Name: Guadalís Del Carmen
Current Town: NYC
Affiliations: Aguijón Theater, UrbanTheater Company, ALTA, FEMelanin, Educational Play Productions NYC
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: Dominican, Afro-Latina, American, black, brown
Q: Tell me about Tolstoy’s Daughters.
A: It’s the story of two sisters, Katya and Fanya, who take two very different roads to save their country from the corrupt powers that be. Set in a fictional Latin American country at the cusp of a revolution, the sisters have to make heavy sacrifices for their beloved country. Tolstoy’s Daughters was conceived in 2014. Trayvon Martin was still on everyone’s mind and the conversations around his death were causing divisions among people. More and more footage of police brutality was gaining visibility through social media. I had just watched an interview with Shola Lynch, producer and director of Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, on C-Span. I felt not much had changed since the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s and 70’s. Frankly, I was exhausted and my heart was in so much pain seeing all the bloodshed and hate. It felt like the world would be much happier if black people would all die. That thought hurt, but this is what it sometimes feels like to be black in the Americas. After some crying and prayer, I started writing the execution scene in my play. I poured all my anger, pain and disappointment into that scene. The play grew from that. I poured more love, hope, and that revolutionary spirit that fuels the change to bring more yang to the yin.
I had an impromptu reading with some close friends and people I respect. I did some rewrites and put the piece away to work on my next play, My Father’s Keeper. To be honest, for almost a year, I was intimidated by Tolstoy’s Daughters. Here was this world, these characters, all inspired by the suffering around me. The killing and marginalization of black and brown bodies, the abuse of power by our leaders, the disregard for life and civil liberties. I specifically set Tolstoy’s Daughters in Latin America because all the racial tensions and divisions happening in the US can easily be translated to Spanish and Portuguese and perfectly apply. The dictatorship in Venezuela, the police brutality in the U.S., the immigration controversies in Dominican Republic, the stifling of free voice in North Korea, the 43 dead in Ayotzinapa all served as inspiration for the world Tolstoy’s Daughters lived in, and I was scared to touch this play further. It wasn’t until UrbanTheatre Company approached me to be a part of their R.A.W. (Real Aggressive Writing) Reading Series that I took a deep breath and plunged back into that chaotic world. The amazing Tara Branham directed a talented cast for the reading. Tolstoy’s Daughters evolved into something I could pour my hope for the world into. This reading, in my opinion, was one of the very few to be written by an Afro Latina, directed by a woman and have an entire cast of Latinos, something I am very proud of and speaks highly of the work that theaters like UrbanTheatre Company is doing.
I am very happy to share that I have been selected as a finalist in Quick Silver Theater Company’s Playwrights of Color summit in New York. Tolstoy’s Daughters will enjoy a week of development culminating in a public staged reading in June of this year.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I’m adapting My Father’s Keeper into a screenplay and have begun another play about police brutality. I have a comedy pilot that I finished and am now submitting to various outlets.
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: One of the most defining moments was when I approached Rosario Vargas, Founder of Aguijón Theater Company about a play I had in mind. She asked me for a script, and since I had an idea and no physical script, I got to work. It was exhausting and tiring and beautiful and exhilarating. A couple of months later, I sent a full length Spanish script of Blowout. We had a public staged reading with audience feedback. In the fall of 2013, Blowout debuted. It was ambitious, but Aguijón Theater and Marcela Muñoz, who directed the play, nurtured this piece into something that the community could enjoy. It was recommended by The Chicago Reader. But the true defining moment for me was having many first time theater goers in the audience. Many of them said they never thought plays were for them, but this play was something they could connect to.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: I didn’t study theater or playwriting in school, which was a blessing and a curse. So most of the writers I have been exposed to and whose work I admire, have been writers whose plays I have performed in or have used in auditions. Writers like Carmen Rivera Tirado, Tato Laviera, Federico García Lorca, Abel Melo Gonzalez, Tanya Saracho have been instrumental in my development as a theater artist. The people that have had direct influence on me and my writing (other than my family, hehe) have been Aguijón Theater, who opened her arms to me as an actor and as a playwright, and El Semillero (founded by ALTA and spearheaded by Isaac Gomez and Nancy García). I have learned so much from my peers. Rosario Vargas advised me to write and be fierce, to not settle for mediocrity. I tattooed that statement on my soul. These are the people I consider my mentors.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Write and submit. Write and submit. Write and submit. You’ll get 50 rejections, but when that one hits, it’ll be all you need.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: Stay tuned.
***For more on Guadalís Del Carmen, see:
- Guadalís Del Carmen at Aguijón Theater
- Guadalís Del Carmen and Harv Roman on WCEV 1450 AM