Name: Nelson Diaz-Marcano
Hometown: Gurabo, PR
Current Town: Astoria, NY
Affiliations: Stony Brook University, Strike 38! Productions
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: That’s a loaded question to ask a Puerto Rican in these times, haha. I identify myself as Boricua, because that was the name we gave ourselves and the real name of our island. A Boricua is part of the Latino community which extends through most of America. I’m proud of being part of that community through my Boricua lineage.
Q: Tell me about The Diplomats.
A: The Diplomats was a reaction to the 2016 election and what I have been experiencing as part of this society. In the last few years I have grown to be obsessive about developing and have spent too much time working on that instead of writing. The Diplomats was done in two sittings. It poured out of me because I sincerely couldn’t hold it in. This is not an anti-Trump play or anti-Hillary. The play is about what’s exposed once you don’t have a crutch or idol. I thought it was the only way to talk about this, by letting these people be people and not partisan mouths. Just three friends that couldn’t hide from each other even if they tried. It is directed by the wonderful Blayze Teicher for the Fresh Fruit Festival, which I’m thrilled about. It will be going up on July 12, 15 and 16, be sure to catch it!
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I have been working on a play about the Puerto Rican relationship with the US that spans the first 100 years of our history through the eyes of one man. I have had a few readings and the feedback on this last draft has been great. Definitely an important project for me. Besides that, I have a few new plays coming up which range from an exploration of Native Americans in our current landscape, to a crazy adventure kid’s play featuring a small Latina warrior and the Mayan Gods.
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: Three years ago I used to produce events every few months as a producer named Strike 38! while I also was building my playwright career. I pushed myself to the limit and I pushed people away in my life until one day I realized I felt empty. I was not finding joy in writing because I was constantly having to share it with event planning (both extracurricular since I do have another job.) So I burned out and walked away as I was starting to see great results. That failure, that struggle would become essential three years later when I decided to try again and focus on my craft. I went on to win the Downtown Urban Arts Festival 2016 for Best Play. Both moments were defining, but I consider the failure so much more important. Without it I would have never respected my craft as much as I do now.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: A class with Dr. Jonathan Levy changed me from an actor to a playwright while I attended Stony Brook University. He introduced me into this world and gave me an idea of how to grow.
The work of Albee, Wilson and Adly Guirgis are highly influential to me, as much as the ingenuity of Orson Welles’ portfolio.
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Don’t be afraid of using your own rhythm, having your own style, and letting your culture inspire you. Each of our cultures and societies are different, and that’s what makes us such a unique community. Let that show!
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I’m an avid film enthusiast and have been a shameless geek since I was a child. Other than that, just recently married, looking to move so we can have a dog and spend my days researching history so I can raise awareness and help in any way I can.
***For more on Nelson Diaz-Marcano, see:
- Follow Nelson Diaz-Marcano on Facebook
- Nelson Diaz-Marcano’s personal website
- Nelson Diaz-Marcano at New Play Exchange
- “Spotlight On…Nelson Diaz-Marcano” – Theater in the Now
- Downtown Urban Arts Festival Feature on Nelson Diaz-Marcano
- Check out The Diplomats at the Fresh Fruit Festival
- “Source Festival: ‘Rites of Passage,’ Reviewed” – Sophia Bushong (Washington City Paper)
- Review of Nelson Diaz-Marcano’s The Cliff – Steven McKnight (DC Theatre Scene)
- “Puerto Rico, Representation, and Activism in the Theater” – Aria Chiodo (The Mantle)