Name: Raúl Castillo
Hometown: McAllen, TX/Reynosa, Tamaulipas, México
Current Town: New York City
Affiliations: Boston University, BFA. Member, LAByrinth Theater Company.
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: Too many ways to count.
Q: Tell me about Between You, Me & the Lampshade.
A: It began as two scenes written 10 years ago when Bush was president. It’s gone through great development and evolution, though those two scenes remain pretty intact. The play premiered in Chicago with Teatro Vista in 2015 and later at South Texas College in McAllen, my hometown, in 2016. I’ve had developmental workshops and readings with LAByrinth, Atlantic Theater Company and, most recently, Williamstown Theater Festival, among others. At that last reading, a character’s gender changed from male to female. I was excited about that. At the end of the day, it’s a story about secrets and lies and the things that lay dormant in our past.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: In addition to my work as an actor, I’m developing a couple of screenplays: a film script and a pilot. Also, formulating the next play. Like most of my plays, it’s set in South Texas.
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: At the end of the day, any time a group of actors and a director come together to read and investigate my words, the designers and the technicians who bring the world to life, all the people it takes to make a play happen, I am transformed as an artist. It’s always informative. And defining. Whether it’s a full production or a table read for a few friends.
In the summer of 2005, my play, City of Palms, was invited to the LAByrinth Theater Company Summer Intensive. This was a big deal for me. I had given up writing for a few years after college—I can write a novel about being disillusioned by scholastic and cultural institutions and how they have a tendency to mistreat Latinos and people of color and woman but we don’t have the time here or the space here—and I was only recently getting back into it (writing). At the time, LAByrinth was that company any actor or writer in New York City wanted to be around (the Summer Intensive was a developmental retreat the company used to do out of the city, usually a college upstate somewhere, and the stories of the goings-on at the intensive were legendary, mostly the work that came out of those concentrated two weeks—10 out of 50 plays that were read at the Intensive were chosen to have a reading back in the city in a thing called the Barn Series, which I’d been attending since landing in the city in 2002) and I didn’t find myself worthy. I almost didn’t apply but friends who were company members encouraged me to. My script was initially passed on and then someone dropped out and the open slot went to me. I remember I was working at a coffee shop in the LES at that time when I got the call. I felt like the luckiest bastard out there. Then the smoke cleared and I got REALLY scared. I thought my play was a piece of shit and didn’t deserve to be there. The weeks leading up to the Intensive were some of the most fraught in my artistic life, I was a nervous wreck. I slept two hours the night before my reading up at Bennington College in Vermont. I cringed all throughout the read, though the actors were stellar. I forgot to take into consideration the work that I had done to get where I was. I studied writing (and writers) as an undergrad. I applied those lessons and wrote my own plays, which I was able to mount and bring to life. I had some experience under my belt. And my play had real vision. It wasn’t perfect but it was good. It received a warm reception and was invited to be part of the Barn Series that year, among works by Eric Bogosian, Brett Leonard and Stephen Adly Guirgis, among others. I was having conversations about my play with artists like Stephen McKinley Henderson and Phil Hoffman and John Ortiz. It was a personal triumph. And it inspired and encouraged me to write more! A year later I was made a company member of LAByrinth, which has been an incredible artistic community.
But writing is tough. As an actor, I face disappointment and rejection constantly. No matter, I keep going. As a writer, I’ve had experiences that have crippled me. It’s a very sensitive thing, writing plays. Very raw and scary stuff, to put yourself out there like that. But I keep going back to it because…well, I guess I can’t help it.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: First and foremost, Miguel Piñero and Luis Valdez. They made me believe. Some of my professors at BU: James Spruill (RIP), Sidney Friedman, Eve Muson, Alicia Borinsky, Pedro Lasarte. Writers like Stephen Adley Guirgis, Jose Rivera, Tanya Saracho, Mando Alvarado, who I am lucky to call friends. Chekov, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson, Sam Shepard, and Martin McDonagh are some of the writers that have inspired me.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Identify the people you want to collaborate with and make it your mission to work with them. Also, surround yourself with smarter, more-experienced people. You will learn from them.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I’m a Virgo. And I play the bass guitar.
***For more on Raúl Castillo, see:
- “Raúl Castillo, Star of ‘Looking,’ Settles In to His New Role: Heartthrob” – Michael Schulman (New York Times)
- “Raúl Castillo: On His Girlfriend, His Personal Style, and ‘Looking’” – Brianne Nemiroff (Viva Glam Magazine)
- “Stop ‘Looking’—Raúl Castillo Is Your New Breakout Star” – Briana Rodriguez (Backstage)
- “‘Looking’s’ Raul Castillo Talks Sex Scenes, Richie and Patrick’s Future” – Lesley Goldberg (The Hollywood Reporter)
- “Interview: Raúl Castillo on ‘Between You, Me & the Lampshade’” – Hector Luis Alamo (Gozamos)
- Raúl Castillo interview on “Off and On: A New York Theatre Podcast” – Bernardo Cubría