By Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor Published Dec 30, 2010 at 9:01 AM

It's the final theater column of the year, and that usually means there will be lists.

The best productions of 2010. The best performances of 2010. The best song crooned by a fat bald guy over the age of 40.

Does this bore you as much as it does me? If you want to know what I thought of 2010, search our user-friendly archives. Make sure you spell my tricky name correctly.

I'm using this space this week to plead, wheedle and rant for my version of a perfect theatrical world here in 2011. You may call me a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

It is way beyond time for Milwaukee theater to acknowledge the presence of Latin people in our community and culture. While there has been a dearth of plays written by Hispanic-American dramatists professionally produced here, Latino theater has been prospering in Chicago. Two of the persons responsible for that have Milwaukee connections.

Cuban-American stage artist Henry Godinez, who went to school here, runs the Goodman Theatre's nationally prominent Latino Theatre Festival. It is presented every other summer.

Mexican-American stage artist Tanya Saracho may be the hottest playwright in Chicago, with Jefferson Award nominations for two works there last year and a Goodman Theatre production of her "El Nogalar" coming up in the spring. Also an actress, she played the lead in Renaissance Theaterworks' production of "Fat Pig" in 2008, and she maintains ties here.

Why has Milwaukee theater been such a laggard in staging plays written (in English) by an exciting new generation of Latino playwrights who speak to the lives of Hispanic people living in this country? The constantly expanding body of work is diverse in style and content, and the subjects explored relate to us all.

Nilo Cruz, a Cuban-American, is the highest profile Latino dramatist in the U.S. His "Anna in the Tropics" won the Pulitzer Prize in 2003.

Cruz has lectured at Carroll University in Waukesha, and Renaissance Theaterworks presented a staged reading of his "Two Sisters and a Piano" last month. But like all of the other contemporary Hispanic playwrights working in this country, he has yet to receive a full professional production in Milwaukee, and that is shameful.

Anxious hand-wringing is epidemic in American theater. How is the artform going to compete in a rapidly changing digital culture?

Here's an idea. Tell stories that reflect our lives. Like many Milwaukeeans with deep roots here, my ethnic heritage is exclusively northern European, but Latinos and their culture are a constant presence in my daily existence.

I am represented in the state legislature by a Latina. My chef for last night's dinner was a Latino. My Facebook friend list is studded with such names as Ramos, Gonzales and Lopez-Rios.

Will 2011 be the year we see in Milwaukee a professionally-produced play written by a contemporary Hispanic American dramatist? We can hope....

I'm also here to beg for more English-Australian theater, specifically in the concentrated form of one person, Caroline O'Connor. None of us in Milwaukee had ever heard of the actress-singer-dancer until new Milwaukee Rep artistic director Mark Clements placed her and her one-woman show, "Bombshells," in the company's Quadracci Powerhouse Theater season.

O'Connor, who is not unknown in her dual home countries of Australia and the United Kingdom, wowed a lot of people in that show, which closed a couple of weeks ago. If you really want to be dazzled, plug her name into Youtube and check out the videos of her doing star turns in musicals.

The woman has amazing range, with her credits including playing Edith Piaf on stage and Ethel Merman in the movie "De-Lovely." Now that the Rep has added large musicals to its repertoire, we need to have O'Connor back here at the center of one. I vote for "Chicago," with the actress reprising the portrayal of Velma Kelly she has played around the world.

Change has been the theme at the Rep for the past 18 months, and the early results of that are very encouraging. But continuity is also important, and it is heartening to see J.R. Sullivan back in town guest directing the company's next main stage show, "The 39 Steps," which opens Jan. 14. Sullivan has the distinction of being the only person to guest direct for the Rep's three most recent artistic directors -- John Dillon, Joe Hanreddy and now Mark Clements.

A Rep intern in the '70s, the Rockford, Ill. native is a superb theater artist who has been a key contributor to some of the company's best and most memorable moments in the past 30 years. It's great to know he is still on the team.

In a similar vein, I'm hoping Sanford Robbins will continue to get guest directing gigs at the Rep. The founder of the late and lamented Professional Theatre Training Program at UWM, he moved his exceptional operation to the University of Delaware in the late '80s, but he has never stopped having a significant influence on Wisconsin theater.

With his UWM and Delaware programs he has trained such outstanding state theater artists as Lee Ernst, James DeVita, Brian Mani and Colleen Madden. One can often pick his former students out of a cast.

Robbins' actors like to work with their old teacher, and audiences are always assured of a meticulously well-staged and intelligent production when he directs here.

Finally, my hope is that 2011 is kind to Next Act Theatre. Producing without a home this season, it needs all of its financial ducks to line up correctly to construct a theater in an industrial space it covets across the river from the Broadway Theatre Center in the Fifth Ward. Opening the 2011-12 season in the new venue next fall is the goal.

Damien Jaques Senior Contributing Editor

Damien has been around so long, he was at Summerfest the night George Carlin was arrested for speaking the seven dirty words you can't say on TV. He was also at the Uptown Theatre the night Bruce Springsteen's first Milwaukee concert was interrupted for three hours by a bomb scare. Damien was reviewing the concert for the Milwaukee Journal. He wrote for the Journal and Journal Sentinel for 37 years, the last 29 as theater critic.

During those years, Damien served two terms on the board of the American Theatre Critics Association, a term on the board of the association's foundation, and he studied the Latinization of American culture in a University of Southern California fellowship program. Damien also hosted his own arts radio program, "Milwaukee Presents with Damien Jaques," on WHAD for eight years.

Travel, books and, not surprisingly, theater top the list of Damien's interests. A news junkie, he is particularly plugged into politics and international affairs, but he also closely follows the Brewers, Packers and Marquette baskeball. Damien lives downtown, within easy walking distance of most of the theaters he attends.