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How about now?
By Caridad Svich
Where will US Latina/o theatre-makers be in 30 years? What will 2046 look like?
These two questions loomed large over the many, varied conversations sustained during the Latino Theatre Commons National Convening at Emerson College 31 October through 2 November 2013.
If indeed, as US population demographic studies predict, Latina/os in the US will be a majority in 2046, how, then, In effect, will our impact on culture be quantified?
I think it is safe to say that none of us will truly know where we will be in 30 years’ time, and, for that matter, know exactly what American theatre will look, sound, and move like. The subscription-based resident/regional theatre system is already in dire need of an overhaul, and our small teatros across the country are struggling just to make ends meet. I’d like to think that US stages, large and small, will reflect in an equitable, democratic manner the plurality of voices, peoples, genders and aesthetics of our cultural workers, and therein, of our population. It has taken more than twenty years for even a hair’s breadth of gender parity on our stages. Although I am optimistic by nature and want to believe that the troubles and struggles that many of our practitioners face now regarding issues of representation, visibility, equity, and fiscal sustainability will be eradicated, or at very least, substantially less cumbersome, I am wary of sounding a blaring trumpet at this stage in the game.
So, I think perhaps it best to not craft a grand vision for 2046, but rather, one for the immediate future.
What can we do now to better the lives of our fellow citizen-artists? What can we do now to strengthen the fragile eco-system of American theatre, of which US Latina/o theatre is a part?
Let’s not take on the world right now. Let’s just focus on what may be possible with a little ingenuity, hard work, resourcefulness, light and grace.
Could we imagine a shared stage writ large?
What would happen if ALL, and I mean, ALL of the US Latina/0 theatres in this country actually banded together to create shared programming, touring of productions and artistic exchange of new writing, classical work and works in translation?
Could we envision a season or two, or even three (or more, if we wanted to be grand about it), where Repertorio Espanol, INTAR, Pregones/PRTT, IATI, LATea, Nuyorican Poets Café, Borderlands, Milagro Theatre Group, Su Teatro, Teatro Dallas, Teatro Paraguas, Teatro del Pueblo, East LA Rep, Teatro Vista, Teatro Vision, Casa 101 (and more) all shared artists and resources and programming?
Could we call, if we were so disposed to play the celebrity angle, on Mariah Carey, J.Lo, Cameron Diaz, Shakira, Christina Aguilera, Salma Hayek, Eva Longoria, Sofia Vergara, Oscar Issac, Benicio del Toro, Andy Garcia, and Rita Moreno - artists whose combined net worth as a group is more than 700 million - to step it up, and actually produce/present a season or two across the country?
Could we make our own National Theatre, which already is in existence, albeit in pockets of isolation city to city, region to region, bountiful in its indigenity, mestizaje, and syncreticism as any other, and in so doing, actually turn the system upside down?
[Caridad Svich is a playwright and founder of NoPassport theatre alliance & press, which launches 30/30 – a US celebration of Latina/o theatre across the US this month. Visit: http://www.nopassport.org/3030-us-latinao-theatrenopassport-reading-scheme]
By Caridad Svich
This essay was written for the August 2013 issue of StageReads, where Archipelago is the featured play. It is reprinted here with the author's permission
An introduction by Stephen Wrentmore
Stephen Wrentmore is a theatre director, change consultant and the Associate Artistic Director at Arizona Theatre Company.
A casual conversation led to a casual inquiry
In cyberspace words were shared,
The virtual, led to paper and ink
That connection with words (let’s call it a script) led to travel.
Travel made new conversations, made real contact, a rehearsal room, a bar, food, conviviality.
This led to a spark of recognition.
“I will send you my new script,” she said. “It’s quite different.”
And so, virtually, I was introduced to the relentless beauty and eloquence of Archipelago. It glistens, like a body emerging from water, familiar and strange, public and private. A space of contradiction, of elegance and complexity, of seduction and alienation.
