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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Isaac Gomez

Name: Isaac Gomezheadshot-isaac-gomez

Hometown: El Paso, Texas / Ciudad Juárez, Mexico.
When you live in a border city, both sister cities are your home.

Current Town: Chicago, IL

Affiliations: I’m a Resident Playwright with Chicago Dramatists (which is super exciting to have a home where I can focus specifically on writing without the pressures of producing), one of the 2016-17 Freshness Initiative playwrights with Sideshow Theater Company (where I’m developing a new play based on my mother’s relationship with Walmart), an artistic associate with Teatro Vista (one of the first companies that gave me a home), an artistic associate with Pivot Arts (the first organization to give me time and space to workshop my own plays), one of the creative directors for the Alliance of Latinx Theater Artists (ALTA) Chicago where I founded and write for El Semillero (a collective of Latinx identified playwrights developing new plays over the course of a year), and a steering committee member with the national Latina/o Theatre Commons.

Oh–and I teach civic dramaturgy at the Theater School at DePaul University. OH, and I’m the director of new play development at Victory Gardens Theater (which is less of a creative/artistic home and more of a home to cultivate my leadership skills, which has also been great.)

Q: How do you self-identify?
A: Latino (of Mexi-can descent)

Q: Tell me about PerKup Elkhorn.

A: PerKup Elkhorn is probably the scariest, hardest play I’ve written to date. Long story short, I completed a writing residency through SWARM this summer in East Troy, WI. I needed access to Wi-Fi to turn in a short play I owed Pivot Arts, and the closest coffee shop with Wi-Fi was a little spot called PerKup Elkhorn. I had to think for a minute just now about the name of the place, as the whole experience still feels totally fictional to me–like if it were all a dream, or something. Anyway. It was there I met the owner (a woman named Lori) and the citizens of Elkhorn who frequented this spot. And it was here where I experienced some really aversive racism. Like. In your face racism. It was as if this was the first time a brown person came into this coffee shop to get some work done and these people didn’t know what to do with me. And without going into it too much, I ended up spending three days in this little town, getting to know the people here and why they carry such fear or skepticism about people of color.

I’m also deeply bothered and curious by whiteness in America these days. I spend a lot of time (probably to detract from micro aggressions I experience fairly regularly) thinking about the white people in my lives and around me wondering what they think, how they feel, and where their place is at in conversations around race. And then I get back and jealous (not because I wish I were white, necessarily, but because it just isn’t fair. Being given access to resources and opportunities based on the color of your skin. Unconsciously or not. It just is. And that infuriates me.)

So I wrote this play as my way of trying to understand whiteness through the people who live in Elkhorn, WI. And how this small community is a large reflection of many communities in this country. And it’s probably the only play I’ll ever write that has a mostly white cast. And it’s, ironically, probably the most personal thing I’ve ever written.

Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I’ve got a couple of projects in my pipeline that I’m constantly working on. My sister plays centering on the missing and murdered women of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico (La Ruta and The Way She Spoke: A docu-mythologia.)

My fucked up horror gentrification play The Displaced, which is about to have a huge developmental workshop with Chicago Dramatists and American Theater Company (October 2016.)

A commission with Sideshow Theater Company called Wally World that’s my homage to my mother, a woman who worked her way up Walmart’s corporate latter and is probably the only store manager without a college degree.

And I’m in the pre-meditative stages of writing a screenplay based on homeless youth in Texas who hop trains, and a web series I’m developing with my muse and collaborator Karen Rodriguez about our lives in Chicago. Think Broad City but in the Windy City and VERY Mexican.

Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: I still feel very nascent in my journey as a playwright, but I would have to say it’s moments where I’m solicited and nourished not by my work as a dramaturg or new play developer or producer but as a writer, an artist, a creator that have really shaped my journey. So for me, that’d have to be my first workshop in Chicago with Julieanne Ehre and Pivot Arts–it was a cold February but they are such a great organization; my workshop of La Ruta at Oregon Shakespeare Festival with Laurie Woolery and the Latinas in the company; my workshop of the same play at the Goodman Theatre working with Jo Cattell. I have to say, Tanya Palmer and her team at the Goodman have always been such an advocate for me & my work and I’m so thankful and appreciative of those folx; my initial interview with Meghan Beals and Chicago Dramatists where she said to me, “Isaac. We don’t want or expect anything from you other than to write. So write!” My very first Chicago production for the Greenhouse Theater Company’s inaugural producing season of my play The Way She Spoke was also pretty defining. Jacob Harvey (the artistic director) had just moved to Chicago and took a big chance that paid off in really amazing ways and that production was so defining and special–I’ll never forget it.

