Hilary Bettis

Name: Hilary Bettisheadshot-hilary-bettis

Hometown: I’ve lived all over the US so I don’t really have a hometown.

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Affiliations: El Mundo.

Q: How do you self-identify?

A: I’m an American with Mexican and German blood (like Frida Kahlo), and my daddy’s from South Carolina so I have I special place in my heart for the South.

Q: Tell me about ALLIGATOR.

A: ALLIGATOR is an epic and bloody play about battling our demons. It’s about addiction. It’s about death. It’s about intimacy. It’s a play about the people who scare us the most. The story takes place the summer of 1999 in a very poor and very rural small town in the Everglades, where a group of teenagers are coming-of-age in a world that doesn’t want them. The central characters are twin alligator wrestlers with a backwoods ‘gator show that’s becoming obsolete. And there’s a live band. The play is this blending of Mexican mythology, Southern culture and Americana music, which is pretty much everything I am. Plus my own life-story shrouded in just enough fiction to hide behind.

We’re in rehearsals right now. ALLIGATOR runs Nov 27th-Dec 18th so come see it if you’re in NYC!

Q: What else are you working on now?

A: I’m juggling a lot of different things. I write for The Americans on FX as my super-rad day job. I have two TV series in development–one is a half-hour dark comedy that Alyssa Milano is producing with The Weinstein Co, and the other is an hour-long drama that Bob Levy and FOX 21 are producing. I’m working on a bilingual adaptation of Miss Julie called MAGIC CITY that’s set in Miami. It’s commissioned by Miami New Drama and we’re looking at a 2017/18 production. And then I’ve got a feature and a memoir brewing. Plus trying to find time to see my cat and boyfriend (he’s cast in ALLIGATOR so at least we get to see each other at rehearsals). And laundry. There’s always laundry.

Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?

A: Poverty. Loneliness. Being homeless on the streets of LA, not knowing where I was gonna sleep or how I was gonna eat. Wondering if there’s a God. Feeling powerless and voiceless. Living with an alcoholic drug dealer. Watching someone I love die from cancer. Other things that I’ll write about someday… when I find the courage. Surviving life, really, looking for redemption and something worth something in all the pain in fear, really, is why I wrote. I never wanted to “be a writer.” It never crossed my mind growing up that that was even a profession. I wanted to be a veterinarian or an actress or a horse trainer, but never a writer. My career is, quite legitimately, a byproduct of survival.

Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?

A: I never went to college (years later I received a fellowship to Juilliard, but I don’t actually have any degrees), but I’ve been blessed enough to cross paths with people who took me under their wing and taught me. Romulus Linney and Meir Ribalow were really instrumental in my craft and career. They’d both pick my plays apart and then find every way possible to help me find the time and resources to rewrite. And Marsha Norman, of course. I’ve learned so much from her.

My heroes… I admire so many writers, famous and obscure, alike, and I meet more and more that I just fall madly in love with. My childhood hero for as long as I can remember has been Maya Angelou. Frida Kahlo, my family, my friends, people that survive with dignity. I don’t know, my definition of a hero changes daily.

Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?

A: The same advice I’d give to anyone at the beginning of their career. Write from your guts. Write because you have to. Write because you love it and you hate it so much that you love it again and again and again. Everything else will fall into place if your work is coming from your guts.

Q: What else should we know about you?

A: My other great life passion is horses, and someday I’m gonna find a way to blend writing horses…

***For more on Hilary Bettis, see:

 

 

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Georgina Escobar

Name: Georgina Hernández Escobarheadshot-georgina-escobar

Hometown: I have many homes and many towns. But I was born in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.

Current Town: The Magnificent Isle of Manhattan.

Affiliations: Founder of One Blue Cat/Fourth Wall Productions; Early Career Writers Group at Clubbed Thumb, NYC; Translation committee champion for the Latina/o Theatre Commons (LTC); Dramatist Guild member.

Q: How do you self-identify? 

