Mando Alvarado

Name: Mando Alvaradomando-alvarado

Hometown: Pharr–San Juan–Alamo, Texas

Current Town: Los Angeles, CA

Affiliations: University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Member of Rising Phoenix Rep, Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater, alum of INTAR’s Hispanic-Playwright-in-Residence Laboratory 2006 – 2008, The Lark, PSJA BEARS.

Q: How do you self-identify?

A: Oh boy, that question? In no particular order: Texican, Mexican–American, American with Mexican roots, Ex–Valleyite, Tejano, Latino, a dude with attitude.

Q: Tell me about Parachute Men.

A: This is a crazy, fun, sad, dark, weirdly deviant play that’s based on my brothers and I. My father passed away when I was 9 and I was the oldest. After the funeral, all I kept hearing from people was “you are now the man of the house.” Which is a weird thing to say to a kid who doesn’t even have hair on his balls. But I took it to heart and I tried to be the “man” of the house. I felt like it was my responsibility to watch over my younger brother and help turn him into a “man” as well which meant tough love, beaten him up, rough housing, and breaking him down in sports. Very shortly there after, my mom remarried and they had a son. My stepfather turned out to be a drug addict and I kept the mantle of “man of the house” for a while. But as I grew into my high school years, I drifted away, fought a lot with my mom, got into physical altercations with my stepfather and beat up on my little brothers. It reached a point where I couldn’t be home anymore and I kind of bailed on them. So a couple of years ago, I called my little brothers up and said I was sorry for the way a treated them and for leaving like I did. They both said that they were very grateful that I was their big brother.  I was a good example that they looked up too and I did in fact make a “man” out of them. Which made me very sad because all I taught them was a hardness and cold lack of empathy and understanding devoid of any real human tenderness. So I wrote this play as a way to apologize to them more fully and let them know that I was sorry and that I will always love them.

Q: What else are you working on now?

A: This past summer, I spent a week in Malibu working on a new play. (Boy, that sounds so LA right?) Jeremy Skidmore was a guest AD for the season at Malibu Playhouse and he offered me the opportunity to write a new play and work it through with some actors. The play is called Lazarus and it’s an exploration of my dad and my own feelings of being a father–the things that bubble up when you stare into the eyes of your children and realize that how you were taught to love will only fuck them up so you better find another way to connect kind of fear. I’m also writing on Greenleaf for season 2.

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

A: So far, I have three that quickly come to mind. My first one has to do with my first play, Throat. I had moved from DC to NY and I decided to write a play that I would star in so I could get myself an acting agent. I wrote the play while I was working a temp job in mid-town. My best friend organized a reading of it in a back of bar in the village. We both thought it would be best to get someone to read my part so I could hear the play. We did. This guy from our hometown named, Raul Castillo, who you now know as that sexy Tex-Mex hunk of a man from the HBO series Looking, read the part. He was better and I found that I really dug writing. Second, was coming off of Post No Bills at Rattlestick. It was a great run and I loved the play and the production but I got skewered a little bit in the press and felt disheartened about playwriting and theater in general. Daniel Talbot and Rising Phoenix was doing a series called “Cino Nights” and I got commissioned to write a play that was set in a bar on 2nd St. We had one week to rehearse and put it up for one night. It was magical. Felt like pure theater and I realized why I wrote and what I want out of a night of theater. Fuck the critics, I will write how I write. The last big moment was doing Basilica back in my hometown. It was a very gratifying experience sharing my work with the people I wrote about.

Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?

A: Stephen Adly Guirgis is my man. I started writing because of him. Eduardo Machado. He inspired me to be truthful, to have a voice, a point of view and to fucking challenge the audience no matter what. I’m inspired by the people I work with: Felix Solis, Bernardo Cubría, Audrey Esparza, Jerry Ruiz, Michael Ray Escamilla, Teddy Canez, Raul Abrego, Emma Ramos, JJ Perez, Jorge Cordova and by the words I hear from Tanya Saracho, Kris Diaz, Luis Alfaro, Matt Olmos, Ed Cardona, Alex Beech, Andrea Thome, Michael John Garces, August Wilson, Jose Rivera, Octavio Solis and the only hero I have is a man who has turned me into a decent writer and who pushes me to strive to reach his altitude…. Craig Wright.

