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Statement on the Denial of U.S. Visa for Playwright Conchi León

Equity in the Arts

The Lark's Artistic Director, John Clinton Eisner, in response to the news that playwright and performer Conchi León, an alum of The Lark's México/United States Playwright Exchange program, was denied a U.S. Visa to bring her play La Tía Mariela to Chicago for the third International Latino Theater Festival, on the basis that the work was not "culturally unique."

It is heartbreaking that a U.S. government agency has denied Chicagoans a valuable opportunity to connect with a world-class and groundbreaking Mexican theater artist at a time when Americans and Mexicans need to communicate about our shared world. We urge the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to reconsider and reverse this decision as soon as possible. 

Conchi León is a brilliant actor and author whose powerful live performances bring people together in artistically powerful and constructive ways. I know this from our experience working with León at our theater in New York City.

I’ve read the visa denial letter and I see it as both unreasonable and counterproductive. It makes no sense in its claims that the documentation provided in Conchi’s visa application fail to prove her “culturally unique skills in performance.” To the contrary, León has demonstrated to the U.S. theatrical community that she can inspire and bring insights to people in our country. 

The letter appears to be based more on a government policy to reduce immigration rather than on the specifics of all that this artist can contribute to American audiences. The question is not whether León should live in the U.S. indefinitely, but what she can give to our audiences in the short time she is here.

Art is meant to bring people together, despite politics. Denying entry to León not only creates unnecessary barriers for a globally recognized artist to engage with fellow American artists, but denies these Chicago-based festival planners of their freedom to choose artists they know to be unique and valuable for U.S. artists and audiences. 

Reversing this decision is in the interests not just of León and her theatrical company, but of all Americans.