But probably more importantly: it’s the million little private readings I have of my work around a conference table, in random spaces, my apartment living room, empty theaters, working with brilliant collaborators like Monty Cole and Jonathan Green and Jo Cattell and Karen Rodriguez and Laura Baker and Rebecca Adelsheim and Polly Hubbard and a million more that are such defining moments for me as a playwright. I know it probably sounds stupid but when you spend most of your days helping other playwrights develop their own works, you can feel disheartened and lonely and super depressed fairly easily. But when you’ve got amazing people in your corner saying, “Yes, you ARE a writer, I BELIEVE in you” it really changes things. It’s almost like I don’t feel the need to be “legitimized” by larger institutions because it’s only up until recent that I’ve finally legitimized myself to myself. Which is the hardest thing a writer can do.

Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: Oh gosh, so many. SO SO SO many.

Playwrights whom I never studied under or with but who greatly shape my thinking as a playwright and person: Tanya Saracho, Luis Alfaro, and Marcus Gardley (OH MY GOD, Marquitos Gardley) are some of the first to believe in my abilities as a playwright and who push me to keep going. I owe a lot to them. Whether they know it or not, they’re my heroes in this work and in this field. They lift me up.

Other playwrights who inspire me greatly include Elaine Romero, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Karen Hartman, Andrew Hinderaker, Abe Koogler, Chay Yew, Kristiana Rae Colón, my writing group El Semillero who inspire me every freaking day, and so many others.

Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Keep writing. Tell someone you’re a writer. Keep telling people until they believe you. Or (probably more importantly), until you believe it yourself.

Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I’m a Taurus. I love Buffalo wings. I used to drive for Uber. I only eat Hot Cheetos if they’re in the black bag (XXTRA Hot). Selena is my everything.

***For more on Isaac Gomez, see:

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Kyoung H. Park

Name: Kyoung H. Parkheadshot-kyoung-h-park

Hometown: Santiago, Chile

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Affiliations: Artistic Director, Kyoung’s Pacific Beat

Q: How do you self-identify?

A: Human… a playwright… Korean-Chilean, queer, immigrant

Q: Tell me about TALA.

A: TALA is based on my immigrant experience in the United States post-9/11, and my story is intertwined with the story of Pepe and Lupe, two Chilean lovers going out on a bad date the night before Pinochet’s military coup on September 11th, 1973 in Chile. TALA was performed by Flor De Liz Perez, Rafael Benoit, Daniel K. Isaac, and featured original music by Svetlana Maras, choreography by Yin Yue, video design by John Knowles, installation art by Jason Krugman, set design by Marie Yokoyama, costume design by Elizabeth Barrett Groth, lighting design by Chuan-Chi Chan, and sound design by Lawrence Schober and Chris Barlow. TALA was developed over the course of four years at the Ma-Yi Writer’s Lab, Columbia University New Works Now Festival (at ToRoNaDa Theater), HERE Arts Center, before premiering January 2015 at the Performance Project @ University Settlement, a landmark institution that has served immigrant communities for over 100 years.

The terrorist attacks of 9/11 and Chile’s military coup of “El Dieciocho” (or what Chomsky calls the “first 9/11”) have greatly shaped my work, as disparate histories blend in my experience and illuminate, for me, historical parallels on the effects of global neo-liberalism. I dug deep into Chile’s history through the lens of Pepe and Lupe, whose dialogue was based on letters exchanged by poets Pablo Neruda and Gabriela Mistral, Chile’s only two Nobel laureates, as the history and legacy of these poets was being revised as we developed TALA between 2011 and 2015.

Neruda, who offered his nomination to Chile’s Presidency to Salvador Allende, died a few days after the coup. In 2013, Neruda’s body was exhumed, following decades of suspicions in regards to his death. Around the same time, Mistral’s relationship with Doris Dana (a former employee of the US State Department) was revealed, through letters, home movies, and recordings, documenting Mistral’s relationship with Dana in Long Island. The US’ relationship to Chile’s military coup has been written about extensively, but it is also worth pointing out that the CIA did not de-classify documents revealing the extent of US involvement in Pinochet’s coup until 2013.

As globalization brings us together, as artists, I believe we have a unique opportunity to bridge disparate histories and narratives to understand the ways these forces are bringing us together, and to provide a better sense of our histories which, growing up, were censured and omitted in Chile, and classified in the United States.

At the same time, I think we have the opportunity to share our stories from a subjective, and personal point of view, as these recent events clearly showed to me how history is constantly questioned and revised. Perhaps, as story-tellers, our power is to find truth (and beauty) through the work we create in the theater, and rather than providing history lessons, my objective with TALA was to illuminate, in this historical and political context, the struggles to find home.

To this effect, the premiere of TALA included an opportunity for all audience members to share their personal (or family’s) story about their immigration to the United States, and they were also asked to write down their American dreams. On the back of our set, we had a timeline starting with Columbus’ arrival to the Americas and ending on 9/11. The audience members were invited to pin their “time/point” of entry to the United States on this timeline based on when they immigrated to the US.

The timeline was created with multiple illustrations and names of immigration policies that shaped the American immigrant experience since its founding, and as TALA told my personal immigration story, the audience was invited to reflect upon the conditions under which their own families may have come to the US, and how immigration policies might have shaped their own immigrant experiences.