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

A: Just finish the play. That is the first big step. It can feel like it’s the hardest part and a way it is. But when you do, then, the fun begins. So just finish and don’t let anyone put you in a box. Write the play you want to write.

Q: What else should we know about you?

A: I like to laugh when things are truly funny. Don’t expect me to give you a compliment when you didn’t earn it. I don’t like being in a room with a lot of people. My biggest smiles of the day begin at 3 am when I’m rocking Amicko to sleep and he starts to coo and when I get home from work and my daughter, Amaya, runs up and jumps on me, saying “Daddy’s home” as my vegetarian wife shows me the BBQ brisket she made in the crockpot.

***For more on Mando Alvardo, see:

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Carmen Rivera

Name: Carmen Riveraheadshot-carmen-rivera

Hometown: New York City

Current Town: New York City

Affiliations: New York University (BA/MA and Adjunct Prof of Playwriting); The New School College for Performing Arts (Adjunct Prof of Playwriting); Educational Play Productions (EPP); Repertorio Español

Q: How do you self-identify?

A:  A New York Born Puerto-Rican

Q: Tell me about Riding the Bear.

A: Riding the Bear—I finished it last year and it received honorable mention on the Kilroy’s 2016 List. Riding the Bear takes place on October 19, 1987—the date of the financial crash known as Black Monday. The Harrington Brothers run a boutique brokerage house, which has been in the family for several generations. The older brother is a conservative investor, who believes in regulation and the younger brother, a riskier one, believes in completely unregulated markets. As the severity of the crash sets in, the brothers in the office try to weather the storm. The brothers must decide how to move their family business into the future, albeit, with very contrasting ways of doing business.

It’s a play that has been 20 years in the making. In another lifetime I worked at a brokerage house and this story has been in me since the late 1980s… I kept rewriting the same 14 pages until 2002, when I changed the 2 protagonists but I still didn’t have the story totally clear. After the 2008 Financial Crash, I was able to connect that crash to the 1987 crash and then the play happened.

Q: What else are you working on now?

A: Two movie adaptations of my plays.

  1. A 10-minute short of my play The Next Stop.
  2. The feature film version of La Gringa—which has just celebrated 20 years in repertory at Repertorio Español (It is now the longest running play in Latino Off-Broadway history). It will continue its 20th anniversary celebration with a production in Chicago this fall—The comedian and producer Mickey O will be co-producing the play with Urban Theater Company.

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

A:  Meeting my husband, playwright/director Cándido Tirado and then him introducing me to his playwriting teacher Guillermo Gentile, playwright/director/actor from Argentina. Cándido taught me how to really listen without judgement and Guillermo taught me his theory, which Cándido also uses in his work, “Fantastic Realism”—a term that was used in the 60s before magical realism was coined…where fantasies are the impetus for dramatic action and the irrational is embraced. So much of western theater is founded on the search for reason and “why” things happen and Cándido/Guillermo taught me to look beyond the idea of the rational and explore the irrational in objectives and motivations… Life is irrational… Now go!

Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?

A: My heroes are people who have worked hard to overcome challenges in their lives, the people who have been able to get back up after they get knocked down—my mom, my husband Cándido, and my mentor, political activist and filmmaker Iris Morales—these are the people that inspire me… I’ve seen them react to challenges just by going straight into the storm… Not shying away from the challenges… And if they get knocked down, they fight to get right back up again.

As for writers that inspire my work—in order of discovery:

  1. Albert Camus—I was 17 years when I read The Stranger and I still remember the first sentence—“Mother died today or was it yesterday”—I totally understood Mersault and the feeling that he didn’t belong anywhere.
  2. Griselda Gambaro—I admire how she tackles violence and class/social injustice. She had no fear.
  3. Eugene Ionesco—When I first read his work, my world was put in order. Actually his work isn’t absurd for me—it’s as real as can be. I realized that I wasn’t alone in how I saw the world.

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

A: Write! Write! Dream! Then keep writing! And keep all the negative people away from you!

Q: What else should we know about you?

A: I love salsa and Latin jazz—Eddie Palmieri in particular. In my journey as an artist, I hope to write plays the way Eddie plays the piano.

