q u e r e n c i a: an imagined autobiography about forbidden fruits

Running time: TBD

Milo's favorite fruit are bananas; also, he just turned 13 and is grappling with his sexual identity. If that weren’t complicated enough, his estranged aunt has just been released from jail and the gym class bully has picked him as the new target. Having never left his neighborhood in L.A., he dreams about what it would be like to escape–but in the meantime, at least he has his neighbor Zoe, who has sworn to be his BFF with a drop of blood. And, in their world, blood is supposed to be the strongest bond.

Part of the series: The Construction Zone

eseteatro eSe Teatro empowers local Latino artists to create, produce, and present professional theatre in English, Spanish, bilingual, and Spanglish. We strive for inclusion and self definition of our artists, representing "all the colors in the rainbow of brown" to educate audiences about the many expressions of our Latinidad in the U.S. eSe employs artists and provides them a high visibility professional platform within Seattle mainstream theatre. Our strong social component brings theatre to under-served Latino communities such as monolingual, low-income, homeless, and at-risk youth audiences. For more information on eSe Teatro, visit their website at eseteatro.org and Facebook at www.facebook.com/eSeTeatro .

Find out more about eSe Teatro's artistic director, Rose Cano, in this article by The Seattle Times (English) and in an article recently published in both English and Spanish on LaRazaNW.com. Read about Latino artists and the Latino theatre scene on HowlRound.

Pilar O'Connell is a director and performer from Santa Fe, New Mexico. She graduated from Cornish College of the Arts in 2012. Locally she has worked with Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Shakespeare Company, Wooden O, Sandbox Collective, The Icicle Creek New Play Festival, eSe Teatro, ACTLab, Seattle Public Theatre, Forward Flux Productions, 14/48 Projects, Annex Theatre, Theater Schmeater, Live Girls, and Playing in Progress. She is the Producing Casting Director for Forward Flux and is especially interested in working with women and artists of color.  She is incredibly grateful to Benjamin Benne for writing incredible plays and letting her work on them.

CZ_2017_Benjamin_BenneBenjamin Benne is a 2017 Robert Chesley/Victor Bumbalo Playwriting Award winner, a 2017-18 McKnight Fellow in Playwriting at the Playwrights' Center, and was previously a 2016-17 Many Voices Fellow. His plays include a mortality-themed trilogy: Terra Incognita, At the Very Bottom of a Body of Water, and What\Washed Ashore/Astray. His work has been produced and/or developed with The Lark's Playwrights' Week (NY), Two River Theater (NJ), Pillsbury House Theatre (MN), Annex Theatre (WA), Forward Flux Productions (WA), Parley (WA), Umbrella Project (WA), and Seattle Repertory Theatre (WA), among others. Additionally, his plays have been finalists for the Princess Grace Award, O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, Headwaters New Play Festival, and Austin Playhouse's Festival of New American Plays, as well as the runner-up for the National Latino Playwriting Award and semi-finalist for the Blue Ink Playwriting Award. He is a queer Jewtino of Guatemalan heritage, who was born and raised in Los Angeles County but currently resides in Minneapolis, MN.

Rose Cano, Artistic Director of eSe Teatro, reached out to Benjamin Benne, playwright of Querencia, for a brief Q&A about his work. As the national movement vehemently updates the landscape and narrative of Latino (o/a/x) theatre, from the corner in the PNW eSe Teatro believes in making important contributions to that narrative and to the "American" Theatre.

 

If you have never had a play produced in Seattle, what are your ideas about the Latino theatre scene in Seattle/Norhtwest in terms of opportunities for Latino artists?  If you have had your work produced here in Seattle (or the Northwest), do you feel that there is sufficient Latino talent to do your work?  Was/ is there enough audience and cultural context?

As a Latino playwright, I have been produced in Seattle and I believe the talent is here. Unfortunately, the visibility is not. I hear new names of Latino/a/x artists all the time that I'd never heard before—and, sadly, I'm not familiar with their work. How do we band together to make sure that we in this community are aware of each other and each other's work so that we can advocate for one another and raise collective visibility? I worry more about our visibility in the theater community and industry than with audiences. It seems to me that audiences are more accepting and progressive as consumers than most theater organizations are as producers. I've learned that audiences are much more sophisticated than we give them credit for; it's a disservice to assume that the audience won't understand. The real challenge is getting our work on stage in the first place.

Do you consider the work produced in this area to be part of a national Latin theatre movement or existing on its own?

Currently, I believe the Seattle theater community lives in a bubble. The work being done here doesn't have much national visibility and I think that's in large part because of how conservative the large companies are. The "new plays" that get done here were in NYC and Chicago 2 or 3 seasons ago. There seems to be a lack of awareness in terms of the theater makers who are at the forefront of the industry nationally, as well as low investment in amplifying the voices of local artists. It seems this may be beginning to change, but the most exciting work in this city is still being done by small companies and advocacy groups that don't get as much funding or have institutional support.

Do you feel that Latino theatre artists in Seattle and the NW are respected nationally and considered part of a bigger movement?

We have some fantastic Latino/a/x voices are/were here in the Seattle community! For example, Meme Garcia is on a Fulbright in London, Roy Arauz is now the AD at Milagro in Portland, Pilar O'Connell has gone from actor to making a splash as a director, Arlene Martinez is Education Director at Seattle Rep while continuing to direct, and Ana Maria Campoy has done translation, teaching artist work, and producing all around town. Many of these developments have only occurred within the past year (or two) so I'm hoping to see them all get the appreciation they deserve from the Seattle theater community at large.

What are your hopes and dreams for this region in terms of the theatrical landscape?

My hopes and dreams for this community is that the wonderful Latino/a/x artists here get more support and have more opportunities to really show what they are capable of. There has been a recent trend of more diverse work making its way onto stages -- in the realm of Latino work, I heard about how spectacular the production of LYDIA was from all the way where I am currently in the Midwest. And there have been more bilingual productions in the past year -- so I want to see Latino/a/x stories and artists getting onto Seattle stages, not just as a trend, but as a regular and consistent practice.