Ep 17: The Brujx of Theater (Feat. Luis Alfaro and Alexis Scheer)

Alexis Scheer and Luis Alfaro

Every week, culture critics Diep Tran and Jose Solís bring a POC perspective to the performing arts with their Token Theatre Friends podcast and video series. The show can be found on SpotifyiTunesStitcher, and YouTube. You can listen to episodes from the previous version of the podcast here but to get new episodes, you will need to resubscribe to our new podcast feed (look for the all-red logo).

This week the Friends experienced two shows. One was an immersive play for one person for Portaleza by David Israel Reynoso/Optika Moderna, presented by La Jolla Playhouse. The prompt is: Send a message to a person in your life who has died. It’s supernatural and kind of sci-fi. Then they review something more high-budget but also similarly technical: Romantics Anonymous, a new musical from Emma Rice, Christopher Dimond, and Michael Kooman. It was live-streamed straight from London’s Old Vic Theatre and it was fully staged! The musical is about two socially awkward chocolate makers who fall in love. What do the Brits know that we don’t about beating COVID and getting theater back?

This week’s guests are playwrights Luis Alfaro (Mojada, Oedipus El Rey) and Alexis Scheer (Our Dear Dead Drug Lord), in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. The two playwrights talk about theater as alchemy and magic, and how to find your voice as a writer, even when that voice is weirder than everyone around you.

Here are links to the things discussed this episode.

  • Portaleza by David Israel Reynoso/Optika Moderna, presented by La Jolla Playhouse
  • Romantics Anonymous, a new musical from Emma Rice, Christopher Dimond, and Michael Kooman
  • This Los Angeles Times piece about Luis Alfaro and Mojada, his riff on Medea.
  • This Q&A with Alexis Scheer about the weekly book club she’s hosting with SpeakEasy Stage Company.
  • You can read Alfaro’s plays in a new anthology called: The Greek Trilogy of Luis Alfaro: Electricidad; Oedipus El Rey; Mojada.
  • This week’s Patreon shoutout: Diana Burbano, who’s gathering monologues for a Zoom reading series she’s producing called Breath of Fire, with Latina Theater Ensemble in collaboration with Protest Play Project. If you’re a Latinx writer, you can submit your original monologues here.

The transcript for this episode is below.

Diep:
Did you watch the debates?

Jose:
God no. I cannot deal with it. Not right now.

Diep:
I was in a bad place because my parents were watching it on the living room TV and Vietnamese because there was live translation. And, like live dubbing, like Vietnamese dubbing of their voices. And my niece, my nephew are watching in the dining room in English.

Jose:
Why didn’t you put headphones on just go somewhere else? Does he sound does he sound less horrible in Vietnamese?

Diep:
Yes, yeah.

Jose:
Cuz his voice, his actual voice is just like, it just gives me like a migraine. It’s terrible. It’s a match. Like someone who sounds like him?

Diep:
No, no, it was just one guy translating all three of them: him, Biden, and Wallace. Chris Wallace. Yeah. And he just got so frustrated and was like, “Guys, I’m sorry. I can’t translate right now because they keep interrupting each other.”

Jose:
Well, yeah, that sounds like a nightmare. Like why are they letting a bunch of old white men decide everyone’s future?

Diep:
Why did they not let a woman moderate? I feel like any woman who’s not Megyn Kelly could shut Trump down really quickly.

Jose:
Get a black woman to yell at him. Get that professor from the town hall from a few weeks ago. Remember? Who was like, stop, sir. I’m gonna fucking ask my question. And you’re gonna shut up you motherfucker. Because like that motherfucker needs to shut up, someone needs to tell him to shut up. Yeah.

Diep:
Biden told him to shut up.

Jose:
Did he call him a motherfucker though?

Diep:
He called him a clown.

Jose:
That’s very bold for Biden, I guess.

Diep:
I know, I think he fought well. Especially cuz because he has a stutter. And it’s really hard to.

Jose:
He’s also smart. He also has a brain. It’s just like, so ridiculous that I don’t even know. Let’s just do this. Otherwise, my hair’s just gonna turn gray.

Diep:
Hi, this is Diep Tran

Jose:
I’m Jose Solis.

Diep:
And we’re your Token Theatre Friends, people who love theater so much that I figured out how to live cast from my iPad to a big screen TV. And I’m very proud of myself, because then I got to watch theater on an actual TV.

Jose:
Without an Apple TV?

Diep:
Yeah.

Jose:
That sounds fancy.

Diep:
I recommend getting an Apple TV.

Jose:
Oh, I mean, I have one. Yeah.

Diep:
Do you know how to do that?

Jose:
How to send stuff from my computer or my phone or my iPad to the Apple TV? Yeah, that’s how I’ve been watching all my stuff. I thought you meant without an Apple TV.

Diep:
No with an Apple TV. Sorry. My parents have an Apple TV. I don’t have an Apple TV because I don’t really watch TV in my house.

Jose:
I have an old one, do you want it? Like, it’s just like, in my drawer.

Diep:
Really, you’ll give me an Apple TV?

Jose:
I mean, yeah, if you want it like, I have an old one. I bought a new one. So if you want to, like we can arrange that after.

Diep:
Great. I’ll make you cookies.

Jose:
Okay, no worries. I mean, you’re like in California, for a month.

Diep:
And what did we watch this week that we had to cast on a giant TV, Jose?

Jose:
Well, actually only one of the shows we had to cast on an Apple TV or something. It was Romantics Anonymous by Kneehigh productions at the Old Vic. And the other show we actually had to experience in a little cardboard box and that was Portaleza from the La Jolla Playhouse.

Diep:
And we also have an interview for you this week with two people. Jose organize this because in case you don’t know it is Latinx Heritage Month?

Jose:
Hispanic Heritage Month but Latinx sounds better. Viva los tacos and viva los Latinos, and viva, I don’t know, Latina America. Yay, everyone. You’re in California, that’s like the land of Hispanic heritage in the US, right?

Diep:
Oh, yes. We have the best tacos, don’t come for me Texas.

Jose:
It’s true. I mean, yeah, they can’t. Texas also always vote Republican. So they cannot compete in more than one way. And to celebrate that we are going to talk, well we actually talked to two of the most prominent Latinx playwrights working right now. Alexis Scheer, who you know from Our Dear Dead Drug Lord and Luis Alfaro, who you will know recently from Mojada. But he does a lot of Greek adaptations. His Electricidad was really, really, really wonderful.

Diep:
And it’s also an intergenerational conversation because Luis Alfaro, who is like a Latinx-Chicano playwriting legend. He’s been around for years and knows about the struggle for representation. And Alexis, she just came out with her breakout play and it ran in New York for three months, which that never happens for women of color.

