Name: Franky D. Gonzalez
Hometown: Queens, NY
Current Town: Dallas, TX and Los Angeles, CA
Affiliations: UNT, The Lark, Antaeus Playwrights Lab, Dallas Theater Center Playwrights Workshop, HBMG Foundation, and Bishop Arts Theatre Center
Q: How do you self-identify?
Q: Tell me about Paletas de Coco.
A: Paletas de Coco is an experimental play meant to travel across the country in search of my biological father, whom I have not seen since 2005. The play itself explores four different points in my life each occurring on Christmas Eve (specifically 2005, 2009, 2015, and 2019). I have worked to create both a version that I can play as a solo-show and a version that accommodates six performers. I wrote the first draft of the play over a 30-hour period in Los Angeles and have since been developing the text. I’m hoping to fine-tune both versions further through readings, development opportunities, and finding a partner organization or the funds necessary to produce this play. Time is of the essence. When I last saw my father he was in ill-health and suffering from lupus which has left him immunocompromised. The recent pandemic has made the chances of finding my father alive much lower—if he is still alive, of course.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I’m working to find a home for my play Even Flowers Bloom in Hell, Sometimes. The play is an examination of inmates within a system trying to discover meaning in the face of isolation and doubt in one’s own worth over a 25-year bid. I am also working on a much more light-hearted—but still socially conscious—play called Escobar’s Hippo. The play is an homage to the works of Eugène Ionesco (specifically the Berenger cycle). The play is about a hippo who tramples into a Colombian town and reveals the town’s powerlessness and even willingness to embrace becoming hippos whilst a group of friends try to resist the hippo any way they can.
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: There are so many. But most likely the most life changing moment came in in 2011 when I grew very ill. The doctor at the time brought up the possibility that it could be cancer, and it was like a wake-up call for me. Up until that moment, I had wanted to be “discovered,” and recognized by the theatre world for my talents, but when it felt like time was up, that’s when I started to self-produce, write more honestly, and begin the journey toward submitting my plays and really doing the work. Fortunately, I recovered, and the illness was not cancer. The second and third most significant events were meeting my mentors Doug Wright and Nassim Soleimanpour whose advice and feedback gave me the tools necessary to chase after my dreams. Other big events in my career were getting selected by the Great Plains Theatre Conference, Repertorio Español, and the Lark for their different contests. Most recently a very beautiful development in my playwriting journey was being invited to the Stages Sin Muros Latinx Theatre Festival and the HBMG Foundation’s National Winter Playwrights Retreat.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: My playwriting mentors have been Doug Wright, Nassim Soleimanpour, Brian Yorkey, and Kat Ramsburg. They all came into my life at various times and helped me take my writing to new heights and provided me opportunities that I never dreamed possible. I am forever grateful to them and hold them near and dear to my heart. In terms of heroes I have always admired the works of Stephen Adly Guirgis, William Shakespeare, Federico Garcia Lorca, Luigi Pirandello, María Irene Fornés, Bertolt Brecht, Sarah Kane, Yasmina Reza, Eugene O’Neill, Tawfiq al-Hakim, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Dominique Morisseau, Martyna Majok, Tadeusz Kantor, Fernando Arrabal, Molière, the solo shows of John Leguizamo, Stacey Rose, Charly Evon Simpson, the Absurdists Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Jean Genet, and Ionesco, the works of my mentors above, and so many Latinx playwrights that 50PP actually introduced me to on this site. They are too numerous to list. That’s how well-curated 50PP is as a site for great, new Latinx theatre.
Q: What advice do you have for Latinx playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Yours are stories worth telling. If it brings you to tears, it will bring others to tears. If it makes you laugh, others will laugh with you. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Do not fall for the trap that you must be constantly productive to be recognized. Your road is already hard enough, don’t place even more weight on yourself. Most importantly, you must never, ever forget that the act of creation is a miracle. All resources are finite in this world, but your creations are mined from that great place of mystery where the amount is unquantifiable, vastly untapped, and extremely hard to extract from that unknown land. You as a playwright are the builder of a vehicle which will provide not only a text, but jobs for a community, new worlds to explore, and make the impossible laughably probable. You’ve created something priceless, unique, and inimitable. If you write several plays a year, or only one play in your entire life, always remember that you have conjured magic, and created an alchemy where something was created from nothing. For that be proud of yourself. If nothing else, know that I’m proud of you.
Q: What else should we know about you?
***For more on Franky D. Gonzalez, see:
- “A Closer Look: Even Flowers Bloom in Hell, Sometimes” – Stacey Rose & Franky D. Gonzalez (The Lark Blog)
- “Project on Tyranny Part Three: Franky D. Gonzalez” – Christopher Reyes (The Lark Blog)
- “An Acceptance Letter” – Franky D. Gonzalez (The Lark Blog)
- “Crossroads Project to present winning play of the Diverse Voices Playwriting Initiative” – Kee-Yoon Nahm (Illinois State University)
- “Emerging Playwright: Franky D. Gonzalez” – The North Texan
- Review of My Dead Children at The Column
- Podcast on Even Flowers Bloom in Hell, Sometimes – Play4Keeps