I received my BFA in Directing at Carnegie Mellon in 2013 and have been living in New York City for about two years now. In my junior year of college two very important things happened to shape my work. One, I moved in with a classmate who had recently returned from working with Bread And Puppet. He turned our entire apartment into a clay-covered studio that mass produced paper mache masks and turned our entire circle of friends into a strange little company called In The Basement Theatre.
Second, I spent a semester "abroad" in New York City interning for Mabou Mines in the East Villiage. It was Mabou that taught me all that I know and love of "poor" and experimental theatre. I can't even begin to describe all that I gained in my time with Mabou. I could go on forever. You would be reading this for the next two weeks.
So when I read on playbill that Crossroads needed a Director for a play about a Latina lesbian pirate, it really appealed to me. How could that not be interesting? There was also a note about creating rich environments with a very small budget, so I was attracted to the project as an opportunity to use some "poor" theatre magic.
This has turned out to be one of the greatest challenges working on Encanta, and I use the word "great" because it's both significant and amazing. I really think limitation is like miracle-grow for creativity. I love that I get to work on a sex scene that contains an earthquake and a fire--all in the span of two minutes. It's that kind of seemingly impossible puzzle that tends to yield really fun results.
I think when we shove minorities into roles that aren't written for them we are saying we are content with the way things are. We are saying we would like to stick with the predominately white stories we are used to and we leave no room for the new and the different. For example: I don't want to see a Korean actress playing a European role in the billionth production of As You Like It. I want to see a new play that is centered around Korean characters and employs actors and actresses that can connect to the roles and enrich the story.
And if you're thinking, "Well, logic follows then that you support the director also being culturally involved in the story, so why are YOU directing a Latina play when you aren't Latina?" The answer is: I don't know! I really liked the project, I applied, and was chosen by some great miracle to do it!
Teresa (Penzima): Teresa auditioned in full costume with props and prefaced the reading with “ Penzima’s my girl”. I don’t think either Shawn or I originally imagined the character to be anything like Teresa, but after we saw her, that was it. Teresa made this role her own; she owns it. What is best about working with Teresa is she’s absolutely fearless. She will try anything no matter how big or loud or weird; you know, kind of like a pirate. She’s also the chillest person ever, which is saying a lot in theatre.
Jenisse (Katrina): Jenisse came and saved us. We had hired another actress for the role that dropped out so we had to schedule a separate audition for Katrina. I was particularly worried because we needed to find someone in one day. Jenisse started to read and it was like a deus ex machina moment. The day was saved; she was PERFECT. She brings so much sass and charisma to the role and is such a strong actor. Did I mention she has a degree in business? Yeah. I have no idea what weird corner of heaven Jenisse fell from.
Leana (Mob Leader): You take one look at Leana and you think “That girl has her shit together”. For starters she looks like she’s a mannequin come to life from some store selling professional (sexy) attire marketed for young women who want to run the world. She also has a certain flair to her that lets you know she does things her own way. My favorite thing about Leana is that as put-together as she is, she isn’t afraid to get a little crazy and try something wild. The role of the Mob Leader was actually only written to have lines in one small section, but we let Leana play with opening each scene and she took it to such a fantastic extreme.
Sam (Maria): Samantha is the youngest cast member and we kind of treat her like the little sister of the group. We give her a lot of grief over her age, but she’s never fazed. Sam walks into the rehearsal room everyday eager and ready to work. She never brings drama. In fact, I’ve never seen her in a bad mood. She is always completely present and excited to try new things. What’s particularly great about Sam is that she has no problem being told that something she tried doesn’t work. She won’t take offense or feel bad, she will just take the note move on and keep trying new stuff.
Mark (Juan): When I first met Mark he came across as super shy, but that’s not Mark at all. It’s funny; he’s similar to his character in that way. A passerby would think he was pretty quiet but if you get to know him, he’s anything but. He’s also brilliant when it comes to working with props. He came onstage one day with a backpack and the way he interacted with it was so perfect for the character; it added so much comedy and color. He also MacGyver-ed a fishing pole out of a broomstick, clear plastic wire, and a key. Mark just has this ability to pick up seemingly unimportant things and turn them into magic.
Shawn ( The Writer): Shawn is the mother of this whole project. It was really her idea and her vision and she has put in countless hours of hard work for the production. I can’t say enough about how amazing it is that she is contributing to diversity in theatre, and the play really speaks for itself. On a personal note she is also a very strong person, she doesn’t take shit from anyone. It’s always great to have someone like that on your team.