Name: Monet Hurst-Mendoza
Hometown: Pasadena, CA
Current Town: New York, NY
Affiliations: Rising Circle Theater Collective (INKtank/PlayRISE alum and current co-facilitator), New Dramatists (Van Lier Fellow 2016-2018), The Civilians R & Group (2017-2018), The Public Theater (EWG 2017), WP Theater (Playwrights Lab 2014-2016)
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: Bi-racial; Mexican-American and Caucasian
Q: Tell me about Torera.
A: Torera is my most recent full-length play that I began writing while in the Emerging Writers Group at The Public Theater. It follows the journey of a young girl, Elena, and her best friend, Tanok, as they both dream of becoming/prepare to be world famous matadors in present-day Mexico. Tanok and Elena come from different social statuses—he’s the son of a famous rejoneador and she’s the niñera’s daughter—but their friendship is iron-clad. Torera is a complicated and layered family play that examines gender, class, legacy, and tradition, all through the lens of this controversial sport. It was a finalist for the 2018 O’Neill Playwrights Conference and for the 2018 Artemisia Fall Festival in Chicago. This past June, Westport Country Playhouse hosted a 2-day workshop of the play as part of their New Works Circle, which taught me so much about the trajectory of the piece.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I’m about to go on a 9-day silent playwriting retreat led by Erik Ehn in Texas Hill Country. The intent for me is to generate a new play there from scratch. The participating writers will be given prompts to help jumpstart the process, and we’ll work away in total silence without internet or cell phones to distract us—just the writers and the work. I’m a little nervous and excited about the silence, but it’ll feel so nice to unplug!
I also writing a play cycle about working-class women in Yucatán, Mexico (where my family is from). There are currently two plays in the cycle, Lilia and Torera, and the beginnings of a third that is currently untitled. Each play takes place in a different town or city across the state—so far I have plays set in Sotuta, Celestún, and Mérida.
Lastly, Matthew Paul Olmos and I are writing a play about gentrification and the current rezoning of East Harlem with The Amoralists. We developed an early draft this past spring through The Civilians R & D Group.
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: I think the most defining moments were the ones where someone said “yes” to me; gave me access; was kind to me; and welcomed me as an equal in this world. I think this extends beyond playwriting—especially in our current climate—but looking back, once someone gives you space to occupy, you can really spread your wings and fly.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: Every playwright out there hustling is my hero. I’ve met so many wonderful and inspiring theatre artists as an emerging writer in New York that it’s hard not to name them all, but I’ll give you a small sampling for the moment. The people whose work inspired me to write in the first place: María Irene Fornés, Migdalia Cruz, Mac Wellman, Sarah Kane, Katori Hall, Naomi Iizuka, Young Jean Lee, José Rivera, Nilo Cruz, Dominique Morisseau, Molly B. Rice, David Weiner, and Kathryn Walat. The playwrights who keep me going: Andrew Rincón, Donja R. Love, C.A. Johnson, Christina Quintana, Charly Evon Simpson, Raquel Almazan, Cherry Lou Sy, Deepa Purohit, Keelay Gipson, Ray Yamanouchi, Liz Morgan, Mia Chung, Ione Lloyd, Daaimah Mubashshir, Mfoniso Udofia, Kate Cortesi, Madeleine George, Stefanie Zadravec, Mariana Carreño King, my EWG crew, every INKtank class ever—the list goes on and on! Seriously. Hit me up if you need producing (or reading) suggestions 🙂
Q: What advice do you have for Latin@ playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Find your tribe. Create work. Make your own work. Produce your own work. See plays. Read plays. Go to museums. Read books that aren’t plays. Travel. Live life so that you can write about it.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: At any given time, there is an average of 6-9 different kinds of hot sauce in my house and they are all used on specific foods.
The Creative Process by James Baldwin is required reading.
***For more on Monet Hurst-Mendoza, see:
- “Interview: Q&A with VEIL’D Playwright, Monet Hurst-Mendoza” – Jesse Marchese (APAC)
- “Interview with Monet Hurst-Mendoza” – Cherry Lou Sy (The Brooklyn Review)
- Erik Ehn’s Code of Silence
- Rising Circle Theater Collective