Thursday, June 7, 2012

Report: HOLA After The Curtain/HOLA Después Del Telón for CHIMICHANGAS AND ZOLOFT

On Wednesday, June 6, 2012, the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA) hosted another installment of its HOLA After The Curtain/HOLA Después Del Telón series of post-performance discussions in conjunction with the Atlantic Theater Company (ATC) production of the play Chimichangas and Zoloft. The event, moderated by bilingual multimedia journalist José Bayona, was held immediately after the performance, which took place at the theater's Stage 2 space.

Participants included playwright Fernanda Coppel; director (and ATC Artistic Associate) Jaime Castañeda; and cast members Zabryna Guevara, Carmen Zilles, Xochitl Romero, Alfredo Narciso and Teddy Cáñez.

Bayona led the discussion in which Coppel admitted that she had never thought of actually writing the play. At the time of the play's genesis, she had been in graduate school under the tutelage of Marsha Norman. Norman gave her an assignment: write 10 pages of a play you would never write. The play that she would never write became Chimichangas and Zoloft. The play was developed at the Pregones and Atlantic Theater companies, where it won the Asunción Queer Latino Festival at the former.

Director Castañeda spoke on the challenges of getting a play like Chimichangas and Zoloft produced, with its widely diverging themes (from LGBTQ issues to prescription drug abuse to depression to growing up middle class Latino in Los Angeles) as well as how does one pitch a play that has an all-Latino cast, a Latino playwright (and director) to a theater with the aim of reaching a general audience.

Other points echoed by the actors is the rarity of doing an all-Latino theater production (playwright, director, cast) in a theater that is not specifically Latino in scope and how comforting it was to do so. Also, for two of the actors who did an earlier reading of the play, it was fascinating for them to revisit a familiar character after years away and to see what new things can be brought to a character with added life experience of the actor portraying him/her.  In her off-Broadway debut, Coppel admitted that this play is her first comedy and the first time she created male characters.

Narciso remarked that he makes instinctual choices when doing the first reading of a play in rehearsal, and then breaks down and puts together the character he is portraying in many forms before ultimately going back to his original ideas about the character, a point echoed by the other actors in the play. Guevara added that since almost all of her scenes are monologues directly addressed to the audience, she often felt as if she were in the trouble or the principal's office when she went to rehearsal with director Castañeda (usually by herself). 

The conversation wrapped with several panelists remarking on how great it was to be playing American Latino characters where being Latino wasn't their primary characteristic. The characters just happened to be Latino with very universal, human experiences.

Special thanks to all the participants and the staff of Atlantic Theater Company (including Courtney Kochuba, Ryan Pointer, Sam Horvath and Jenni Dickson) for helping make this event a successful one.

To see more photos of the event, click here.

Photo credits: Anthony Ruiz/ARuiz Photography.

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