A: Mexicana.

Q: Tell me about El Muerto Vagabundo.

A:  It’s Day of a Dead play, with a dark twist. In this case, the dark twist is life, and how many people are unfortunately, treated as dead even while living. El Muerto Vagabundo is a commissioned based project at Milagro in Portland, OR. It was a devised piece that I had the privilege of directing and writing with a fantastic cast. It is a hyper-real narrative of the forgotten, namely, the homeless and the veterans. This story is about how their relationships to death brings them to the forefront when a curious kid lights a candle to during Dia De Los Muertos and by doing so, summons a “lost soul” that has been stuck under a bridge. The story is about bridges, it’s about connection, ritual, love and death. It has been a wonderful journey because I have been able to revamp and resurrect classic music that I grew up with including songs by Chava Flores and Cri-Cri. I was excited to be able to combine different mediums of story telling including project mapping animation, toy theatre, shadow puppetry, and dance. It was fun to write and the process was very rewarding.

Q: What else are you working on now?

A: I’m working on a new commission with New York Children’s Theatre. It’s an adaptation of a children’s book called Zoongoro Bailongo about Jarochan musical instruments and combating pollution in the Mexican jungles. My spec-evo-femme play Sweep is premiering at Aurora Theatre in Georgia under the directorial helm of Abigail Vega this winter (February 2017) and the eco-musical I’ve been co-writing, Firerock, premiers in March in New Mexico—it’s the one with the singing otter…have I told you about that one? Well. There’s an otter. And he sings. I’m also part of the Early Career Writing Group at Clubbed Thumb Theatre in NYC. I’m excited about two new plays I’m writing too! I’m working on developing a 1980’s Mexican Catholic School Rock-Band musical called Chismografo at INTAR as part of the El Fuego initiative (so sometime in the next 3 years) and working on doing a co-production of a Future Frontera Funk called Candy Nothwithstanding—(previously called Mex-Men)—a super-fiction utopian tale about a devastating earthquake that turns the Rio Grande, into the Mar Bravo; making the divide between US and Mexico a violent, dangerous sea. The North, devastated by a second depression, smuggles people south via the “chicleros” and “cigarreros” (characters, I think, that only border people would recognize and that paint a very Gotham-esque world.)

I’m also painting. Always painting. And working on the never-ending opus which is Wayfoot: a five volume, multi-platform piece (graphic novel, music album, children’s book, stage play and screen play).

Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?

A: Playwriting is a branch of my life tree. It’s one of many that have defined my journey, and they all draw from the well of inspiration, love, and gratitude. Defining moments that shaped that particular branch consist of: A call from Jim Linnell that jolts me out of a potential life in the equestrian sciences, and towards a life in the theatre. Ash Tree wins the TYA National Award. I go the O’Neill as a playwright observer. I join as an intern. I become a Lit Associate. I lead writer warm-ups for NTI. I discover a New England winter. I take night walks and enjoy the sound of the waves in the dark. I reaffirm my love of solitude. I move back to New York City. Lisa Portes calls me about Sweep as a Carnaval selection. I see my grandmother deteriorate at the cruel hands of Alzheimer’s. I join Clubbed Thumb’s writing group. I see my grandmother deteriorate at the cruel hands of Alzheimer’s. I realize families, too, change…

Those, yes. And also every walk, every talk, every family encounter…The hundreds of letters and emails that include the words “Unfortunately” and “at this time we are unable to…” and “we are very impressed with your work but…” that remind me that writing begets writing, and that, above all, one must create because we know no other way; because every application, every rejection, every acceptance is an invitation to grow—and not a limitation.

Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?