Jose:
So let’s get started with Portaleza by David Israel Reynoso and Optika Moderna. It’s a show. Well, it’s more of an experience. It’s being produced by the Jolla Playhouse who I think are, you know, out of all like the pandemic theatre companies, the whole year are doing extraordinary work, like extraordinary, like I want to talk about all their shows, like I even saw their kids show about wizards and even that was fun. But anyway, Portaleza is an experience that you actually get a thing in the mail, like you get an envelope with some instructions, and some really cool, like beautifully designed gadgets that you have to put together. And once you put together that, it’s a viewer kind of thing. It’s so hard to, like, try to like describe this show. Without giving, you know, I don’t even know what I’m saying right now. The purpose of the show is that you’re supposed to send a message to someone who’s no longer here. And then using your phone and using the gadgets that they sent you, you’re able to make that message, reach the heavens or reach, you know, wherever it is that the message is supposed to go. And then you get feedback from it. So it’s a show that really requires you to be very present because you have to do a lot of things, right? It’s a lot of work that the show asks from you. I mean, not like coal mining, or like doing anything like really difficult, but you have to put things together, then you have to text and you have to email and experience that. You cannot be. Although you’ll need your phone, you can’t be on your phone, like doing something else. Like you cannot be like on Hinge or Grinder or watching YouTube videos, right?

Diep:
I’m gonna say something that sounds really bitchy. But I will explain myself. It was kind of the same way I felt about watching Romantics Anonymous, which was the process of getting ready and anticipating the event was much more interesting than the actual event.

Jose:
Oh really, you felt that about, I mean, with Romantics I kind of agree. But you felt the same thing about Portaleza.

Diep:
I just felt like I was watching a 20 minute music video but through a kaleidoscope so the colors are really cool.

Jose:
I mean, the colors were really cool. And like they had that really fancy like aluminum foil kind of thing that makes you feel—you know, what I love about this and the kaleidoscope kind of thing is that, I miss going to the movies so much. And the idea of sitting somewhere in the dark and watching something like that Portaleza reminded me of that, you know, I felt isolated. My favorite times to go to the movies is like super early in the morning when there’s almost no one there. And I’ll like pick a movie that I know no one else wants to go see. So some, like, European flick. And I’ll go see it at the AMC on 42nd Street. And I know there’s gonna be no one there because like, Who wants to go see like a fucking Belgian movie at 10 in the morning on a Tuesday, right? So I get to experience that alone. And that’s what Portaleza felt like to me. I felt, you know, even though like I was looking at my phone, through like a little like cardboard visor. The screen felt huge. To me, it felt very immersive. I kind of felt like it was an IMAX experience. You didn’t feel that, like at all?

Diep:
I did. I liked the creation of it, like the way it was presented. I just didn’t find the videos themselves to be that illuminating.

Jose:
Oh, yeah. I don’t know. Like one of my favorite things to experience right now is to see how creative people have to get given that it’s a pandemic.

Diep:
The thing I most liked about this experience was just the, like I was saying, the build up to it because there was some you had to like, send in a question that you had to ask of the person who is no longer here. So I sent a question to my grandmother who died 10 years ago. And actually this room that I’m sitting in right now, I’m sitting in the room where she died. And I sent in a question asking her like, what happens after you die? And I had to send that in and then they sent me a text back saying like they received it. And so the interactive element, kind of like when went to the murder mystery experience, like I’m really enjoying these interactions we’re having with artists. But I felt like when it came time to have the actual experience with the view finder, I found myself missing all the build up.

Jose:
Like underwhelmed.

Diep:
Yes, I was very underwhelmed. It was a good music video, though.

Jose:
Yeah, it was really good. It was beautiful. Yeah, I totally get what you’re saying. I was so excited about seeing the end, like I’m a sucker for anything that’s, you know, art involving like, spiritual experiences and all that. Give that to me. That’s my catnip. And yeah, I know. So I really enjoyed it. Like I really enjoyed that part. I agree with you like the video I had fun with it. I guess it was not that memorable, though the part where there’s like kids was pretty cute. And also the part where there’s like women floating like in the, you know, in the universe or whatever, that was also kind of cute. But then I feel like that picks up again,when we actually get the message, right, when we actually get an answer. And then when we have to open the envelope and all that stuff, that show won me over in that part, because there’s something else that you had to do after the music video. Which also like, it makes me think The Matrix totally like ruin the idea of like, spiritual sci-fi forever, right? Because like, it felt very Matrix inspired. And I’m like, come on, filmmakers give us something that’s not like green things falling and like, you know, like, electro music. Give us a new idea of what digital heaven might look like.

Diep:
Yeah, it was a lot of mixed iconography. And I don’t really know how I felt about it. Like it started off with very technical like The Matrix and that and then it went to a very—

Jose:
Enya place?

Diep:
It went to a very Enya place and then went into space.

Jose:
None of which were the good place for you apparently.

Diep:
Space was the good place for me. I could have stayed there the entire time.

Jose:
Space was incredible. Maybe like it means that we, should we join the president’s space force?

Diep:
Yes. If the aliens come right now, I will go with that. Yes, please.

Jose:
If you’re an alien, why would you want to take a human being after seeing what we’ve done to our planet? I’d be like, nope. We don’t need you on Jupiter.

Diep:
Yeah, I think that’s why they haven’t come because we know they’re out there. I saw that video of that spaceship that NASA leaked. It was very official.

Jose:
Oh the one with the jets?

Diep:
Yeah, we’re too low for them. You know, like, we’re ants in comparison. They don’t care.

Jose:
Or they like, flew by and they look at what we were doing. They’re like girl bye.

Diep:
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Like, I don’t know her.

Jose:
Yeah. So if there’s an alien, they say to us, who wants to be like, get in loser we’re going shopping. Please come take us.

Diep:
Do you have any other thoughts on?

Jose:
No, not really, I really enjoyed the process of it. Like I love the art. I’m with you on the video part, but I did love it. It was a really beautiful experience overall for me cuz it got me away from screens by also making me look at a screen. And I don’t know, I was just very excited. Like it made me think about how beautiful it is to get postcards. Have you been getting postcards from people? Not the voting postcards.

Diep:
I’ve been getting postcards and letters from people.

Jose:
Yeah, it’s kind of like that, right? Like reclaiming getting something from someone in the mail. Except in this case, it’s a message from our dead grandmas because I also did my grandma.

Diep:
Oh, did she also live a really long time?

Jose:
I mean, I don’t think any grandma lives enough time for their grandkids. Like, but yes, she had a really good life.

Diep:
That’s why I picked my grandma cuz I really wish like she was alive when I became an actual adult and could appreciate her. Yeah, it just made me wistful. But what I really like about Portaleza and what La Jolla Playhouse is doing is they’re taking something that they have been doing, which is immersive, you know, experiences, usually they do it outdoors. And they’re picking out a way to bring it to people’s homes. Like we literally got a package in the mail with these instructions, and it felt very personal. So I really appreciate that, them trying to figure out how to create a personal experience when we’re all stuck in our homes.

Jose:
And the visor’s pretty cute. The art is very cute. It’s kind of like Guillermo de Toro inspired.

Diep:
Yeah, I’m keeping it. Maybe you could like make that into your quiji board. It’s very, it’s very mythical.

Jose:
I don’t want any ghosts in my apartment.

Diep:
Talk to your grandma. She misses you!

Jose:
I don’t want to talk to my grandma. But if she can send me messages from Portaleza. I love many people who are no longer here, but as much as I love all of you, I don’t want you to show up in my house. Okay, thank you.

