Name: Marisela Treviño Orta
Hometown: Lockhart, TX
Current Town: Iowa City, IA
Affiliations: Iowa Playwrights Workshop, Bay Area Latino Theatre Artists Network (BALTAN), & Latina/o Theatre Commons Steering Committee
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: Latina, Tejana, Mexican-American
Q: Tell me about The River Bride.
A: The River Bride is part of a cycle of plays I call “grim Latino Fairy Tales.” Inspired by Latina/o mythology and fairy tales from Europe, the plays in this cycle are cautionary tales for adults to help us navigate our emotional lives. Like the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales, these plays are dark, violent, and love is complicated. The River Bride is the first play in the cycle and was the 2013 co-winner of the National Latino Playwriting Award.
The world premiere of The River Bride is currently running at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and will run until early July. It’s inspired by Brazilian folklore and features an all-Latina/o cast—some truly amazing actors. Our creative team had a lot of Latina/os as well—director Laurie Woolery, Voice and Text director Robert Ramirez, Costume Designer Raquel Barreto, Set Designer Mariana Sanchez, and Composure/Sound Designer Bruno Louchouarn.
Writing The River Bride I found myself returning to my roots as a poet. Of all my plays it has the most heightened language.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I have several projects I’m working on at the moment. There’s the next play in my grim Latino fairy tale cycle—Wolf at the Door—which will be part of the New Play Festival here at the Iowa Playwrights Workshop this May. I’m prepping an early play of mine—Woman on Fire—for its world premiere at Camino Real Productions this fall. And I have another world premiere next summer of my play Ghost Limb at Brava Theater, so I’m doing rewrites on that play. And there are some new plays I’m working on as well.
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: This is gonna sound silly, but joining Twitter. I’ve used Twitter to connect to theatre peers across the country, to build my personal network. And I’ve had a few gigs come out of it. In fact, I attribute my production at OSF to me being on Twitter. I’m connected to someone in their Literary Department and back in 2013 they put out a tweet inviting playwrights to send scripts for consideration. I happened to see that tweet and the rest is history.
Another defining moment would be joining the Latina/o Theatre Commons Steering Committee. In the span of 3 years I’ve met people it would take an entire career to get to know—artists, artistic directors, scholars, other playwrights. And aside from meeting some incredible artists, I am proud to be part of a theatre movement that is reshaping American Theatre.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: I met Octavio Solis when I was just beginning to switch to the genre of playwriting from poetry. So I had no idea who he was—I mean, he’s Octavio Solis! I knew him as a fellow Tejano living in the Bay Area. Anyone who knows him, knows that Octavio is a very generous person. I think of him as my unofficial mentor because I found myself getting emails and calls from people—Octavio was recommending me for various playwriting opportunities. I can’t thank him enough for his support and encouragement.
As for heroes the one name that immediately comes to mind is Sarah Kane. When I first starting exploring playwriting it was Sarah Kane’s work that blew me away because she wrote with her imagination unrestrained. I love that.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Three things.
1) It can take 10 years of hard work before you see any traction in your career. I heard that from another playwright early on and it was so helpful—don’t think you’re failing at this if you don’t see immediate success. It takes time. Use those 10 years to hone your writing, to build networks of peers, and develop relationships with people who want to work with you.
2) Find your tribe. Find other artists who will become your life-long collaborators and friends. Look for them in the city/town where you life and look for them online.
3) Get involved with your theatre community—however you define it. Be a part of it. My experience as a playwright has been enriched by the work I’ve done in my theatre communities over the years.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I didn’t find my way to theatre until I was 26. That’s late compared to others. I was a poet for many years before discovering that playwriting was the genre I had been looking for all along. My poetics are very present in my playwriting—lyricism, imagery, metaphor. And I consider myself an Imagist—inspired by and using strong imagery as part of my narratives.
***For more on Marisela Treviño Orta, see:
- “Coffee and chat: Marisela Treviño Orta” – Abel Muñoz (Café Onda/HowlRound)
- “On Mentoring and Paying It Forward” – Marisela Treviño Orta (Café Onda/HowlRound)
- “I Interview Playwrights Part 310: Marisela Treviño Orta” – Adam Szymkowicz
- “The Real World, Theater Edition: An Interview with Marisela Treviño Orta” – Barbara Jwanouskos (San Francisco Theater Pub)
- “A Brand New Old-Fashioned Fairy Tale” – Sam Hurwitt (Theatre Bay Area)
- Marisela Treviño Orta’s Essays on Café Onda/Howlround
- Stories on Marisela Treviño Orta on American Theatre
- Follow Marisela Treviño Orta on Twitter
- New Play Exchange
- Dramatist Guild