Oct 25, 2012
I Interview Playwrights Part 512: Luis Enrique Gutiérrez Ortiz Monasterio
Translated from Spanish by Maria Alexandria Beech
Luis Enrique Gutiérrez Ortiz Monasterio
Hometown: Guadalajara, Jalisco.
Current town: Xalapa, Veracruz.
Q: Tell me about "I Hate Fucking Mexicans" at the Flea.
A: In formal terms, it’s a departure from my body of work because it’s not a study on the structure of character which comprises most of my plays. When Ana [Graham] asked me for a play for New York, we chose this one because of its potential to establish a dialogue with american culture, instead of the obvious option of sending a more conventional play as a calling card. In Mexico, this play has evoked extreme reactions. Either they like it a lot or they hate it, and they say I’m an idiot and that I shouldn’t write again. I don’t want audiences to say my plays are pretty; if that were the case, I’d rather knit acrylic sweaters. What I care about is making the audience uneasy in their seats. If that means I feel vilified in the process, well, what a pussy. For me, the theater is a political act, not about immediate politics, but of the other kind, of a courageous man, who is the actor embracing the words of a coward, who is the playwright, in order to confront his community, which is the audience. I don’t think there’s a more political act than this one.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: This year, ironically, I’ve written a lot. In March, I started undergoing tests for a [kidney] transplant and my wife left me for a fucker. So I had to re-think the plan and I gave away my dogs who were my adoration. Bottom line, I was left alone like a Mennonite at a street corner. And it was for the better because I’ve been able get a lot of work done in bed. I finished the first part of a trilogy in collaboration with Ana Lucía Ramírez; I wrote the first five chapters of a theatrical police series, and I finished the first draft of my book on the theory of character.
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 decided to become a writer at the age of eight. Back then, they were preparing me to be a Marist [Catholic] priest and I wrote poems to the Virgin Mary. Since I’m the child of two sociopaths, I would hide in my closet with a reading lamp and I would read a lot, above all, nineteenth century poetry and novels about pirates. The first narrator I envied, to the point of wanting to write like him, was Joseph Conrad. I arrived at drama late; I was thirty years old when I started writing it formally. What I really wanted to be was a novelist, like Conrad, but no one liked my novels. For years now, I’ve hardly read anything. I only write.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I don’t understand the question. In my thirteen years as a playwright, I put forth two different models for writing theater which in my country and other places are constantly imitated. First, I developed a model in which everything begins from nothing, and that entails hiring the least number of actors and using minimum set design and props. The other model is related with the language of comics to achieve the opposite: developing a play with the most plots, characters, and transitions possible in an hour and a half. The idea is to create a novel that can be staged. I’m very ignorant about the theater which makes me certain that I didn’t invent either one really. Someone must have done it before. But in my arrogance, I’d prefer to think that I’m a genius who achieved twice what no one had achieved even once.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Aeschylus, Aeschylus, and Aeschylus
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I don’t really go to theater. I have problems socializing and sitting in a fist of strangers and laughing at what they laugh at and crying with them. It’s not a big problem but I’d rather not do it.
*After the Mexican artists community raised $20,000 of the $30,000 Legom needs for a kidney transplant in Mexico, a group of artists in the United States launched a campaign to raise the remaining $10,000. So far, $4,366 has been raised. To donate, go here: www.indiegogo.com/legomproject.