Name: Anne García-Romero
Hometown: Wellesley, Massachusetts
Current Town: South Bend, IN
Affiliations: Thomas J. and Robert T. Rolfs Assistant Professor in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame, Resident Playwrights at Chicago Dramatists
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: Latina, Spanish-American
Q: Tell me about Paloma.
A: The first seed of inspiration for Paloma appeared twenty years ago when I spent the summer studying in Madrid while living with my Spanish relatives. My American mother and brother came to visit and my Spanish uncle took us all on a trip to the Alhambra in Granada, a center of Muslim Spain during the Middle Ages. I felt completely awestruck as we walked through the vibrant pathways of this ancient civilization and its stunning castles with their exquisitely carved sandstone walls and gorgeously manicured gardens. Another seed of inspiration materialized ten years later during graduate school when I came across The Ring of the Dove (Ṭawq al-Ḥamāmah, El Collar de la Paloma), an eleventh century treatise on love by Spanish Muslim poet and philosopher Ibn Hazm. This remarkable book with its chapter titles such as On Falling in Love with One Sole Look or On Falling in Love in Dreams fascinated me.
At the same time, during those early post 9/11 years, I was appalled by the anti-Muslim rhetoric in this country and the horrific backlash against the U.S. Muslim community’s peaceful and faithful citizens. During Spain’s Muslim rule, there once existed la convivencia, an era when Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed. Why couldn’t peaceful co-existence happen now? I wrote Paloma to explore this question with Ibn Hazm’s exquisite writing as my guide. In the play, NYU students Ibrahim and Paloma study an ancient Muslim treatise on the art and practice of love and debate the complexities of romantic relationships while falling into one. After tragedy strikes their Muslim-Christian interfaith romance, it tests the limits of love in a post-9/11 world and Ibrahim must seek the help of his friend Jared, a young Jewish attorney, to clear his name. Paloma received its World Premiere at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, NM, produced by Camino Real Productions, its West Coast premiere at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, and will receive its East Coast premiere at the Kitchen Theatre in Ithaca, NY, in May 2016.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a Denver Center Theatre Company commissioned play about Federico García Lorca’s trip to New York City in 1929. I’m developing a new play, Staging the Daffy Dame at University of California, Santa Barbara’s Launch Pad program, which delves into a university drama department as they present a production of the Spanish Golden Age comedy, The Daffy Dame (La Dama Boba) by Lope de Vega. I’m continuing to develop my plays, Provenance (inspired by the works of Mexican visual artist Martín Ramírez) and Mary Domingo (inspired by the 19th century relationship between New England educator Mary Peabody Mann, widow of Horace Mann, and Argentine diplomat Domingo Sarmiento). I’m continuing to translate the works of the wonderful Spanish playwright Jordi Galcerán. I’m also writing an episode of a new webseries, Psycles, created by Ethan Rains, which explores the life of an Iranian-American psychotherapist who starts driving for a ride-sharing company called Sycles, which gives him a glimpse into the lives of Los Angeles’ diverse inhabitants.
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: There are many defining moments of my journey as a playwright. Here are several moments when my playwriting journey pivoted in a new direction:
- My first one act play produced in a festival at Occidental College, where I was then an undergraduate. I experienced the power of my words performed before a welcoming audience. I knew I needed to continue writing plays.
- My first workshop with Maria Irene Fornes at the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival when I felt incredibly inspired by her methods, which included visualizing character and drawing. I knew I had to continue studying with her.
- The phone call I received from Maria Leveton, then the registrar at the Yale School of Drama, while sitting at my office job in a trailer at 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles. She told me I had been admitted to the MFA in Playwriting program. I moved to New Haven and received the remarkable opportunity to study with Mark Bly, Elizabeth Egloff, Maria Irene Fornes, Richard Gilman, Marlane Meyer, Eric Overmyer, Paul Schmidt and Mac Wellman, among others. I met trusted collaborators who I continue to work with today.
- The phone call I received from Todd London, then Artistic Director at New Dramatists, while I was on break from my temp office job in Minneapolis. He told me I was admitted as a Resident Playwright to New Dramatists. Although I was a National Member of New Dramatists and traveled to New York City about once a year, I connected to an amazing community of playwrights who truly changed the course of my professional life.
- The phone call I received from the late Russ Tutterow, Artistic Director of Chicago Dramatists, while sitting in my office at the University of Notre Dame. He told me I was admitted to Chicago Dramatists as a Resident Playwright. The Midwest is where I now live. Chicago Dramatists, with its vibrant community of playwrights, has become my new artistic home.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: My playwriting mentors have been Maria Irene Fornes, Marlane Meyer, Murray Mednick and Naomi Iizuka. My playwriting heroes are my mentors as well as Federico García Lorca, August Wilson, Tennessee Williams, Caryl Churchill and Luis Valdez, among many.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Patience and perseverance are key. Cultivate a spirit of generosity. Find your tribe of collaborators and keep working with them. Trust your gut. Stay true to your vision. Seek mentorship. Read lots of plays. See lots of plays. Make sure you know the work of Maria Irene Fornes and Luis Valdez, the founders of Latin@ theatre. Write what you need to write. Dig deep. Be brave on the page. Self produce if you need/want to, as it can teach you a great deal about you and your work. Trust yourself as a writer. Always, keep writing.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I’m an artist-scholar. A decade after finishing my MFA, I returned to school to pursue my Ph.D. in Theatre Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where I graduated seven years ago. For me, the artist-scholar model is a vibrant path in which the intuitive and analytic experiences collaborate. As a scholar, I focus on Latina/o Theatre Studies and my first book, The Fornes Frame: Contemporary Latina Playwrights and the Legacy of Maria Irene Fornes, was recently published by University of Arizona Press. My playwriting inspires my scholarship. My scholarship inspires my playwriting. This return to school also opened new opportunities for me to teach and pass along what has been so generously given to me by my mentors. In my journey, the artist-scholar model is central.
***For more information on Anne García-Romero, see:
- Anne García-Romero Personal Website
- The Fornes Frame: Contemporary Latina Playwrights and the Legacy of Maria Irene Fornes – Anne García-Romero (Univerisity of Arizona Press)
- Read Anne García-Romero’s articles on Café Onda/HowlRound
- “Teaching Playwriting in the 21st Century” – Anne García-Romero (Café Onda/HowlRound)
- Latina/o Theatre Commons: Updating the US Narrative – Anne García-Romero (Café Onda/HowlRound)
- “I Interview Playwrights Part 287: Anne Garcia-Romero” – Adam Szymkowicz
- “Transcultural Voices” – Anne García-Romero (TCG Circle)
- Read Anne García-Romero’s plays