Diep:
All right. So if you want to talk to your dead grandma, you can still experience Portaleza, go to LaJollaPlayhouse.org. And tickets are available until October 31. And you can do it whenever you want. Okay, the next show we’re going to talk about is from the Kneehigh Theatre Company, their newest show called Romantics Anonymous. It was streamed live from the Old Vic in London. Kneehigh is a British theatre company. They’ve done works in the States before. They did Brief Encounter and their stuff has toured like around the world and to the U.S., like I’ve seen three of their shows in America. I’ve always really enjoyed them. They’re very whimsical and a lot of music, very optimistic shows, you can take your family to it, you’ll have a good time, which is what I kind of got from this newest show they did, which is called Romantics Anonymous, which is based on a 2010 French film about two socially awkward, maybe mentally ill chocolatiers, who fall in love and have to figure out how to deal with that. And what I really I really appreciate is the Brits showing us Americans how to do theater right now, because this was a full production. Like, I’m pretty sure they isolate the actors and the crew. And they just performed for like, three cameras. And there was just physical contact. And it felt like, you know, watching a met live broadcast or watching a National Theater live broadcast. And somehow Britain has figured out how to do this, and we have not, and it just, even if the show was not that good, which it was not. It just made me really miss the live experience, and watching on a gigantic screen in my parents living room. I felt like I was back in the theater. And that was really nice. Especially because there are technical snafus. And so we started an hour an hour late. And it was really enjoyable because the director kept looking at us the entire time saying, Hey, sorry, you know, live theater, what can you do? Which was so endearing. Like I missed that. I missed a snafu. Like I missed the fuck up.

Jose:
Yes. I love the part. I mean, I’m sorry, to the Kneehigh people. BecauseuYeah, like the show itself was like, all right. I mean, also, like, I want them to do Brief Encounter. But anyway, it was so cool, because like when things started going south, and they had to stop their show, they were like, sorry, there’s like some tech issues. And there was like a siren outside. And it reminded me of times, and I’m sorry that I sound so excited about this, I felt like a fucking sociopath. But it reminded me of this one time when I was a Tuck Everlasting, and they had to stop the show, because someone fainted. So like the ambulance arrived, and all that, and that was so exciting. I mean, the person survived. So I’m not like making light of someone who died or something like that. But it was bad. It was like, just so cool. You know, like, it felt like being alive. It felt like seeing something that was happening in front of you. And then they paused it. And like, you know, for me, I was more excited to see how the actors were like, in the background, like, what do we do? And they’re like, go cuz we have to stop everything. And then when the actors came back and received their positions to restart the show, those moments for me were more exciting than anything else in the show.

Diep:
Do you think our standards have decreased? Because we’ve been stuck inside?

Jose:
I don’t think so. But also, I mean, in our defense, this show was kind of like, you know, Chocolate meets Amelie meets Ratatouille, the movie itself is not that great, either. So like, you know, like, maybe just find better movies to adapt into musicals. It was very twee, and very predictable. So, you know, the acting was fantastic, though, and all of that. But the music itself was just like, do you remember a single song from it?

Diep:
No, the music felt very incidental and very unnecessary.

Jose:
Yeah. I agree. You know, it was very, like, I just remember, like, there was like, a recurring theme that they kept using and then going back to it. Maybe we’re just becoming like, more jaded. Or cynical, which I don’t think we weren’t before. But maybe that’s what we’re becoming in quarantine, because I noticed, like, a lot of people on social media were like, head over heels about the show. And I’m like, huh? I usually love romantic musical but I was so bored by the music in this.

Diep:
Yeah, hey, I’m single right now. Like, I could use some romance and magic in my life. And this just didn’t do it for me. And I think it was because I thought she was too good for him. And she was trying too hard. And that offended my feminist sensibilities. And I am okay with that.

Jose:
Isn’t that always the case. Like the female protagonists. It’s always too good for the man always.

Diep:
But he’s always like, really good looking or sad or charming. As an audience member, like, you get it. You don’t like Richard Gere. But you’d still go into the hotel room, you know?

Jose:
Well, yeah. I mean, I remember when the actor in the show showed up, because remember, he played like multiple characters, right? And I was like, I thought he had big dick energy, so I’ll go with that.

Diep:
Oh, okay. Well, I guess he’s more your type than my type.

Also quarantine, maybe my standards have lower when it comes to men. Not theater!

It’s made mine higher than ever because I don’t want to touch anybody! I mean, that’s reliable. Like they don’t want to touch each other. I don’t want to touch other people. Like that feels like a quarantine romance to me. For you, who has struggled with his mental health, how did you feel about how this piece portrayed mental health because I felt like it portrayed it as something like whimsical and adorable.

Jose:
Well, that’s the way that mental health is usually portrayed. There’s nothing whimsical or adorable about anxiety or depression. So don’t listen to the show. It was very like Amelie, you know, like, if you if you look back, do you like Amelie?

Diep:
I enjoy Amelie. Yeah, right. But I enjoy it despite the fact that it’s problematic.

Jose:
It is very problematic in terms of like, she clearly has some sort of like, you know, something, right? And the movie treats it at this like lovely. It treats it at this like manic pixie dream girl kind of thing where it’s like, no, like, clearly there’s something wrong with her. I mean, not wrong in like a bad way. But you know, like she has, she must have some condition right? Some sort of illness, some sort of mental illness, some sort of mental disorder. Cuz she’s, she’s like a freaking stalker.

Diep:
Yeah, she’s a stalker. She’s socially awkward.

Jose:
But also that she has like severe anxiety. So like, yeah, there’s, believe me there’s nothing cute, there’s nothing sweet or nothing whimsical about anxiety. So I don’t know. I wish art would stop treating mental issues like there’s some like cute thing that you can overcome it when the right men with big dick energy shows up. That’s not how it happens.

Diep:
Do you think it’s a French thing? Since it was made, Romantics Anonymous and Amelie are French films?

Jose:
Well, I mean, the manic pixie dream girl thing it’s like also, maybe that’s where the American stole it from because it feels very French. Even I don’t know, like, did you ever watch that Little Voice movie, that British movie with Ewan McGregor? Like, it’s always you know, always like the shy female protagonist with some sort of like secret, or some sort of thing always, becomes the object of someone else’s affection. I don’t know. It’s this like really strange combination of like, fetishizing and romanticizing mental illness. Marrying that with like, the need men have to like want to protect and to save women. So it seems like very gross savior complex meets social anxiety, which, in fact, would make you think that these male protagonists are fucking perverts because like, leave the women with the mental illness alone, right?

Diep:
Yeah, like, don’t use them in order to get laid.

Jose:
Yes, that’s like, no, that’s like very, very wrong. Don’t do it. So I kind of, I mean, this show, also does that right?

Diep:
Yeah, well, a woman created it. So that’s the most interesting thing about it. I think maybe it’s sometimes like, sometimes when you grow up with these kind of stories and these kind of romantic tropes, like you can’t help but feel sentimental about them. And this is like a very sentimental, romantic piece that I don’t really think, thinks that it’s about mental illness. I think that piece of things is just about like, regular people who have social anxiety, which isn’t a real mental illness in the world of the play.

Jose:
I wonder if we would have enjoyed this show more if Kneehigh had sent us chocolate like the Portaleza.

Diep:
How’s that for an immersive experience?