Q: What else are you working on now?

A:  Currently, Kyoung’s Pacific Beat is developing Pillowtalk, a gay bedroom drama, staged as a contemporary pas de deux, that asks the question: can queer communities of color truly celebrate gay marriage in the times of #BlackLivesMatter? Pillowtalk is centered on the story of Sam (Raja Feather Kelley) and Buck (Daniel K. Isaac), an interracial, gay couple whose marriage comes to a crux. Pillowtalk features live music by Helen Yee and Lawrence Schober, set design created in collaboration by Wade Kramm and Marie Yokoyama, lighting design by Chuan-Chi Chan, and costume design by Andrew Jordan. Pillowtalk was developed through Target Margin Theater’s Institute for Collaborative Theater-Making, Ma-Yi Writer’s Lab, and Kyoung’s Pacific Beat produced a full workshop production of the play last September in residence at the BRIC Arts Media Center.

This season, Kyoung’s Pacific Beat is hosting a Long-Table to examine the intersections of queer and racial politics at the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies’ “After Marriage” Conference at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice and we’ll be part of CUNY’s Prelude Festival, curated by Tom Sellar and Antje Oegel. Another workshop production and World Premiere of Pillowtalk are currently in the works for 2017.

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

A: There are probably four defining “time periods” that shaped my journey as a playwright. The first was my time living in New York City between 2001-2005. Witnessing 9/11 and its aftermath, I started writing political theater and learned the craft of playwriting working at the Lark Play Development Center, while writing my first, new plays as a member of the Ma-Yi Writer’s Lab and Ensemble Studio Theater’s Youngblood. This is when I knew I wanted to be a professional playwright, but my “career” was halted when I lost my visa and had to leave the United States before I got deported.

The second time period followed my graduation from Kyung Hee University’s Graduate Institute of Peace Studies in South Korea. During this time, I was in search of political-theater models that could help me integrate my passions for peace studies and playwriting. I was part of the Royal Court Theater’s Young Writer’s Programme, was in residency in New Delhi, India twice (once as a UNESCO-Aschberg Laureate), and for six months, I was an international, exchange fellow with Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed in Rio de Janeiro. During this time, I did community-based theater in favelas, criminal psych wards, and training in Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed methodology. In Brazil, I realized that all of my training in playwriting, and peace studies, was completely useless unless I learned how to engage with communities to make my own work.

The third period was my graduate training at Columbia University’s MFA program in Playwriting with Chuck Mee and Kelly Stuart. During this time, I took as many independent courses to learn how to make my own work and I interned for two years at Young Jean Lee’s Theater Company and was mentored by Lee Breuer to write and direct my thesis show—TALA. I joined the Lee Breuer/Mabou Mines bandwagon for two years, while immersing myself in the experimental, theater community in New York City and doing queer, advocacy work in support of gay rights. The combination of grass-roots activism, experimental theater, and community-based, devising theater-making practices, are the pillars that currently support my practice, and the mission of Kyoung’s Pacific Beat, which is to promote a culture of peace and non-violence through challenging new works of theater.

Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?

A: Edward Albee, Sung Rno, Eduardo Machado, Jane Bodie, Chuck Mee, Kelly Stuart, Young Jean Lee, Lee Breuer, and David Herskovits have definitely shaped my practice in both playwriting and direction. While many other playwrights, theater makers, and ensembles have influenced my work, these artists have had the most direct influence on my craft.

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

A: Find your voice and find the way to tell the stories that live inside yourself. Within us, there’s a never-ending source of stories, memories, experiences, emotions, and ideas that serve as the raw material for our work. And if you, like me, have found institutional barriers that do not allow you to enter the “mainstream” theater—make your own work, find your own audiences, and tell your own stories. There is no need to find permission, nor acceptance to make theater, and even though this sounds like a lot of work, it’s worth it.

Also, get involved with your community. The Latina/o Theatre Commons, in particular, has created an exciting, national theater movement connecting Latinx theater artists across the country, and providing an outstanding platform for collaboration, resource/knowledge-sharing, and advocacy for our work. I’ve been involved with the Commons for over three years now and became a co-founding member of The Sol Project, which is a new initiative dedicated to the production of new Latinx works in New York City.

Q: What else should we know about you?

A: I’ve experienced great psychic dissonance for being an artist in a society that does not value its art. While there’s tremendous racial inequity in our field, larger studies such as Outrageous Fortune have illuminated how only a few, anointed playwrights, make a living as an artist, and for how limited a time this happens, if it happens at all. Making your own work is double, triple, quadruple the work, and the scarcity within the independent arts scene is just as staggering.

I struggle with the poverty of being a working artist every day. Luckily, family, grants, scholarships, day jobs, community, and friends have all contributed to help me get to where I am, and with time, I’ve found a way to balance work, life, and art-making through resilient survival and the occasional, grand opportunity to make my work come true.

***For more on Kyoung Park, see:


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