Name: Mando Alvarado
Hometown: Pharr–San Juan–Alamo, Texas
Current Town: Los Angeles, CA
Affiliations: University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Member of Rising Phoenix Rep, Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater, alum of INTAR’s Hispanic-Playwright-in-Residence Laboratory 2006 – 2008, The Lark, PSJA BEARS.
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: Oh boy, that question? In no particular order: Texican, Mexican–American, American with Mexican roots, Ex–Valleyite, Tejano, Latino, a dude with attitude.
Q: Tell me about Parachute Men.
A: This is a crazy, fun, sad, dark, weirdly deviant play that’s based on my brothers and I. My father passed away when I was 9 and I was the oldest. After the funeral, all I kept hearing from people was “you are now the man of the house.” Which is a weird thing to say to a kid who doesn’t even have hair on his balls. But I took it to heart and I tried to be the “man” of the house. I felt like it was my responsibility to watch over my younger brother and help turn him into a “man” as well which meant tough love, beaten him up, rough housing, and breaking him down in sports. Very shortly there after, my mom remarried and they had a son. My stepfather turned out to be a drug addict and I kept the mantle of “man of the house” for a while. But as I grew into my high school years, I drifted away, fought a lot with my mom, got into physical altercations with my stepfather and beat up on my little brothers. It reached a point where I couldn’t be home anymore and I kind of bailed on them. So a couple of years ago, I called my little brothers up and said I was sorry for the way a treated them and for leaving like I did. They both said that they were very grateful that I was their big brother. I was a good example that they looked up too and I did in fact make a “man” out of them. Which made me very sad because all I taught them was a hardness and cold lack of empathy and understanding devoid of any real human tenderness. So I wrote this play as a way to apologize to them more fully and let them know that I was sorry and that I will always love them.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: This past summer, I spent a week in Malibu working on a new play. (Boy, that sounds so LA right?) Jeremy Skidmore was a guest AD for the season at Malibu Playhouse and he offered me the opportunity to write a new play and work it through with some actors. The play is called Lazarus and it’s an exploration of my dad and my own feelings of being a father–the things that bubble up when you stare into the eyes of your children and realize that how you were taught to love will only fuck them up so you better find another way to connect kind of fear. I’m also writing on Greenleaf for season 2.
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: So far, I have three that quickly come to mind. My first one has to do with my first play, Throat. I had moved from DC to NY and I decided to write a play that I would star in so I could get myself an acting agent. I wrote the play while I was working a temp job in mid-town. My best friend organized a reading of it in a back of bar in the village. We both thought it would be best to get someone to read my part so I could hear the play. We did. This guy from our hometown named, Raul Castillo, who you now know as that sexy Tex-Mex hunk of a man from the HBO series Looking, read the part. He was better and I found that I really dug writing. Second, was coming off of Post No Bills at Rattlestick. It was a great run and I loved the play and the production but I got skewered a little bit in the press and felt disheartened about playwriting and theater in general. Daniel Talbot and Rising Phoenix was doing a series called “Cino Nights” and I got commissioned to write a play that was set in a bar on 2nd St. We had one week to rehearse and put it up for one night. It was magical. Felt like pure theater and I realized why I wrote and what I want out of a night of theater. Fuck the critics, I will write how I write. The last big moment was doing Basilica back in my hometown. It was a very gratifying experience sharing my work with the people I wrote about.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: Stephen Adly Guirgis is my man. I started writing because of him. Eduardo Machado. He inspired me to be truthful, to have a voice, a point of view and to fucking challenge the audience no matter what. I’m inspired by the people I work with: Felix Solis, Bernardo Cubría, Audrey Esparza, Jerry Ruiz, Michael Ray Escamilla, Teddy Canez, Raul Abrego, Emma Ramos, JJ Perez, Jorge Cordova and by the words I hear from Tanya Saracho, Kris Diaz, Luis Alfaro, Matt Olmos, Ed Cardona, Alex Beech, Andrea Thome, Michael John Garces, August Wilson, Jose Rivera, Octavio Solis and the only hero I have is a man who has turned me into a decent writer and who pushes me to strive to reach his altitude…. Craig Wright.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Just finish the play. That is the first big step. It can feel like it’s the hardest part and a way it is. But when you do, then, the fun begins. So just finish and don’t let anyone put you in a box. Write the play you want to write.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I like to laugh when things are truly funny. Don’t expect me to give you a compliment when you didn’t earn it. I don’t like being in a room with a lot of people. My biggest smiles of the day begin at 3 am when I’m rocking Amicko to sleep and he starts to coo and when I get home from work and my daughter, Amaya, runs up and jumps on me, saying “Daddy’s home” as my vegetarian wife shows me the BBQ brisket she made in the crockpot.
***For more on Mando Alvardo, see:
- “Cafecito: Mando Alvarado” – Jamie Gahlon (Café Onda/HowlRound)
- “Parachute Men to Open Teatro Vista’s 2016-17 Season” – Broadway World
- “I Interview Playwrights Part 274: Mando Alvarado” – Adam Szymkowicz
- Mando Alvarado Profile at Indie Theatre Now