Jose:
Everything’s improved by chocolate. Like, I feel like having chocolate has made me forgive some really shitty shows. It’s true.

Diep:
Or whenever there’s food involved, for me, really. Oklahoma!, like I was won over, not by the chili, but that helped. The free food helped. Yeah, I’m looking forward to like more of these live broadcasts, especially because it was only $26 to stream it. And Jose and I are also going to be watching a live broadcast of Six the musical soon, and that was only $15. And if, after quarantine, we can all figure out how to do this in America. Like there’s this money that you all are just leaving on the table and access, the technology is already there. Like why why was, why, why? Why? Why has this not been done here? Just they

Jose:
They probably are thinking about the idea that they have to sell individual tickets, which is kind of what like Disney did, you know trying to like overcome—fucking capitalism. They kind of wanted to overcome by charging like extra money for Mulan instead of just like giving it to the people who already had Disney+, or trying to sell tickets. And I was gonna ask you that, I mean, I live by myself and I was completely alone when I was watching the Romantics Anonymous, like, Did anyone in your parents house in California join you?

Diep:
Yeah, but my dad joined me for a little bit.

Jose:
And then he was like, fuck this, this is boring.

Diep:
Yeah, that’s basically what he said.

Jose:
Go dad. But yeah, you know, like you said $26. So technically, if you’re being like a capitalist and like a producer and stuff, probably producers were thinking like, how are you going to let two people watch your show for $26 and that kind of mentality. It’s what has American theater right now, you know, not try to do this thing about live performance because they don’t think—they don’t want to give people joy, they just want to sell as many tickets as possible, which is bullshit.

Diep:
We’ve been talking it about on the show, like the American theater is a capitalistic structure, but it thinks it’s socialist, and they think it’s humanist.

Jose:
LOL. Yeah.

Diep:
The amount of people, Broadway producers and especially who I’ve heard say, I don’t do it for the money, I do it because I love theater. And I think there’s something magical about bringing people in the room together.

Jose:
LOL to that. I don’t know. I don’t know, math. But what’s the tiny number that you can put in it and it multiplies it? Square? I don’t know what that means. Like lol times a lot is basically what I want to say.

Diep:
To the nth degree.

Jose:
Yeah. Yes.

Diep:
Well, from some news I got, we’re not going back until next September at least. So people got to figure it out. But the Brits, you know, I’m going to be continuing to keep my eye on that overseas programming. Because if you want to see people kissing right now on stage, that’s where—

Jose:
Oh my god that’s true! And also like your favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber. I mean, he’s not your favorite, but he might bring back your favorite show, Phantom [of the Opera].

Diep:
Yes. Did you hear about the drive-in theater in my neighborhood in Queens that I’m missing right now because I’m in California. But they’re doing like a drive-in screening of Phantom of the Opera with live performances.

Jose:
No one has cars. No one I know has a frickin car. So that’s like, also bullshit. I was wondering the other day, like, Can I Lyft to like a drive-in like, can Lyft give us like discounts if we’re gonna sit through a show or something like that? Because I don’t have a car. You don’t have a car, like no one I know has a car. Who’s gonna drive us to these places?

Diep:
Someone needs to like figure out like, individual bubble or tent situation.

Jose:
Yeah, that’s a really good idea. I’ll just have to build like, what’s that thing that kids do like boxcars?

Diep:
Yeah. But I so I recently went to the beach before I left for California. I went to the beach, and I ordered a $30 beach tent off of Amazon. So it protected me and my friend from the sun and from other people.

Jose:
Oh, that’s awesome. And you can peer through the little windows, right?

Diep:
Exactly. Any other thoughts before we get to our guests?

Jose:
Now I want chocolate. So let’s get to our guests. Next up, we talked to Alexis Scheer and Luis Alfaro, two of the most prominent Latinx playwrights working in theater right now. And like Diep said earlier, it was a multi-generation spanning thing of beauty. And I had a fabulous time. And I hope all of you enjoy it. So let’s go check out the interview. Alexis Scheer and Luis Alfaro, thank you so much for joining us and, bienvenidos.

Luis Alfaro:
Bienvenidos! Hello!

Jose:
I’m so thrilled because I really wanted to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with the two of you because you are in many ways, you know, I don’t even know how to like start talking about it. Cuz it’s like, you represent generations of Latinx people in the United States who have been doing art, you have been creating art. And I just love the two of you so much and your work, that I was like, I can’t imagine, like a better duo to have to celebrate what makes being Latinx special and so incredible. So can I start with that as a question? Can we brag about why it’s so amazing to be Latinx?

Alexis Scheer:
We have good food. I’ll start there. I feel like I keep writing food into all of my plays. Just to have food around the theater. And if I like trick everyone like oh there are empanadas in this play, then we have to have empanadas in the rehearsal halls. So we have good food. I’ll start there.

Luis Alfaro:
i’ve you know, I was thinking about this the other day, I guess I was thinking a little bit different. I was thinking we have outsider status, right? We have good history. We have good hard history. And in a way when you’re a playwright or a writer or an artist, you are always pushing up against something. And as a Chicano, you know, I always feel like Wow, I’ve been pushing up against something the last, you know, 25-30 years, and it’s our history, right? It’s a kind internalized history, but also our real history that exists in this country. So there’s something joyful also about, not not being in the center right now, because the center is like corroded and and poisonous, you know? So you’re always kind of pushing against something. And that feels right. For a playwright. I like the tension that I’m in right now.

Diep:
Well, I mean, first of all, I just want to congratulate the two of you for the amazing receptions to both of your plays before we all got shut down. Like, Alexis for how long Our Dear Dead Drug Lord ran, I don’t think any of us thought that a play about a bunch of teenage girls, and Pablo Escobar would do that. And Luis, Mojada played all around the country. And you continue to just re-invent what makes classics timeless. And I feel so blessed to like, be able to cover the field while the two of you are in it. Like how much do you know of each other’s work? Because I just, I feel like Latinx, playwrights don’t get enough credit for how creative the diaspora is, with the form, and how inventive it is.

Luis Alfaro:
I think it’s seven years ago, maybe even longer. Now I’m thinking about the Latino Theater Commons, and how that started. And then meeting Alexis at her play, right? Right after your play, you went up on stage for that conversation. And it’s so intense, because you generally that, you know, don’t meet the family that way. But it was really exciting to hear her play. And then the artists, you know, shows up and there’s a conversation, and it was so beautiful. So I would say, you know, we’re not that small of a community, but we live like one. I think we know so many people in common. And also we know what the community, where it’s at. Do you feel that way Alexis?

Alexis Scheer:
Yeah, totally. And, you know, I got to see Mojada when I was at Oregon Shakespeare Festival. And, you know, and getting to meet you in real life was like, Oh, great. One of the veterans. Um, and, and I do feel like it’s, it’s big, and it’s small. And so we all kind of know each other. And I feel like we’re all responding to kind of our ancestors and the people who could like, I respond to [Maria Irene] Fornes and her work. And I feel like a lot of us, you know, we’re all kind of stacked on each other’s shoulders and building on top of each other’s legacies.

