Name: Evelina Fernandez
Hometown: East Los Angeles
Current Town: I live in Monterey Park, CA
and my artistic home is Downtown Los Angeles
Affiliations: Latino Theater Company/
Los Angeles Theatre Center
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: I identify as Xicana and for those who are not sure what that is… A Chicana/o/x is a Mexican American (although Mexican roots are not required in my opinión) committed to social justice or to quote my friend, Dan Guerrero: “A Mexican-American who is not kidding.” Journalist Ruben Salazar wrote: (before he was killed by an L.A. Sheriff; but that’s another story (see the play August 29): “Actually, the word Chicano is as difficult to define as ‘soul.’”
I also identify as Latina when I think it’s appropriate or necessary. It depends. Some of my ancestors are huichol indian. So, sometimes I call myself a HuiChola. Long answer…
Q: Tell me about A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story.
A: A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story is the entire trilogy of my plays Faith, Hope, and Charity presented as one story.I began writing the Trilogy in 2011 in response to the anti-immigrant hate speech that was spewing at the time which has intensified to what we are experiencing today. (See Cultural Weekly article referenced below). Faith, Hope, & Charity follow a Mexican-American family over the span of over a hundred years and places our experience within an “American” context. Growing up in my grandparents’ home, three photos always hung in the living room: President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (their savior during the Depression), President John F. Kennedy (the first and only Catholic president), and the Pope (changed whenever the Pope did). “Part I: Faith” begins during the Mexican revolution of 1910 and takes place during the Roosevelt presidency in the 1940’s right after the Great Depression and during WWII; “Part II: Hope” during the Kennedy administration and the Cuban missile crisis; “Part III: Charity” is set in 2005 during the war in Iraq and the death of Pope John Paul II. (Shameless plug: A Mexican Trilogy is published by Samuel French and is on the cover of the December 2016 edition of American Theatre Magazine. Yay!)
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I have commissions from South Coast Rep who are lovely, lovely people and with my long time compañeros at Teatro Vision for my 2nd Dia de Los Muertos collaboration with them. As resident playwright for the Latino Theater Company, I’m continuously developing work for our ensemble. I am also developing television projects. AND I am working on my personal re-radicalization because I don’t think just being progressive is enough these days. (As an actor I will be in Karen Zacarías’ Destiny of Desire at the Goodman in Chicago in the Spring.)
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: I’ve been around for a while, so there are so many. But, I guess the first big defining moment was when I realized that the roles I was auditioning for as an actor in theater, film, and television did not reflect the Latinas I knew or grew up with and who had inspired me my whole life. Writing my first play, How Else Am I Supposed to Know I’m Still Alive and producing it became an important touchstone that proved that we could produce independently and that the audience responded to my work, my voice, my characters. I knew I had to continue to tell stories about these people, my people, my community.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: Since I am a “no-schooler” and began writing because of the reasons I mentioned previously, I don’t have any playwriting mentors in the traditional sense. I only had one workshop with Marie Irene Fornes, and as inspiring as it was, I can’t claim her as my mentor. But, I have been inspired by so many playwrights, especially those who tell the stories that need to be told. The stories of their people, their work, their dreams, their contradictions. August Wilson inspires me still, not only with his plays but also by his courage and his ability to contextualize the state of the American Theater. I was also inspired early on by Latina playwrights Cherrie Moraga and Milcha Sanchez-Scott. My theater mentors come from the Chicano Theater Movement–Luis Valdez and Jorge Huerta, El Teatro Campesino, El Teatro de La Esperanza and, of course, my in lak’ech(y) lifetime working relationship with my partner, Jose Luis Valenzuela.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Be authentic. Be fearless. Be revolutionary. Write plays that matter. Look for the beauty in your community. It is all around you. Love your people and write their stories.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I work with a company, the Latino Theater Company. We are an independent theater and we produce our own work. We also run a large multiplex theater venue, the Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC) where we produce two seasons (Fall & Spring) of theater that reflects the diversity and intersectionality of our city. My development as a playwright has everything to do with having an artistic family that inspires me, pushes me, supports me and through years of hard work, creativity and commitment make my plays work.
***For more on Evelina Fernandez, see:
- “Evelina Fernandez’s Chicano Century Cycle” – Rob Weinert-Kendt (American Theatre)
- “A Playwright’s Theatrical Recknoning” – Evelina Fernandez (Cultural Weekly)
- “New Ground in A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story” – Chantal Rodriguez (Cultural Weekly)
- Reviews for A Mexican Trilogy: An American Story
- “Latino Theater Company: Members in Conversation” – Angela Scott (Cultural Weekly)
- The Los Angeles Theatre Center
- Latino Theater Company