Oct 29, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 274: Mando Alvarado
Hometown: Pharr-San Juan-Alamo, Texas
Current Town: Brooklyn, NY
Q: Tell me about Cino Nights and the play you did for it with RPR.
A: Cino nights is homage to Joseph Cino and the downtown theater days. We rehearsed for one week, and then put it up for one night. Kind of like a happening. It was an amazing experience. Intense, enlightening, motivating, and really rewarding. That rehearsal week felt like a lifetime, but in a great way. When Daniel commissioned me to write the piece, I knew I wanted to play with structure and narrative. So in late August, I was up for a week at writer's retreat working with Taibi, Sarah, Jen Ferrin and Bernardo. We hammered out a way of working that helped me figure out what I needed to do to make the play come alive. It was a crazy five days. Real honest exchange of ideas, personal demons and self reflection. Back here in NYC, we had the same intense work week. Taibi, my director, and the actors, Bernardo, Jolly, and Sarah were real pro's. They gave a lot to the play and I'm eternally grateful. They dove into the work and really found ways to lift the nuance of the construct of the play. They found beautiful ways to navigate the fluctuating structure of the play which jumps between five realities -Present, Past, Memory, Thoughts in the Memory, In between, and What if.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: I'm currently in workshop rehearsals for La Maga de Oz for Theaterworks USA. It's a latinofied interpretation of The Wizard of Oz. I'm also a participating company playwright for Theater 167's new project about fairy tales. And in rewriting mode for my play Basilica that is being developed for Rattlestick Playwright's Theater. We're planning a workshop production in my home town and then premiering it in NY for their upcoming season. Also working on not going crazy if there's not enough work. AND working on how the hell I'm gonna pay the bills so I can continue my theatrical habit.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: I loved Rocky. When I was a kid, I pretended to be Rocky. My uncles would mess with me, making me go running really early in the morning, making me drink eggs, box, do one arm push ups, run up stadium stairs like the stairs in Rocky. I was a maniac! And I knew they were fucking with me but I didn't care. It gave me permission to play pretend. When I got older and I learned about how the movie came about and why it was written, I found a deeper respect for the work and what Sylvester Stallone did. I guess I wanted to have that same kind of control with my work and find ways to say it my way. I AM ROCKY!
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: The role of the critic. I've seen a lot of my friends go through the critical process and it devastates them. I don't really understand how one person has the power to validate the work. Who gave him or her that power? I would like for each critic to write a play, get it on it's feet and then have a room full of Artistic Directors, actors, directors, and playwrights come critique the work. You have to earn the right to be an arbitrator of taste. I know they are a part of the machine. I don't question that. I question their qualifications. You have to be able to do what you judge. That's all I'm sayin!
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Luis Valdez, Clifford Odets, Harold Clurman, August Wilson, Lewis J Stadlen - gave me the balls to call myself a professional, Robert Beseda, Jackyln Maddux, Gerald Freedman, Michael Lluberes, Stephan Adly Guirgis, David Mamet, Migdalia Cruz, Craig Wright, Wolly Mammoth Theater Company, Gregg Henry, Michael Ray Escamilla, Those Guys, Michael John Garces, Jorge Cortinas, Raul Castillo, The incomparable Felix Solis, Ed Vassalo, Alex Correia, Jeremy Skidmore, Abs, Rene Garza, Wayne Adams, Peter Hedges, my classmates from NCSA, the Tex Mex Mafia, Lou and INTAR, and as far as people that really challenge me as a writer and shaped how I approach the work, I got to say these three people really cracked the prose in my head. Eduardo Machado, really made me challenge my self and what I want to say in my work. David Van Asselt, he gave me a chance, gave me blind faith in a world where product is valued over substance, and Lue Douthit from OSF. She's the Lit. Manager there and she gave me the bones. She opened up the confidence to finally allow myself to feel like a writer. And the one that allowed me to be a writer, Sarena Kennedy!
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Honest, risky, take me on a journey, emotionally challenges me, makes me forget about the day, makes me feel like a kid sitting on the mat ready for story time, other worldly, dangerous, raw, unconventional, nontraditional, (and this if for Alfredo) NON-ALL AMERICAN THEATER in the traditional uninviting sense.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Learn the rules. rewrite! and rewrite! Don't cheat yourself. Don't be afraid to fail. Screw them if they can't take a joke and never never stop learning. It doesn't get any easier but it does get better. Writing a play is fucking hard and writing a good play is fucking harder. And if you want to make money, learn how to write for TV. There's no money in theater but there's a type of currency that will carry you through the bad times. And say something in the work! And love the one's your with, drink, fight, be honest, give, and don't forget to smile, it's only a play.