Luis Alfaro:
Yeah, definitely. And, you know, it’s Fornes and [Luis] Valdez in a way, right? Valdez on the West Coast, and then Fornes on the East Coast. Fornes was my mentor. And so I am deeply, deeply immersed in a community that also feels very much about Irene, you know, and so, I would say that that’s really been very powerful. Because on the West Coast, sometimes there’s a kind of aesthetic, tha is very traditional. And then you come to the East Coast, and you see something very different. But you know, I think about this a lot in terms of every community. These last few years, I wrote Facebook notes, like 1,000 word Facebook entries, you know, and one of them was about Asian-American women, this generation of playwrights, and how it’s not really recognized as a movement, like who has, it hasn’t been like, really, really illuminated, illustrated. And it kills me because within that community, you see the variances of writing, right? And so I’m thinking right now, as I’m looking at Alexis, this beautiful face, I’m thinking like, the writing is so different. We’re writing differently. But our sensibilities are very, very much in line. Maybe with our politics, but also with our, I don’t even know what the word is, our taste, you know, or our regional—because you’re very, very much of your region, don’t you think, Alexis? I mean, I kind of feel the Boston in you.

Alexis Scheer:
Yeah, well, I mean, it’s so funny. I’ve been in Boston in the last 10 years, but I always claimed Miami as my home because I was born and raised there. And I’m finding that, you know, the Latinx diaspora is huge, and everyone comes from a different place. And Latin people aren’t a monolith. And there’s so much culture and differences in culture and language. And when you talk about Latinx theatre, you actually talk about a lot of different backgrounds, nationalities, politics, I mean, my mom is Colombian so I feel like Pablo Escobar is a part of my family mythology weirdly. And so that’s a thing that I have to like deal with in my work. But I was raised in Miami amongst Cuban exiles, so and I saw a lot of that theater so I feel very in tune to that experience and then I go to the theater and I learn about, you know, Mexican culture and the Chicano culture. So I love that it’s everywhere. It’s not one thing. It’s just a rich diaspora.

Luis Alfaro:
There’s something very powerful in how we keep shifting and changing, you know? And I think lately because of our pandemic, maybe the only thing we really can count on is change, and how we change. And change is essential. I don’t know if you’re all feeling this, but I’m feeling like, I’m making art and I also have to make politic, right? I have to change the community I’m in. And this is the moment. A little fissure has happened, right? And how do I take advantage of that moment to change something? Because I don’t think it’ll come again, for a long time.

Alexis Scheer:
And I’ve been asking myself questions. We always ask: oh, why this play, why now? And now I feel like I’m asking, I’m working on this like, micro commission that we’re aiming towards launching in January, around Inauguration Day. And the question I’m asking myself now is, what do we need? What are we going to need and trying to anticipate our sensitivities? And in trying to imagine, like, all sorts of scenarios and trying to create like, Okay, what, but really fundamentally, what is my purpose as an artist? And what can theatre do, especially like in new media like this? There’s something a lot richer and a lot, I feel like higher reaching than just like, we’re telling a story. It’s like, Oh, no, we’re we’re acting, we’re trying to enact change, and harness power. I don’t know, well, that’s the witchcraft. *laughs* I’m like, just trying to like have everyone cast a big spell. There’s performance in that, which is why, I mean, I love all of that. Kind of, the marriage of spirituality with performance, I feel like is a big thing in my work.

Jose:
I want to talk about that so much, because like, I do think if the two of you as the ultimate, you know, brujos and brujas. And I mean that, you know, as a total compliment, because you know, even though your work is in terms of style and what you’re doing is very different. What I love about your work so much is that you’re reclaiming brujas. And in many ways I get, you know, for every theater company that does The Crucible somewhere, they need to be doing one of your plays, also, because your work is the opposite of The Crucible, where you’re reclaiming brujas, as women dancing with the devil. And in this case, the devil being knowledge. And the devil being women becoming women, because they’re using their gifts, to be in contact with nature, to be in contact with human beings and to be in contact with themselves. It is the opposite of The Crucible, like, you don’t fear that. Like you want your brujas to be dancing in the forest, to be dancing in the trees, and to be levitating, and to be using their power. So I would just love to hear both of you talking about brujas.

Alexis Scheer:
It’s what my necklace says, it says brujas.

Luis Alfaro:
Maybe I’ll start by saying that Alexis, that last image in your play of the dance is so profound. It’s so real and so beautifully upsetting and exciting, because it is a new form of like, release, right? And I love the way it gets introduced in the play, and you see it form. And then you see it full out. I just say that was, that was ritual, that was like church, you’re calling on the spirits definitely. Even in a reading, right? It’s such a profound moment, to know that a play has to live in its physical life too. And that it gets, it gets animated by the body. And it becomes a calling, right? A trance. I love the trance of it.

Alexis Scheer:
Yeah, there’s the act of conjuring and I love thinking about theater in terms of alchemy, and the alchemy of live performance and how just the act of going to theater is ritual in itself. I love identifying as a witch, it freaks people out. We should reclaim this because I think at the very root of it, it it’s self possession. What is witchcraft? It is the act of self possession. It’s about connecting to the inner divine, the goddess, which is always what I’ve tried to do in my work, but also just like in my life, because we live in a patriarchal society where I’m thinking about The Crucible, which you know, guess who wrote it. I love like one ingredient of theater that maybe doesn’t really exist in a book is like the act of like, Oh, we could actually make something. If we all came into it and believed, like there’s a suspension of disbelief, and we can all just like allow for something to be possible and allow an impossible truth to be possible. This is getting very heady. But I just I love magic. And I love that in the theater, we can just have some girls around a fire and they can actually have power. It feels tangible and it feels accessible in a way that it doesn’t feel in real life.

Luis Alfaro:
It’s beautiful. I was thinking as you were talking about, I did a play maybe about five or six years ago with Campo Santo, one of my favorite companies in San Francisco. Sean San Jose, he’s extraordinary. And I was raised in Pentecostal apostolic religion, very hallelujah church, right? And so I have a whole segment in there. That’s about 10 minutes of speaking in tongues. And if you’ve ever heard it, it’s really like conjuring of a spirit, right? And he did. Like he really studied the Pentecostal religion. And his research was: he went up and down Highway 99, in the Central Valley of California and went to all these Pentecostal churches. So by the time he actually did the performance, there was 10 minutes, very uncomfortable moment of him being in the spirit. And you know the stage directions were: he levitates. There’s some lady in the audience. afterwards she says, “He levitated, right? He levitated. He did, right?” And I was like, yeah. Maybe he did. I think the conjuring does that, right? And that’s kind of one of the beautiful things about theater is if we believed that the magic can happen, it’s going to happen. Right? We have to believe we’re making magic, we are bringing those elements into the room for sure.

Alexis Scheer:
The reading I’ve done about when all these covens start to really make themselves like seen and known it is in these moments of political oppression. And it’s just a way of manifesting power and showing your power. We’re definitely living in that right now.

Luis Alfaro:
I love the word manifesting because it’s, you know, in Mexico, when I was in Mexico City, somebody said, va se y da la manifestación, right? And I was like, What? The manifestation, well, yes! And that’s not what I thought it was going to be. The manifestation is a political protest, right? He calls it the protest. They call it manifestación, right? And I thought, Wow, this is so beautiful, we’re gonna manifest something in the zocalo, and we’re going to make something happen. And I love it that that language kind of lends itself to brujeria, right? To the spirits.

