From the soul to the stage

Being who I am haunts me as an individual, citizen and professional.  I am a Puerto Rican playwright and educator.  I was born on that gorgeous and magical, but beaten down and colonized, island in the Caribbean.  I often joke that being Puerto Rican is karmic, and you cannot possibly understand what it is to be it unless you are it.  It comes with great culture and sense of humor but a tragic history that today we are trying to change more than ever if we want to continue to exist.  But I have also lived more than half my life in New York.  So I belong to that group that is forced by circumstances to cross the Bermuda Triangle almost every other month.  No fear there.  Right now, there are scarier things ahead of us:  the constant battle of proving who we are to certain individuals and institutions that do not necessarily want us to belong. But without a doubt we still exist both here and there, whatever that means. 

I began writing plays because I did not like the characters I was playing as an actor.  I thought being Puerto Rican was a lot more complicated than eating rice and beans and missing the coqui.  And at the same time I was teaching in order to pay my bills.  I was not teaching acting or theater but ESL.  I was helping my students learn the English language by using theater and acting, and it worked.  All of a sudden my playwriting and teaching were intertwined.  My students were writing dialogues, and memorizing them, in order to learn, while professional actors were performing my plays in theaters.  And many of these plays were inspired by the lives of my students.

Our battle to survive as a country and people has been my biggest inspiration for writing plays.  Borinquen vive en El Barrio, Agria...Tierra...Dulce, Mi ultima noche con Ruben Blades, Memoria de un final and Snake Island are all stories about the complexity of our Puerto Rican identity and struggle. But my commitment to education also inspires me to write about other issues that must be addressed in our communities. Chain Reaction, Nihonjin Face, I Want You By My Side and ...and there’s always the stars... were all written to create awareness and call for action. 

So I love both writing and teaching.  And I don’t think they can exist without each other.