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Edwin Sanchez on art-making for 30/30: US Latin@/NoPassport reading scheme

Edwin Sanchez talks art-making for 30/30: US Latin@/NoPassport’s reading scheme


[Edwin Sanchez’s play La Bella Familia is part of the 30/30 US Latin@/NoPassport reading scheme. The same interview questions have been sent to each playwright taking part in the scheme by Caridad Svich.]

Caridad Svich: a false (i think) divide has been erected in some art-making circles between what is called "devised" work and "text-based or text-driven" work. how do deal with the positioning of your work, if at all?


EDWIN SANCHEZ:  I jump from one medium to the next.  Plays, film scripts, I just finished my first novel.

CARIDAD SVICH: how do you negotiate the very real diving lines that get drawn, quite arbitrarily, and quite often, in our field in regard to art-making and its role in culture?

EDWIN SANCHEZ: I simply ignore these lines.  Who’s making them up?  Who’s deciding "better like this, better like that" "this is art, this is not art" I think to pay attention to this is to take away time from your work.  At the end of the day it is about writing the best and most honest work you can.  One’s voice can grow and change with time but it shouldn’t be
beholden to what’s trending at the moment.

CARIDAD SVICH: as a playwright, how do you devise your own process? dramatic project (life goals as artist)?and how do you wish to live as artist in and with engagement in local
and global dialogue with citizens and artists? and are there lessons you've learned you wish to impart to fellows in the field and elsewhere? or lessons you are still learning that impact the kind of work you make or think about making?

EDWIN SANCHEZ: When I’m working on something I try to write ten pages a day, in long hand.  I let it wander a bit, let it find where it feels right to me.  And I’m always watching people.  Moments of theatre are happening all around us, all the time.  I’ve learned so many things as a writer, that sometimes even when you aren’t physically writing, you are writing. 
That it’s sometimes hard for people to get that you’re writing when it just seems to them that you are staring into space or nodding your head.  And that sometimes you have to push yourself to write.  As to the kind of work I want to write it is always, for me, character driven. That’s what fascinates me.  That, and I always have a question I hope to answer by the time I finish the piece.

CARIDAD SVICH: when you see/hear/read the phrase "US Latin@," what does it make you think of? what is your relationship to being of or part of (or not) a US Latin@ context in your art-making or thinking about art?

EDWIN SANCHEZ: It makes me think of a community of writers.  To some it may seem as a way to put us all in a neat little box, and I think it has been used to do that, but I also know that when I’ve participated in events with other Latin writers I feel very proud and happy to be in their company.

CARIDAD SVICH: what do you do when someone says to you "we don't have culturally specific actors in my town, so we can't even look at your play, even if we were to deeply admire or want to put this story on stage?' what do you say to potential collaborators and casting directors about the nature of how to cast your show and how casting can carry its own
political power?

EDWIN SANCHEZ: I’m very much in favor of color blind casting in as many instances as possible, but some characters are written with a culturally specific character and to ignore that is to not fully realize the work.  I’ve faced, many times, places that will say "we just don’t have Latino actors", what I find it usually means is "we’ve never had any come to any audition so we don’t know of any"  Perhaps the reason they don’t come is that they don’t think they’ll be considered for a role that isn’t Latino.  I was very proud that after a theatre had done a play of mine, with four Latino actors (all of which had to be brought in from out of town) they cast one of the actresses in their upcoming Shakespearean play.  Would they have even have thought of using a Latin before this?  I don’t know.  I know that they were impressed with the quality of the acting and at the end of the day that’s what matters.  One more anecdote, some years ago a theatre did a reading of ICARUS, a play of mine, in Los Angeles.  Apparently it went very well because they wanted to do a full production.  However the two leads, which were very specifically Latino characters, were read by two non Latino actors.  Very well know actors, and very talented.  When I informed the theatre that I really could only have Latino actors in those roles we reached an impasse and the production fell through.  One of the reasons I became a writer was because I didn’t see myself or people like me on stage, so that is very important to me.  I have seen Latino actors/actresses give performances that have blown me away, so I have to and want to honor their craft and talent and be a part of their journey.

CARIDAD SVICH: it goes without saying that we live in a multi-lingual world. do you think our US stages (to keep the dialogue national for the moment) need reflect this? if so, how? and in your work, how do you address multi-linguality and hybrid aesthetics, if at all?

EDWIN SANCHEZ: Honestly no.  I don’t do much in my work, but I have seen and read others who do it beautifully and seamlessly.

CARIDAD SVICH: as a writer/maker for/of live performance, what is thrilling to you still about the form - this old weird creaky thing we call theatre - and why?

EDWIN SANCHEZ: The fact that it happens while we are all breathing at the same time. Film is beautiful, but the actors are on celluloid and what you see is what the next audience will see, and the next and the next and world without end. But theatre, is happening as we breathe.  The moment when the audience falls silent, when it gasps or laughs is this communal
experience that is unlike any other.  The fact that each performance is slightly different from any other.  That’s magic.

CARIDAD SVICH: what ideas have you when you make work or are in the process of putting it out there about how to and ways you can create connection with your audience(S) beyond the work itself, for example?

EDWIN SANCHEZ: When Hartford Stage did my play DIOSA, they very specifically hired a separate Public Relations person to do outreach to the Latino community.  It worked.  Like gangbusters.  DIOSA became their second biggest money maker of the year (after Christmas Carol, and nothing beats that!)  What I noticed was that whole families came.  That’s important.  Have parents and their kids come and afterwards engage them in a dialogue about the play.  Sometimes people feel that "art" or "theatre" is going to be something they won’t understand.  Encourage them to talk about what they saw.  There are no right or wrong answers if they are being honest about what they saw.

CARIDAD SVICH: what's inspiring you these days? and/or what's troubling you these days?

EDWIN SANCHEZ: Without question, teaching is inspiring me as a writer.  I teach at ESPA at Primary Stages in New York and I’ve had some really amazing students.  Their talent is both humbling and exciting.  What’s troubling me?  I want to see more of us, in every medium.