It is a glimpse at a dream become nightmare
It is love lost and love found
It is here and there
Other and home
It is him and her
It was love at first sight.
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latino Literature describes Caridad Svich as a playwright, songwriter, editor and translator. I would add essayist, teacher, academic and commentator to the list. Hamlet demands the player, “hold as ‘twere the mirror up to nature” and in so much of Caridad’s prolific career this has been the case. The Way of Water, set in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Spark, which explores soldiers’ homecoming from conflict. Then there are the adaptations of major novels of the Americas - The House of the Spirits, Love in the Time of Cholera, In the Time of Butterflies - and translations of pretty much the complete works of Lorca. These are just a few examples from a huge list that form a body of extraordinary and evolutionary work.
Like the great writers who went before her, Svich is interested in the bigger, deeper themes concerning what it means to be human, the world we live in and why, ultimately, we do what we do. Her prose is expressed in conflict and in love. In tension and in harmony. I see in her work the bloodline of the classics: there is Sophocles and Lorca, Shakespeare and Lope De Vega. Glancing at any page in the script you will see swathes of white space around short, precise, fathomless interchanges. Archipelago sent me back to Caryl Churchill’s Far Away, which I directed a few years ago, and it took me to a night at the National Theatre in London when I was very young, seeing Harold Pinter’s Mountain Language, and to the works of Beckett and his love for language and for the actor. In Archipelago I see the same deftness of touch, and the accuracy of the writer’s blade as it cut flesh and prejudice. These are the true parents of this play. The piece is poetic.
It suggests but shows no interest in answers.
Questions lead to questions.
It is willfully complex and achingly simple.
Look closely, it is not a flat surface, like the desert is not all sand…
There is an extraordinary sense of wanderlust in the narrative of Caridad Svich’s life that infuses the narratives of her plays. Born in Philadelphia to a Cuban-Spanish mother and Argentine-Croatian father, her formative years were spent gazing at the passing miles of late 1960s America as the family Chevy carried west then east then west then east, metronomically across the States from a home in New Jersey to Utah, Florida, California and New York. The tapestry of language and the tapestry of experience binding the Balkans to the Americas both north and south has had a profound impact on her, and that complexity is woven into her texts, her storytelling, and her adaptations.
Then think of the worlds that Caridad’s parents left behind.
Think how those worlds conjure stories.
Stories interwoven across multiple languages that were sung and spoken as the miles rolled by. Then later recalled as each stroke of the pen, each click of the keyboard pulls forth a ghost from this past and confronts the future in a pattern across the page.
I wanted to tell her everything about everything
About armed soldiers patrolling the streets
Roads cut off by barbed wire and concrete
And bayonets fixed to barrels and brothers dead in prison
and planes overhead and the swift crack of rifles…
Scene 10, Archipelago
From this place of transience has come an ability to observe and absorb, then reshape and express the ever changing ever more complex world around us. Caridad is interested in diversity of landscape, of people, and of the topography and geography of their experience. She creates continents for her characters and maps for the audience to trace their finger across as her situations and characters unfold. As a result one can start to see global themes emerging from her work: ideas of exile, migration, loss and loneliness – perhaps of isolation and the gossamer tethers that tie us all together. The personal political and the public, global political are played out on the landscape of the body. Humanized and tortured, erotic and profound.
We dreamed of candles and tea and soup and lemons
Figs and cherries and blossoms at springtime
We whispered little songs to each other, and surrendered our pride
Scene 6. Archipelago
Caridad Svich in Archipelago creates for us a dystopian world, and in the middle of that world she places love. Caridad plays with our knowledge of things, our prejudice, and our curiosity. For all that is NOT there, we find clues and tethers to hook our imagination. There are fingerholds and pitons to help us climb, to show us what MIGHT be there. Our job is to push through the veil of naturalism to the realm of our own imagination, to partake of the journey. A journey with a nameless boy and a nameless girl of an age, of any age, in a place that might be home and might be foreign, where time moves in many directions.