Diep:
I feel like you were talking about artists as political activists, as citizens before it became cool, because prior to this moment that we’re in, it seems like artists were seen primarily as just entertainers, like, you cannot be political. And during this moment, for the two of you, since you can’t do your art in the traditional way, how have you been working on those two things, like being the artist and being a citizen?

Luis Alfaro:
Well, I have never been busier politically, I have to say, you know, this summer, I know, maybe most of you know that I was part of the Victory Gardens [Theater] action. And it was a very painful, very painful process that we helped put together with a number of people, right, extraordinary people. But having our seven writers, the resident writers all quit together was the beginning of really challenging the theater, and really getting to the transparency they needed to do and that was really hard. It was hard to lead. It was hard to then create actions and work with the board. And one of the things I’m so proud of is: I’m working with a lot of theaters right now. It’s one thing to call the theaters out, it’s another thing to help them get right. Unless we want them to completely die. So one of the things I’ve been doing was the Victory Gardens thing led me to CTG, Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, and Dominique Morisseau and Daniel Alexander Jones and Culture Clash—and a few of us are part of what we’re calling the Artists Collective. They asked us to come in in this moment to help them. How do we organize again, right? And we said very clearly, it’s not about the moment, it’s about the future, we’re going to help you figure out what you’re going to be because this moment is already happening. It’s already in process. But how do we help you move forward? So I teach in the academy, right? I’m at USC, an $8 billion school, where only 2% of our tenured faculty are Black, and only 3% are Latino. So how do you make change happen from within and enforce it? And do it nicely, and do it in a system that almost feels impossible to change? And this is the thing about being an artist, I think we’re creative beings who use our minds in different ways. So every institution that I’m going to is figuring out how to creatively treat it like a collaboration, a community collaboration. I have to bring the people with me. So the first thing I did at CTG was I’m going to amplify a lot of emerging artists. Now we’re like, oh, well, we’re really only interested in you. No, that’s not the way I work. I come with the whole community. So are you cool about that? So I’m mentoring two female, dramaturgs, 19 and 20 years old. And then we have about 20 artists that we’ve done these little micro commissions with, we’re doing stuff for the website. So like, in a way, you just have to open a door. And I’m just calling it amplify, that’s all I’m doing is just amplify. And there’s process. And so process is trying to create transparency in that building. So I’m doing these interviews, where I bring all the people on staff, and I asked them very nicely about their jobs, and about how they see the future. And then I kindly go into the numbers of people in the company that are BIPOC, which are, yeah, and then you start to really pick away at something, amplify and process. I gotta simplify it for them. And for me and for my community. And then I got to just keep pushing people through. And I think that’s really been the process for me. And, you know, I was arrested so much when I was young for civil disobedience. Sixteen arrests! Oh my god. I used to have a felon for one, I can never run for president right? I can’t do any of that. But yeah. How do you how do you make this more sophisticated? How do you strike and be more effective? Right? So it’s been a summer of making art, but also making politic in a way that’s smarter. And I’m really happy about that. How do we do that?

Diep:
I hope CTG is paying you really well for that.

Luis Alfaro:
CTG is paying. And that is like, you know, really great, because part of it was, yeah, we’re all broke. I’m lucky because I teach. So I took half my money immediately and just put it out into the community. But taking half your money and putting out to community, this is a great way of saying, listen, here’s a $500 commission, I don’t want the rights. I don’t want it. I just wanted to let you know, you’re a great writer, let’s do it. And I did a year in the community in East LA with community writers. And we wrote plays and I said the deal is we got to write plays, and we got to inundate our theaters with plays. We got to write good work. So you know, if I could, I would do the Fornes thing. And I just haven’t been able to find a place where somebody wants the Fornes thing to happen again, in that way. But I think it’s eventual that that’s what we have to do in the community, is create the space for the writers to make the work and to demand something of the work, right? To be generous in our criticism. And to think about, you know, that word that is so hard: quality. What is quality writing? What is the craft of writing? What is point of view? What is passion? Like, look at me, argh! That means something right now, this is the moment when it means something. I feel like everybody has passion, and everybody has point of view. But where’s craft and technique? And how do we get that as community? How are we sharing it with one another? So you know, one of the joys of meeting Alexis was in the Carnival, the new works festival put together by the LTC, and that was an amazing experience, because you could say: Here are seven to 10 plays, and then a whole list of other plays that are available to be produced that should be produced. That demand to be seen. That speak to the moment we’re in.

Jose:
Speaking about manifestaciones and community. Alexis what you’re doing with your, I call it the magical book club. I forget what the official name is. But you know, I was I was there when—First of all, can you tell us a little bit about the book club? I was there on Thursday. But what you’re doing is, right now that people can’t gather in, you know, at the theater, you’re giving them a different kind of theater in a way. Because they’re reading plates and people don’t really read plays. And like you’re inviting them to imagine, I think, and to conjure also. So tell us a little bit about that.

Alexis Scheer:
Sure. So Speakeasy Stage is a company, a regional company in Boston. So it’s a play discussion club, run like a book club. And they invited me to moderate a series on Latinx plays and basically gave me four weeks and said, “What do you want to share with our community, and you know, your community?” And so we started off with Melinda Lopez, Sonia Flew. And last week we read Mojada and Luis got to join us. This wee, they’re all reading Drug Lord, which will be really fun. And I feel like it’s like when the book club turns on me. *laughs* They’ve been like such a wonderful and generous and curious group. I am so pleased with it. And then we close off the series with Eliana Pipes and her play Dream Hou$e. But it’s been, I got invited to do this. And I’m like, do I know how to do this? I’ve never moderated a thing. This is like a talkback, but like, we’re all just reading a play. And I’m on the playwright on most weeks. But it’s just been a blast just to talk about the language and the craft and what’s actually on the page. And then all the playwrights have been able to join us and you know, talk about what’s like, outside the margins of the page and everything that went into it. I’ve just had so much fun talking about plays. Back to what Louise was saying to about this moment of creating, but also like, making change. First of all, I want to meet the dramaturgs that you’re mentoring. I feel like there needs to be like a Tinder for dramaturgs and playwrights, because I just I don’t know how to meet them. How do you talk to them? What do you say, to send an emoji? I just want to know more. Anyway, but, you know, institutions and opening these doors, looking at the institutions I’m affiliated with and deciding, like, okay, what’s important to me. And as an alumni of Boston University, I’m working with my MFA program that I graduated from, which was a wonderful program that I feel like nobody knows about. It was fully funded by the university. And I just want to like kick the doors open. I want everybody to know about this program. And I want the program itself to, you know, commit to taking in people who write plays that don’t always fit, I think, what we have decided, as a white society, what a play is. And it’s like, when you’re, you’re seeing all these submissions, how do you allow for variance in craft and form and kinds of storytelling. Those have been have been really like fun doors to kick down. So I’ve been doing that.

