Playwrights Putting Their Money Where Their Mouths Are…Or Not

Art generously donated by someone who read Encanta and loved it.
Art generously donated by someone who read Encanta and loved it.

I was almost going to write about something else this month, but something happened that made me switch gears.

Only a few days ago, I got some wonderful news about one of my plays. Encanta — my fantasy romance about a lady pirate named Penzima and a sorceress named Katrina falling in love — has been chosen for Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s Premiere Play Development Program. I can’t say enough about what it would mean for me to bring Encanta to life in a supportive environment like Manhattan Rep.

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Encanta offers an opportunity to connect with audiences who may feel alienated by fantasy storytelling in theatre and mass media. How often is it that fantasy stories take place in a setting populated entirely by LGBT people of color of Latinx descent? How many times have you come across a fantasy story about two women of color falling in love? How often do we, as marginalized people, get to see ourselves represented in pure escapist fun?

The great thing about Encanta is that it offers these same things to underrepresented theatre-makers. How many gay and bi Latina directors would love to sink their teeth into a play where two women of color falling in love with each other is the center of the story? With trans women gaining more visibility in media, how amazing would it be for a trans Latina actress to take a powerful, complex role like Katrina and make it her own? Imagine a Latinx set designer looking for a project where they can freely show their cultural roots on stage.

In an ideal world where interest, budget and availability were not factors, the definitive production of Encanta would have a cast and crew of LGBT people of color of Latinx descent.

But what happens in the real world where time, money and interest may be limited? What happens if, for whatever reason, I can’t find Latinx actors to play these roles? What if the only director available is a straight white man? What am I willing to compromise on to have a full production of Encanta?

What happens when my commitment to diversity, equity, representation rub against the practicalities of needing others to bring my plays to life? Do I pursue a creatively fulfilling option at the risk of potentially harming the communities that need the opportunities Encanta can provide? Or do I deny myself the opportunity to see my work reailzed and die a little bit inside?

As much as I desire accountability from others, am I in a position to demand that if I have a limited ability to practice it myself?

To what degree can I practice the accountability I ask of others? I’m already reaching out to Latinx theatre companies in the New York metro area. In my ads calling for cast and crew, I’m going to be explicit about all the characters being Latinx and LGBT. I’m also going to be explicit about wanting LGBT people of color of Latinx descent to be part of this, despite the time, budget and space constraints. Is this really all I can do? Or is this a case of, “I tried, and therefore no one should criticize me”?

i tried
From Daniel Radcliffe’s appearance on SNL.

I won’t pretend for two seconds that I know a simple right or wrong answer to any of this. Or maybe I’m just a huge hypocrite who wants to get hers like everybody else.

Have you ever struggled with something like this? What did you do? How did it turn out? Would you go about things differently? Why or why not?