***For more on Carmen Rivera, see:

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Edward Paulino

Name: Edward PaulinoHeadshot Edward Paulino

Hometown: New York City, NY

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Affiliations: CUNY/John Jay College, Border of Lights, Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.

Q: How do you self-identify?
A: Latino; Dominican-American; DOMO; Dominican-York.

Q: Tell me about Eddie’s Perejil.
A: Eddie’s Perejil is a short one-man show about how genocide challenges one New Yorker’s romanticized Dominican identity.

I wrote Eddie’s Perejil out of a physical, emotional, and intellectual desire to both reach non-academic audiences but also tell a story in a different way than what I was accustomed to or trained for. Since I had conducted many years of academic research on the topic I decided to write a one-person show specifically for the 2014 One Festival in NYC: which “creates a platform in which the most diverse, and creative solo performers have an opportunity to showcase their talent…conceived in 2006” by “Festival founder Veronica Caicedo, a veteran of New York’s downtown theater scene has been involved in the direction and production of solo performance theater since 1993.” To my surprise I was selected and was able to perform my play for the first time in front of live audiences four times.

The experience was invigorating, addictive, and challenged the way I presented information. As a trained historian and academic I was used to presenting or “performing” in front of people for years but performing and/or acting on the stage with a script required a new set of muscles and sensibility. The experience was both frightening and liberating–and also exhausting. Rehearsals are like a cardio workout. But I had SO MUCH FUN in the process. A big part of the joy I felt in creating the narrative that I perform was collaborating with my director and friend, the amazing Samantha Galarza who is a trained and professional actor and patiently taught me about the craft of acting and the difference between the former and performing, during countless hours of rehearsal as we analyzed the character and the innumerable backstories in his/her development. It has been a privilege to work with Samantha and also to enter a new genre of storytelling. It has been liberating for me because it allows me to use my skills as a historian to tell stories to different audiences but also be able to acquire a different skill set to tell stories in different and refreshing ways that compliment the academic books. I want to join the number of historians that have used the craft of staged performance to share their research.

This journey has been surreal because Samantha and I always believed Eddie’s Perejil is an important story that cuts across race, class, and gender categories and from the onset we aimed at performing at colleges and universities. Through a good friend and doctoral student, Nehanda Loiceau, we were invited to her institution at Duke University to perform the play which was well received. For me it was a special treat because I performed Eddie’s Perejil before my former professor, Laurent Dubois, and also Professor Walter Mignolo: two eminent scholars of the Caribbean and global coloniality, respectively.  This experience has allowed me to see the power and possibilities of creating communities of solidarity through the power of interdisciplinary research, collaboration, and storytelling.

Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I am working on my second academic book that examines the escalation of ethnic tensions in the Dominican Republic against Haitians as a case-study of how violence and targeted exclusion can lead to mass murder in multi-racial societies. I also offer policies that help reduce these rising tensions. I am also working on a treatment of a future one-person performance about the events surrounding the mid-air explosion of American Airlines flight 587 near J.F.K airport on its way to the Dominican Republic on November 12, 2001—nearly two months after 9-11. All 265 people were killed. Most were Dominican or of Dominican descent.

Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: Being able to tell a story through acting and performance. Learning a new language and accessing different muscles that convey a particular mood to the audience that is completely different than giving a lecture. It has been extremely rewarding and challenging–but worth it. Also, as a trained historian being able to tell a story in a different genre has helped me grow as an educator. It is a humbling experience but I love crafting and performing a play; the process is inherently collaborative and working with others is intellectually and emotionally gratifying.

Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: My playwriting mentors and heroes are those that I have come to know as a casual audience member throughout the years such as Neil Simon, August Wilson, John Leguizamo, The Teatro Campesino, Anne Deavere Smith, Sarah Jones, Robert Bolt, and Shakespeare. I would be remiss not to mention my director Samantha Galarza whose guidance and support is a major reason that Eddie’s Perejil came to life. I could not have written and performed the play without her.

Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Write it down. Share it and collaborate with others.

Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I am married to an academic and have two kids. Two years I started to surf and have fell in love with the sport.

***For more on Edward Paulino, see:

  • Edward Paulino’s Personal Website
  • Dividing Hispaniola: The Dominican Republic’s Border Campaign against Haiti, 1930-1961 – Edward Paulino
  • New York Council for the Humanities Profile
  • Border of Lights
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