Diep:
Oh, my God, I want to hear more about kicking down doors formally, because, I just want this story about this group that’s trying to revamp the canon because you know, what we consider the canon was dictated by a bunch of white men who loved other white men. This isn’t like a give people advice question. It’s more like a—a lot of playwrights I’ve talked to who are of color, they always have a struggle when they’re trying something new. And they’re not readily embraced by, you know, the mainstream establishment of, you know: critics, artistic directors, producers, because they’re not writing within, like, the formal systems that we are all taught is what is good playwriting. And I feel like that’s why Maria Irene Fornes was never quite appreciated when she was still alive by the mainstream, because of those restrictions. And now we’re all actually appreciate her the way she should be appreciated. What are your thoughts on just like, staying courageous and like, going with your own instincts and ignoring like what other people are telling you what, what constitutes a good play?

Alexis Scheer:
I love reading plays, and I love reading kind of everything, not just plays but reading poetry and screenplays. I read a lot of nonfiction. And I read a lot of comic books. And I feel like all of that ends up in, in my work. And I feel like reading makes me a stronger writer, you just have to keep writing and you have to hone your craft. And you only do that by actually doing it. And so like, I’m always going to be team grad school, anytime somebody is like, “Should I go to grad school?” If they’re paying you, go. Because you learn about yourself as a writer. And I really believe in revision and you learn in revision. And you learn from listening to your community responding to your work. And I feel like the more comfortable you get with it, and the more you can, like, throw your ego to the side and just allow for like play, right? Because we’re writing plays, we’re not writing works. It’s a play and the more confidence you build, and at some point, I think you tap into, like, what you’re doing and who you are and why you write. And I think when I tapped into, like my intention as a writer, and why I’m here and why I am a storyteller and why I am a creator. That was when the floodgates opened for me and I was like, Oh, I can write! I know how to do this and some people aren’t going to get it and that’s okay. And I don’t think that there’s like good art and bad art. I feel like there’s art for everyone and the more critics we get who look like me and look like you, the better we all are. And the people who, you know, are shaping the conversation about the art. I so love what you guys do. I’m such a fan, oh my God. That was word vomit.

Luis Alfaro:
Well, I was gonna say that early on, I think it helped that I started as a poet for like, 10 years. And then I was in performance art for a really long time. So really, that was the bulk of my career was really performing going around the country and then kind of going around the world. And you know, with Guillermo Gómez-Peña and people like that. So it was very, the avant garde. But I remember the first play I got produced was at the Goodman Theater. I was talking about this the other day in the class. There was a guy named Michael Maggio, who was a very important man in Chicago. Well used to, he worked at the Goodman. He was a great director. And after the first preview, which was deadly, deadly, like half the audience walked out. And we were doing this across from, I remember, Death of a Salesman with Brian Dennehy and they were doing great. My production was like, crap, right? And I remember we were outside. And he said, “The problem is, I think it’s an Irene problem.” He said, “The Latinos want you to write something Latino. And the white people want you to write something Latino. And you’re resisting them. I don’t know why. But I think that if you decide not to, you’re going to have a lonely path for a while and you should be okay with that.” And so I kind of thought about it. And I was wedged in between John Leguizamo’s Marble Mouth, that was premiering at the time. And I just thought, huh, okay, there’s a kind of lonely journey, it’s gonna happen. So my first, like, five productions were in Black, or Asian-American companies. So the Latinos took a long time to catch up. Not just because of the avante garde but because I was queer. So we were dealing with that, right? Like out people. I’d go to a company and they’d say, Well, you know, the community is not ready yet. And so I think now, it set, a wonderful precedent to say that, you know, you have to follow a path. And sometimes it’s a lonely path, right? And people catch up. I think of it as people catching up. People catch up to you, and your ideas, right? If you’re an artist, you’re always in the avant garde. So you’re always thinking in the new. And so our job is to not worry so much about that audience, right? I leave that to the theater to do. So when I finally came around to being loved by Latinos. I was really suspicious of them. Because it was also like, hmm, where were you guys when I was really broke in the 1980s? But I get it, I get that we all evolve. We all change. And I had to change. If I was going to work in American regional theater, I had to change. You know, one of my first bosses was Oskar Eustis. Before Public [Theater] before Trinity Rep. When he was in LA. And he was one of those guys who was like, yeah, this one’s really weird. This little play of yours is really weird, like, nobody’s gonna do it. But I think that was a good thing to know, it was good to have people telling you what was acceptable at the time and what was not. So I think a lot about that. I think a lot about the 10 years that I spent going around the US in really small theatre companies. So I was in Boston for a year. And I worked at the Boston Center for the Arts at a company called Theater Offensive.

Alexis Scheer:
Yeah, they’re still around!

Luis Alfaro:
And I lived, I live right above the Dunkin Donuts on First and Mass Ave. And, you know, with the leather daddy and the head librarian for the city. I mean, it was crazy. But you know, I have a kind of a story from every city, because that was the lonely 10 years where like, you know, out of the kindness of people letting you stay at their places, and lots of beautiful theaters like that, Theater Offensive, who were like, “We have no money. But come. Do your plays.” Those lonely years were the years of the muscle, right? Those were the years of like, Okay, I’m getting clear about how to do this. Like, I love how you said: Once you figured it out, you knew you were a writer, you could do this. Yeah, I was getting clear about how to make the work. And that’s really, really important. And that’s something you want to give to that next generation. You know, the clarity.

Alexis Scheer:
Yeah. And I also feel like, because you know, I came to theater as an actor, and I was a child actor, and I went to school for musical theater, and I still act. I mean, obviously, not right now. Nobody is acting on stage. Why I started writing plays was because I wanted to play meaty roles. I always talk about I was 16 at a big performing arts high school in Miami, and I was doing like Harper from Angels in America. Why did anybody let me do that? But I wanted to, like, do some serious theater and you know, those roles weren’t there for young women, especially not like Latinas. That just was unheard of. And so I started writing mostly as like self preservation, to get myself work and that was kind of part of my high school’s big ethos was, you should be self sufficient and create your own work. And all of my mentors were doing that and producing and acting in their own plays. I think that’s always been my favorite part about writing plays. Like I just get to work with all my friends. And, you know, the more young women I write roles for, the more young women who get cast and that’s always so exciting. And what I love about Drug Lord, it has been so fun to see all of the people who reach out to me and want to do this for their showcase. Or I’m working on this in class. And it’s like, Oh, right! This is who is like keeping these works alive. It’s the actors who love to perform it. And so that’s like, one of my favorite parts. And then it really, like, connects me to—on the days where I’m like, ah, why do I do this? It’s like, Oh, yeah, yeah. So when you open like the monologue book, at Barnes and Noble, there are some choices, and you have options.

Luis Alfaro:
Don’t you think actors are great writers, too.

Alexis Scheer:
Yes! Yes. There’s something about like—and I think this was like a big moment for everything clicking in my brain where I like, stopped trying to compartmentalize my selves, all of those disparate things. Eventually, I’m like, oh, right, because I know how to like, act in a play and produce a play, I kind of know what a play should do. So I can actually just write that! It took a while, but I got there.

