Name: Emilio Rodriguez
Hometown: Riverside, California
Current Town: Detroit, Michigan
Affiliations: Theatre Nova and Two Muses Theatre Board Member
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: I am technically half-Puerto Rican and half-Mexican but I prefer the umbrella term Latina/o and have recently started using Latinx as it intentionally includes LGBT and gender non-conforming community members.
Q: Tell me about Mamacita and the Negrito.
A: My most recent play Mamacita and the Negrito follows a street-savvy, intellectual named Lorena who collides with the irresistibly charming, barrio boy Ricky, leading to a passionate romance almost instantly resulting in one life changing gift. Act two then follows that “gift” as he searches for closure. The play uses humor, poetry and vignette-styled scenes to explore issues of colorism, culture, and identity. It has been fun to see readings cast two actors to play all four roles. Also, it borrows some family stories that have been passed down, so writing it enabled me to feel closer to my family (I haven’t lived in the same state as my parents for 9 years).
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: For my next project, I am using Lorca’s Poet in New York for inspiration. I have enjoyed reading his poetry and have seen him as a Latinx LGBT icon. I don’t exactly know where the play is going, but I’m excited to see where it takes me. Right now, I’m wondering if I can do a one man show or try some form that I haven’t explored yet. I love Paula Vogel’s advice, which is something like “never write the same play twice.”
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: The 2015 Latina/o Theatre Commons Carnaval of New Latina/o Work was the biggest platform I’ve received to date. It validated me as a playwright and connected me with other theatre artists who have been able to help me develop my craft. I also met so many great actors for whom I’d love to write roles.
There’s also the delightfully awkward time I was told that I didn’t have the “right look” to audition for a play in LA which set my writing path in motion. I figured if I’m too ugly to be in an LA play, I’ll write my own play where the character has to be quirky looking (Thank you, unnamed LA theatre company for the insult that changed my life).
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: I have so many heroes. Cynthia DeCure Santos was one of the first playwrights I knew personally, who was able to balance acting, teaching, directing and writing. Seeing her play Miss Quince really inspired me to write my own stories. Another tremendous help has been David Wells who still reads my plays and gives me advice. Trevor Boffone has also been integral in validating my opinions and making me feel like a valuable member of the emerging theatre artists community. I’m always like, “Someone cares what I think??? Ok…cool!”
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: I’m still at the beginning of my career, so I don’t know what advice I have, but I would like to say that finding “muses” for me has been helpful in differentiating the voices of my characters. Real people are really different. When my characters stem from observations of people and actors I love, I often enjoy the writing process more. Having “muses” enables me to listen to the characters without forcing “punch lines” or other quirks. It also enables me to feel like the “Taylor Swift of Playwriting”…exes will become villains…watch out!
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: If anybody has connections to Tony Revolori, it is a dream of mine to have him even just do a reading of one of my plays. Just putting it in the universe! The Latinx community always feels like a brown version of the Kevin Bacon Theory…we’re all six degrees apart.
***For more on Emilio Rodriguez, see:
- FAQs: Swimming While Drowning by Emilio Rodriguez
- “Pedagogy Notebook: Responding to LGBTQ Homelessness in Emilio Rodriguez’s Swimming While Drowning” – Trevor Boffone (Café Onda/HowlRound)
- “Detroit: Only Abandoned from the Outside” by Emilio Rodriguez (Cafe Onda/HowlRound)
- “Cafecito: Emilio Rodriguez” by Maria Enriquez (Café Onda/HowlRound)
- “New Play Fest Guest Focuses On LGBT, Latino Stories” – Rebecca Thiele (WMUK 102.1)
- “Interview: Emilio Rodriguez, Sam White and the Black and Brown Theatre Company of Detroit” – #TeatroLatinegro
- New Play Exchange
- “Left-Coaster Turned Mitten-Stater: A Rising Star In Theater World” by Amy J.Parrent (PrideSource)
- Teatro Vivo’s Austin Latino New Play Festival
- “Ignited: El Payaso in Flint” – Olga Sanchez Saltveit (Café Onda/HowlRound)
- Swimming While Drowning Study Guide – Milagro