorking Classroom2001
La Posada Mágica Octavio Solis Teatro Visíon2001
TrainThoughtMartha Michaela BrownTheatre Catalyst2000
Rocket Man Steven Dietz Venture Theatre Company2000
El Paso Blue Octavio Solis Venture Theatre Company1999
The House of Ramon Iglesia Jose Rivera Ethnic Cultural Theatre1997
Mud Maria Irene Fornes Dallas Theatre Center - Big D Festival1996
My Visits With MGM (My Grandmother Marta) Edit Villarreal Chicano TheatreWorks1995
Burning Patience Antonio Skarmeta Chicano TheatreWorks1994
No Saco Nada De La Escuela (Actos) Luis Valdez & OthersChicano TheatreWorks1993

Academic work supervised

Rivas had supervised the following studies: [19] [26] [27] [28] [29]

ProductionOriginal authorCollege/UniversityYear
Collective Rage: A Play in Five Betties Jen Silverman Oberlin College 2020
The Three Musketeers Megan Monaghan Rivas fr. Alexandre Dumas University of Evansville2019
By The Way, Meet Vera Stark Lynn Nottage The University of Iowa 2018
Mr. Burns: A post-electric play Anne Washburn The University of Iowa 2017
Cut and RunEric Micha HolmesIowa New Play Festival2016
Baltimore Kirsten Greenidge The University of Iowa 2016
Johanna: Facing ForwardTlaloc Rivas The University of Kansas 2015
Luck of the Irish Kirsten Greenidge The University of Iowa 2015
Water by the Spoonful Quiara Alegría Hudes The University of Iowa 2013
For the FallsEmily DendingerIowa New Play Festival2013
Tartuffe Molière, adaptation by Ranjit Bolt The University of Missouri–St. Louis 2012
The House of the Spirits Isabel Allende, adaptation by Caridad Svich The University of Missouri–St. Louis 2011
Stop Kiss Diana Son The University of Missouri–St. Louis 2011
The Crucible Arthur Miller The University of Missouri–St. Louis 2010
The Caucasian Chalk Circle Bertolt Brecht Queens College 2010
1984 George Orwell (adaptation) University of the Arts 2003
The Servant of Two Masters Carlo Goldoni adaptation by Constance Congdon University of the Arts 2002
Love's Labour's Lost Shakespeare Gloucester County Institute of Technology 2001
Fen Caryl Churchill Bryn Mawr College 2001
Lady from the Sea Henrik Ibsen University of Washington School of Drama1999
El Paso Blue Octavio Solis University of Washington School of Drama 1998
The Pitchfork Disney Philip Ridley University of Washington School of Drama 1998
The House of Bernarda Alba Federico García Lorca University of Washington School of Drama 1997
Mystery and Manners Flannery O'Connor (adaptation) University of Washington School of Drama 1997
Patient A Lee Blessing University of Washington School of Drama 1997
The Love of Don Perlimplín and Belisa in the Garden Federico García Lorca University of Washington School of Drama 1996
The Shrunken Head of Pancho Villa Luis Valdez University of California Santa Cruz 1995

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