The play is set nowhere. It might be South America and a large metropolitan city in the United States; it might be the Middle East and America. What we discover are two people. One from there, one from here (wherever there and here are). One is always the other, one is always the outsider. Despite its worldliness it is an empty space. For all that happens around and to our Adam and Eve they never meet or connect with another voice. Instead they are connected to and divorced from each other. From the sound of the landscape, the ebb and flow of the ocean and the inevitable passing of time.
To define the play is to miss the point. It is not interested in solidity, and so, perhaps we might describe it as a memory play. And indeed, in the same way as your memory plays tricks with you, so too does the playwright. It seems an act of utter futility to try and describe a play that, like the roads of Caridad’s youth, lies before you to explore and interpret for yourself.
So, what’s the play about?
I would say, “About 90 minutes.”
NoPassport Five Week Playwriting Intensive with Caridad Svich:
Sustaining a Daily Practice and Generating a New Play
January 21-February 25, 2013 (via email)
This playwriting course via email will focus on sustaining a daily practice as a dramatist,
the creation of character and landscape sketches and dramatic scenes as a method
toward the exploration and creation of a new work (long form one act or full length).
The course will involve writing, some required, assigned reading and peer response.
Bio: Caridad Svich is a playwright, translator, editor and educator. She received a 2012 OBIE for Lifetime Achievement and the 2011 Primus Prize from the American Theatre Critics Association. She is founder of NoPassport theatre alliance & press. Website: http://www.caridadsvich.com
Enquiries to email@example.com
Total Cost: $125.00
Payable directly via credit card to Instructor c/o fiscal sponsor at http://www.fracturedatlas.org/donate/2623
Class Limit: 14.
University of Pittsburgh
Directed by Lisa Jackson-Schebetta
November 12, 2012
DNAWORKS and Teatro Paraguas in Partnersip with the Sante Fe Art Instutitue and the Performing Arts Conservatory of the Southwest, Sante Fe, NM
November 14, 2012
Conservatory of Theatre Arts, Webster University, St. Louis
November 20, 2012
Directed by Michael Fling
by Michael Fling
When I first received the draft of Spark, I was immediately nervous. Such contemporary pieces are not really my forte, and the topic of veterans returning home was not something I knew firsthand. However, at the core, Spark’s story is about family, and I’m a sucker for a good family drama. As the actors and I began to explore the text, we found how natural the dialogue was and how deeply we could go with the language. Since we did minimal staging, it was a treat for us to dive into the text and see how much we could bring out in the words. Because of this process, I felt liberated as a director and I really loved being able to share our finished product. However, it was the audience response that really made all of the work worthwhile. We were fortunate enough to have a group of female veterans attend the performance. After the reading, they walked up to our actors with tears in their eyes, with nothing but positive things to say about the play and our work and how important is was to them. Their reaction is what I’ll take away from the reading. At the end of the day, sharing veterans’ stories and their struggles proved more important to me than worrying about more elaborate staging or more perfectly crafted moments. As one of our audience members pointed out, “It’s refreshing to hear a story about war focused on female relationships and the personal sacrificing of families during and post war time.” We were grateful for the opportunity to participate in a project that allowed us to illuminate such stories and such heroes.
Michael Fling is currently a Sophomore in the Directing program at Webster University's Conservatory of Theatre Arts. Some of his favorite directing credits include Into the Woods (Webster), The Music Man and Seussical (Brook Fine Arts) as well as assistant directing A Gnome for Christmas at The Repertory Theatre of St Louis. Michael also has extensive acting credits including Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing, Antipholus of Ephesus in The Comedy of Errors, The Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland, and Lt. Frank Cioffi in Curtains. Michael is continually thankful to his friends and family for their unending support and love.
University of California-Santa Barbara
November 12, 2012
Directed by Kellyn Johnson, producer/dramaturg: Jackie Viskup
by Kane Anderson
Atomic Age Theatre and Emerson College, Boston, MA
October 30, 2012
Directed by Noelle Vinas
by Noelle Vinas