Carla’s Quince

Voting, A Family Celebration in Carla’s Quince

Voting, A Family Celebration in Carla’s Quince

The Alliance Theatre presents a free theatrical event from The Voting Project with local Latinx organizations.

In 2018, a group of NYC-based theater artists formed a collective to develop a theatrical experience that would increase Latinx participation in the United States electoral process. Consisting of Latinx performers, designers, and actors, The Voting Project began work on a show, Carla’s Quince, that embraced the artistic framework of a cultural tradition with roots across the Americas: a celebration for a young woman’s 15th birthday, known as a Quinceañera. 

The impetus of the production was to engage a growing voter base in the Latinx community, fueled largely by newly eligible voters ages 18-24 and an increase in participation among 25-34. According to Pew Research, Latinos are expected to be the nation’s largest ethnic and racial minority for the first time in history in the 2020 presidential election. They account for 32 million eligible voters or 13.3% of all eligible voters. 

Adapting to the reality of the COVID-19 since March 2020—which made it difficult for families to gather for celebrations in person—Carla’s Quince found a new life by switching its stage to Zoom and making creative use of the pandemic’s most popular virtual conferencing platform. The virtual format also made it possible for extended reach across the United States beyond the company’s homebase of New York City. 

The Alliance Theater joined as a presenting partner in the Southeast and co-hosted two performances of Carla’s Quince on September 29nd and 30th with two local organizations, the Latin American Association (LAA) and Latino Community Foundation of Georgia (LCF), along with promotional support from the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. 

“Carla’s Quince was just wonderful—the performance itself, the vivacious cast, the marvels done with Zoom, the music, the voter registration messaging, the live and interactive experience,” said Aixa Pascual, Director of the LAA. “I hope that many, many more young Latinos get to see it.”

Not only is Carla’s Quince not an ordinary Zoom meeting, it is also not an ordinary voter registration event that tends to focus on the duty of civic engagement with a serious (if not militant) tone in the call to action. As one cast member remarked in the post-show talkback, “Shouldn’t voting be a party? It doesn’t need to be so sad.” Carla’s Quince captures the unique energy and cultural context of the Latinx community even as it executes its civic engagement mission.

From the start of the show, audiences are treated as Carla’s guests and wait with her family members and friends for Carla to arrive at her Zoom party. A screen-share slideshow introduces the main characters - Carla’s Abuela Gloria, Tia Isabela, best friend and chambelan, mother, and hip cousin and quince DJ Javier. 

Prior to Carla’s grand entrance, the audience is guided by the family to create a gift for Carla - a group drawing of the world they envision in the future using Zoom’s collaborative whiteboard.

When we meet Carla we learn that she has asked for only one gift for her quince: to register 500 new voters among her family and friends. This request is met with apprehension from family members, who express concerns of mixing politics with a family celebration. 

A connection issue propels audiences to split into different breakout rooms as a scene unfolds between Carla’s close ones that illuminates the lived reality around two policy issues important to this community: healthcare and immigration reform. In my breakout room, I learn that Miguel’s parents are sick with COVID-19, but will not seek medical help because, as undocumented immigrants, they are fearful of being deported. 

When connection is restored, a family reckoning takes place. Does voting matter? The family expresses a range of opinions from the difficulty navigating the bureaucracy of voting to an apathy when neither candidate seems to represent the needs of their community. As the family discusses, the audience also weighs in through a poll. 

The family makes the decision to help Carla with her mission to register new voters as resources are shared with audiences through the chat feature. 

As a piece of theatre, Carla’s Quince is memorable for its unique Zoom poetics. But it also carries with it a message that voting is intergenerational and familial at a moment when we are increasingly broken up into demographic boxes, generational sensibilities, and family conflict. 

“You are the bridge between our parents and the election,” says one cast member to the audience gathered at the post-show talkback. Carla’s Quince celebrates the ways we are connected to one another and the important role the younger generation plays within their families and in this upcoming election.

October 5th is the deadline for registering to vote. It is also the deadline for completing the US Census, which occurs every 10 years and determines the number of seats in the US House of Representatives and the allocation of federal funds to local communities.

Join Carla and community! Vote!


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