Gulf Coast 2018/2019 Season In Review by Anita Vatshell
DG member Christina Quintana’s new play, Azul, recently played at Southern Rep in New Orleans. Quintana’s mission as a writer is “to speak truth to our intersectional lives and untangle the seemingly disparate threads that tie us together.” Azul boldly tells an intersectional story about identity, memory, and love.
Anita Vatshell: What were the highlights of working at Southern Rep?
Christina Quintana: New Orleans is my hometown and I started as an intern at Southern Rep after my freshman year of college, so to return with a world premiere over a decade later was truly special. Also, our team on this project was so big-hearted and devoted, in the true New Orleans spirit! What more can you ask for as a playwright?
Anita Vatshell: Any challenges or insights? What’s next?
Christina Quintana: I truly loved how people who don’t speak or understand Spanish had no trouble digging into the story. The Spanish within the play is very purposeful, particularly in moments when the audience might feel like Zelia, our protagonist, who navigates the world as a non-native speaker. My dream is to get Azul to New York, where my parents immigrated from Cuba, but I’d love to see it everywhere. I learned through this show that regional audiences are hungry for plays like this one.
Anita Vatshell: How closely does Azul relate to your memories?
Christina Quintana: I joke that Azul is my family play without being my family play. Nothing is directly autobiographical—my mother is in good health, my wife is not Puerto Rican, I didn’t go to Cuba with my partner or family. I steal and cherry pick from my life, and a thousand other experiences, to build the world of any play. A friend joked: I’m 80% Loré and 20% Zelia. Laughable, since Loré is way cooler than I am. What’s real is I’m Cuban American, raised by Cuban parents, one lighter skinned, one darker, who chose not to teach us Spanish, despite speaking it themselves every day. Indirectly and directly, my parents taught me to be both proud and ashamed of my own identity. They wanted me to be American, to have an easier life. This conversation certainly lives at the heart of Azul. Yadra also feels like a combination of both my parents. My mother is a total character, and my father was a psychiatrist. An act into writing Azul, my father passed away unexpectedly. This informed the play more than I could have imagined.
Anita Vatshell: What impact or obstacles has your mission statement created?
Christina Quintana: I’m tired of people believing a queer character of color is “too much.” It’s ironic, but what’s probably helped and “hurt” my career most is the fact that I unabashedly center my stories on queer characters of color. I will always be labeled a Latinx and queer playwright, and I’m damn proud of both, but it’s important that theaters recognize these categories don’t make us all one and the same. A glorious assortment of stories out there deserve more than a hashtag.
Anita Vatshell: How does New Orleans compare with New York theatre?
Christina Quintana: New Orleans is a smaller scene, and folks are mixing things up, but I’m so hungry to see more representation on NOLA stages. For instance, there’s a huge Vietnamese population in New Orleans. Let’s represent!
Anita Vatshell: Any words of wisdom for Gulf Coast members?
Christina Quintana: I’m inspired by artists working in the Gulf. Your voice is important and your work matters. Reach out to me. I’d love to experience your work if I can.
To inquire about new play submissions, email firstname.lastname@example.org.