Name: Christina Quintana
Hometown: New Orleans, LA
Current Town: New York, NY
Q: How do you self-identify?
Q: Tell me about Azul.
A: I started this play thanks to a conversation with actress Ashley Marie Ortiz at the Latinx Theatre Convening (LTC) in Chicago a couple of summers ago. We loved the featured readings, but felt the narratives were very male-centric. We hungered for more Latina stories. After dreaming on this, the thread of Azul came into my mind—the story of a Cuban-American woman whose mother, diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, loses her English, descends into Spanish, and recognizes her daughter’s wife as her Tia Nena, her aunt who remained in Cuba.
I’ve been thinking a great deal about legacy, loss, and invisibility. I’ve always thought about these things, but since my father passed away earlier this year, these ideas are all the more heavy on my heart and in my head. My father was a man who wanted so deeply (and so humanly) to escape his brown skin and his Cubanness. He wanted the brightest future for his children. Most of all, he wanted to be accepted, like we all do. As a Latinx person with lighter skin and limited Spanish, I have finally found the means to tell this story.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: Gumbo (I wrote the book and lyrics with music by Brett Macias) will have a godsend of a two-week development at Yale Institute for Music Theatre this June. The show is an epic sung-through full-length musical extravaganza, and we can’t wait to dive in with a full cast. Right now, we’re working on revisions, including a couple of brand new/revitalized numbers! For updates, feel free to visit gumbothemusical.com
In March, I had a month-long residency with the CEAD (Centre des Auteurs Dramatiques) in Montreal and Southern Rep in New Orleans and did a massive revamp of my full-length play Three Thousand Seizures. The play is about a New York boss lady named Petra Hourani who struggles with escalating Epilepsy symptoms and impending neurosurgery. Haunted by her personified Seizures, she questions: who is she with them and who is she without them?
I’m also in the midst of adapting my play Evensong (which had its world premiere at Astoria Performing Arts Center this past fall, directed by the wonderful David Mendizábal) into a screenplay and I’ve just begun a new project called Tobias, which I think is going to be something of a novel-in-performance (a term I am actively defining!) but it’s very early days. Stay tuned!
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: Moment: the realization that it’s not a competition. Truly. It’s about making good work. I moved to New York and got swept away in the energy of the city and grad school where I met many remarkable artists and human beings, but had to truly embrace that I am me and you are you and we do different things and, really, we’re all in this together. One of the luckiest things about being a playwright is that we work in solitude, but then we get to join a mighty army of collaborators in the rehearsal room. Really, we playwrights get the best of both worlds.
Another moment: That it’s hard. This life we’ve chosen. It’s not a straight path. There will be day jobs. There will be blood (kidding…or, so I hope). Recently, a colleague and writer said to me: “The life of a writer is a life of exploration.” I’m trying to keep this close. It’s true. And it’s important to remember that it’s a privilege to weave through the world in this way—even if it can be difficult. While I was on residency in Montreal, a Quebecois playwright said that while he sometimes longs for the stability of his friends’ lives, he realizes they long for his. He said to me, “Isn’t it amazing that we get paid to dream things up?”
And yet another moment: I love being blown away by fantastic writing. Joining communities of writers and artists, particularly involving other artists of color and queer artists has been the pièce de résistance. There’s always more to learn.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: My mentors and heroes run the gamut—writers of all stripes, makers, producers! The folks I’ve been privileged to call mentors and friends are a pack of badass ladies: Carol Carpenter, Dana Levin, Aimee Hayes, Lucy Jane Bledsoe, Moe Angelos, Karen Brooks Hopkins
My heroes could literally fill the internet. From the obvious, i.e. Audre Lorde, Maria Irene Fornes, Adrienne Rich, Julia Otsuka to the less (or maybe equally) obvious, i.e. Jeanine Tesori, Emma Rice, CubaOne Foundation, my colleagues in every capacity, the Fortune Society, strangers, etc. There’s a lot of great to admire in the universe.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Just keep being you! If you really want this more than anything else, keep going. Yes, mom, dad, and abuela would love if you chose a “profession” outside of the arts, but you know what you’ve got to do. Buckle up for rejection and a plethora of less-than-glamorous day jobs— it’s gonna be a bumpy ride. But don’t stop. Tuck away a letter of recommendation, an email, a note from someone you deeply admire and pull it out when times get tough. When you’re sitting in your crowded four-story walkup wondering what you’re doing with your life, look to these words and remember why.
This past year has been a lesson in persistence. While countless individuals sprinkled this into my consciousness before, it never really sank in until it finally did! It truly is worthwhile to apply twice, three times, even four times for an opportunity, group, or fellowship where you in your heart-of-hearts know you and your work belong. It’s all in the timing—and often these sorts of opportunities have different folks reading material year after year. I will tell you: this past year I was selected for two fellowships, which I applied to previously. One of them I actually applied to four times!
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I’m always singing.
Also: I believe in you.
***For more on Christina Quintana, see:
- Christina Quintana’s Personal Website
- “The Conversation of Resistance” – Christina Quintana (“Stages of Resistance” Blog Series, The Lark)
- “I Interview Playwrights Part 848: Christina Quintana” – Adam Szymkowicz
- “Soul History” – Christina Quintana (On Cuba Magazine)
- “Life is an Application” – Christina Quintana (Front Porch Journal)
- “A gripping take on the life of a homeless man” – Mark Lord (Queens Chronicle)
- Read Christina Quintana’s work at the New Play Exchange
- The Lark Featured Playwright: Christina Quintana