A: Bucky Fuller, Edward O. Wilson, José Vasconcelos, Samuel Ramos remind me of my grandfather. Rebecca Solnit, Elizabeth Kolbert, Lynn Nottage, Sor Juana remind me that I still have a mother. Alan Moore, Kurt V. and Neil Gaiman add a savory punch to my daily diet. I guess my mentors aren’t one person, one thing, one genre: but a general idea. I change my mind, they change their mind; words, like people, are often imperfect. But when combined with the right circumstance—powerful. I like the alchemic reaction that comes from the incomplete, the impermanent and the imperfect. The words of my heroes stay with me like dew; and they moisturize my soul. My favorite moisturizers are Borges, Allende, Del Toro, Lewis, Kushner. I am a fan of the people I talk to. I’m not good with small talk, and sometimes come across as cold—but when I engage in a deep conversation, I’m transformed. I’m interested in people’s stories, in their worlds, and I personally feel I grow so much from the deep engagements. So if we’ve had beers, shared laughs, played music together, it means I’ve grown with you— and so in many ways, you are my mentor and my hero.

Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?

A: Assume you know nothing. Be brave. Write. Read. Live. See art. Lots of it and lots of different mediums and forms. Stay away from hating or liking. Just be it. Just do it. Just live it. Opinions are weak. Questions are strong. Action is strongest. Remember that writing is a vulnerable form, and to be vulnerable is to be open—don’t be defensive. No one is attacking you, and if they are, then turn the other way. Clarity is overrated (thank you Sarah Ruhl via Anne Cattaneo). and Watch THIS (thank you Neil Gaiman)

Q: What else should we know about you?

A: I love the outdoors. Riding horses. Hiking. Spelunking. Camping. Bring it.

***For more on Georgina Escobar, see:

 

 

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Monica Palacios

Name: Monica Palaciosheadshot-monica-palacios

Hometown: San Jose, CA

Current Town: Venice Beach, CA

Affiliations: I’m an independent artist floating in the universe.

Q: How do you self-identify?

A: Queer Chicana Writer/Performer, International Hip Chick.

Q: Tell me about Say Their Names.

A: Say Their Names is my memorial to the 49 people who were shot and killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL June 12, 2016. Say Their Names is currently being presented by “After Orlando,” an evening of over 50 short plays in response to the Pulse Nightclub shooting that is traveling throughout the U.S and the United Kingdom. After Orlando is curated by Mission Bolts Productions and NoPassport Theatre Alliance & Press.

Q: What else are you working on now?

A: I’m putting the finishing touches on: I Kissed Chavela Vargas, featuring a vibrant 71 year old, Rosa, who is a former cabaret performer struggling with adjusting to retirement as her over cautious daughter, Petra, constantly tells her to take it easy and take her meds.

Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?

A: Being selected as a Playwriting Fellow by the Latino Theatre Initiative, from the Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles. A dynamic master playwriting workshop with Irene Fornes. An incredible master playwriting workshop with Paula Vogel. The A.S.K. Theater Project had a super successful reading of my play Clock at the Skirball Center–the house was packed with Latinx people who rarely go to this part of town, West LA. About a month later I was on the campus of UCLA and a Chicana came up to me and asked when she could see Clock in full production because she truly enjoyed the reading and found the work inspirational and funny.

Most recently, Summer 2016, being selected to be part of the first Irene Fornes Playwriting Workshop by the Institute of Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame and having Migdalia Cruz as the master playwright. Meeting Migdalia, being her student and getting feedback and support from her and from all the other playwrights—life changing.

Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?

A: Jorge Huerta, Luis Alfaro, Paula Vogel, Irene Fornes, Migdalia Cruz, Marga Gomez, Vasanti Saxena, my adorable family and their colorful lives for being the inspiration for many of my plays.

Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?

A: Write as if your life depended on it. Apply for and submit your plays to everything that doesn’t have an application fee. Hang out with other people like you for support, inspiration and so you can bitch together. And most importantly—have fun.

Q: What else should we know about you?

A: I’m a vegetarian, I share a birthdate with Che Guevara, I’m grateful for living next to the Pacific Ocean and I’m always looking for artists to connect with who share my vision: creating material for queer raza.

***For more on Monica Palacios, see:

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