Jose:
You were talking about alchemy earlier. And there’s nothing for me, you know, when I go see a show, or when I’ve experienced a work that a writer has made happen. It’s almost like reverse alchemy for me, and seeing the trick and the magic happen. And then I’m lucky enough that because of people like you and other playwrights, there’s an entire library for those spells have been saved in a way. And we could go and learn and try to make them happen again. So if I don’t sound like a bruja movie or something again, what is the most magical moment for you as theater makers, as brujos, as writers? When you see, you know, your spells, like happen? Like you see your words transform into literal gold?

Alexis Scheer:
It’s so overwhelming. *laughs* In the best way, in the best way. I mean, it’s scary because it’s like, I had moments in Drug Lord rehearsal and in tech, and then in previews. And then even like the show, I’d like leave for a few months—because we were open for a few months, that’s crazy. And I would come back and kind of face my own power. Oh, I wrote this thing! And there’s stuff happening and everyone is involved. And everyone is now complicit in this. I conjured it, I manifested this. Ahh, it’s scary, in a good way. Excited and scared.

Diep:
Yeah. It’s like your characters.

Alexis Scheer:
Yes, exactly!

Luis Alfaro:
I think, for me, it’s probably first read, you know, that moment of transference when it leaves you, it leaves your body. That’s always such an interesting moment. I work a lot with Chay Yew, the director, and I love working with him so much because he’s a playwright. So there’s a poet sitting with you, another writer next to you, right? And we’ve worked very much, not like director, writer. But we work like two writers together in the room, that’s really the way we work. But there’s always that moment, you know, like, Chay’s not gonna like cop to this because he hates this, any sentimentality. But there’s always a moment, at first read where somebody does something where they get the play in some way, they get something. And then I squeeze Chay’s hand! *laughs* And he’s like, stop it! It’s this beautiful moment, where you’re like, this is not mine anymore. My child is leaving me. Now it’s going to be interpreted or translated or channeled, right? In some way. It’s not mine anymore. And it’s a feeling of relief, it feels like time to change, it’s time to move, right?

Alexis Scheer:
There’s something about too, once a play is open, that’s when I start trying to figure out why I wrote the play and what it’s saying. When I start writing, none of that is really fully formed. And so it’s trying to play, catch up or like rewind. And it’s that moments in rehearsal: usually it’s always an actor who so beautifully articulates what you’ve done, and what you’re doing and what you’re saying, in a way that you’ve never articulated for yourself. And so it’s like meeting yourself. Again, meeting, it’s the meeting yourself, which I find is like, magic, magic.

Jose:
Thank you for that. And now plug everything you have going on. Luis, your play and the Virgen de Guadalupe cover is so stunning. Did you have to like fight to get that?

Luis Alfaro:
No, it was all a woman named Rosa Andújar, seemingly the only Latina in London. But she was the one who pitched the book, edited the book. And the company Methuen was about to shut down for the pandemic. And she said, “If I can get this all everything in within the month, will you still publish?” And they said, “Yeah.” She did it all. I mean, she was extraordinary. So I give all praise to her. I’m doing a kind of interesting thing. The Getty Museum, Getty Villa and Center Theatre Group. One of the reasons why I’m working there is, we are recording all three of the Greeks live in LA, and these new COVID filming guidelines with the filmmaker. And they’ll go up on on YouTube. So I’m super, super excited about that. And I wrote a new play about seminaries. And it’s kind of my pandemic play, you know. And so it’s all about a some actual seminary in the Central Valley, California, where there was closed down by the church and one of the priests hung himself. Because he had never been out in the world. He had been cloistered most of his life. So it’s all about what happens, you know, in isolation, and writing about isolation has been interesting.

Jose:
You’re speaking my love language right now, like, ghosts, and priests and trauma. Oh, my God, I can’t wait

Alexis Scheer:
And you can join me at Speakeasy Stage, join my book club, and we’ll read some plays. Um, and what else am I doing? I’m voting. Go vote. Go vote early, please.

Jose:
I love it so much, Alexis. And Luis. It’s always a pleasure. And I hope you keep manifesting magic into this world because we need it for decades and decades and decades. Good. So thank you so much for joining.

Diep:
What I really loved about the conversation that we had was Luis and I were in California. And you and Alexis were on the East Coast. But through the magic of technology, we could all be together, something that we couldn’t do in the live version of this show.

Jose:
Yeah, that’s something to be grateful for, right? Like I mean, we can talk to people all over the world right now. That’s kind of fun. But you have tacos, so you win.

Diep:
Yes.

Jose:
Yeah. You and Luis, when he was in Koreatown. And like they probably have like you fusion tacos over there, right?

Diep:
Yeah, they they have Korean Mexican fusion, where you can put like bulgogi or kalbi in a taco. It’s delicious.

Jose:
Oh, God. Okay, stop it. My mouth is watering.

Diep:
It’s the brainchild of this Korean American whose name I forget, but he runs a taco truck called Kogi, which eventually turned into a storefront. But back in college, we would chase the Kogi truck around Los Angeles because it parked a different place every night. So you go on the website and you look for where the Kogi truck was parked, and you would chase it.

Jose:
So it’s kind of like the ice cream truck. But with tacos. Fuck, I want that.

Diep:
It could come in your neighborhood any night.

Jose:
Not in New York. I want to get this truck. I don’t want Mr. Softee. I want Mr. taco.

Diep:
That’s the fun thing about Los Angeles. Everyone has a car, we just go chasing our food. Do want to tell our Patreon why they should be supporting this podcast?

Jose:
Well, so first of all, so you can get better tacos than I can because you’re in California right now. But no, all jokes aside, we do this because we love theater. And we want to remind people that theater is alive. It’s not paused, it’s not sleeping. It’s definitely not dead. It’s alive. There’s so many people like creating incredible work right now. And we keep getting prompts from all of you listeners and viewers on Twitter, and social media telling us that you want us to cover more things. And we would love to do that. But we don’t have jobs. We’re both technically very unemployed right now. We don’t have like a steady income. And we want to be able to do this more often. And we want to be able to do this without worrying about how we’re going to pay for our rent. So if you can become a contributor and patron, there’ll be a dream. Also, at some point, we would be able to commission more pieces, we will be able to do more of the things that you love us for. And also we want to hear from you. And we’re building a community also, like, all of are our friends. And friends help each other.

Diep:
Yeah. And if you become a patron on Patreon, you can DM us whenever you want. And we respond.

Jose:
Yes we do. We’re not parents, we know how to use social media.

Diep:
Oh, and if you become a Patreon Patreon. Every week we give a shout out to what our patrons are working on. So this week’s shout out is to Diana Burbano, who is gathering monologues for this zoom play reading series called Breath of Fire from Latina theatre Ensemble in collaboration with Protests Play Project, and they’re putting out a call for writers. So we’ll have a link to the submission for those monologues and information about the play project and performances on our website.

Jose:
Sounds really awesome. Good for you, Diana, and thank you for being a friend.

Diep:
Yep. And if you like the things that we talked about, visit our website TokenTheatreFriends.com. We write stuff, and we have bonus content on there. And anything else you wanna say to people?

Jose:
Stay safe wear a mask. And if you’re in California have all the tacos from me and if you’re in New York, cry with me cuz we don’t have good tacos.

Diep:
Yeah, yep. Speaking of which, my mom telling me I need to go eat lunch now. So bye.

Jose:
Enjoy your food. Bye

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