Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 885: Bernardo Cubría

Bernardo Cubría

Hometown: Mexico City/Houston

Current Town: Los Angeles

Q:  Tell me about your upcoming show.

A:  The Judgment of Fools is by far the "craziest" piece I've written. It comes from the Commedia training I did in Italy, and my obsession with clowning and with the interaction Shakespeare's clowns had with the Groundlings. I wrote the first draft drunk after seeing The Freak Show in Coney Island about three years ago. I was in awe of that show. I had never sat in a theatre where it was so clear how much disdain the performers had for the audience. They kept openly mocking us. They were clearly saying, "sure I shove a fucking sword down my throat but look at you in your "I Heart NY" shirt you fat loser". I mean, not exactly like that but...basically.

So I went home and started thinking about how much disdain I felt for New York Theatre Audiences. It felt so elitists, so classist. The crossed armed, finger on the temple, refusing to laugh at a fart joke even though fart jokes are as funny as any obscure political reference that you pretend to chuckle at will ever be! Yeah...I was frustrated. And I hate the lack of diversity in the seats of New York. And in that beautiful writing moment where you are drunk enough and inspired enough to truly believe that the play you are about to write will single handedly change the make up of Theatre Audiences around the world, in that AWESOME moment, I wrote the first draft.

So that was the starting point. The first draft was an angry, crazy, and experimental clown show.
Since then and through the help of many amazing artists it has changed drastically.

I had a workshop in New York through Inviolet Theatre, than a co-production with Inviolet and INTAR. Then a full production in Los Angeles with Ammunition Theatre Company and now another full production in Houston with Horse Head Theatre Company. Since the show is interactive, it has also grown thanks to the audiences. It's cool to see how different audiences are in New York versus Los Angeles and I'm excited to see what Houston will be like.

Now I hope the play is less angry and more in the vein of Augusto Boal's Theatre of The Oppressed. The play is about how silly it is that we judge other people for the things they do. An example: there is a scene where you watch two lovers at a doorway and as the scene progresses our main "Fool" gives you more background on the two lovers. The audience is asked to begin booing once they find what the lovers are doing not to be, "up to the standards of human decency that they have created in their own heads". On its best nights, the play feels like a bonding exercise between audience members and performers where the conversation follows them to a nearby bar. On its worst nights, people don't like interactive shows and make "ew" faces.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  My newest play is Neighbors. And if I can say this, I love this play. This began with me writing a play with a character called Mexico and one called USA. They were neighbors and their lands were split up by a creek. Since then, and again thanks to so many artists, the play has grown.

Now the play is a Satire about US and Mexico. It uses stereotypes to get to the heart of what I believe to be the reason for all of the turmoil along the border. Pinche Capitalism. It ruins everything. So now we have Jose and Joe sharing land. And I hope they are two real three dimensional beings just trying to survive in a world where industry is given priority over human connection. I have another week long workshop in L.A. this November at The Blank Theatre. And my dream is that this play gets a big production. And that Donald Trump sits in the front row and as the play progresses he realizes all he's done and starts crying. And then he gets up, calls a press conference and apologizes to Mexico. Finally he turns to me, I reach out my arms to hug him and as he approaches, while whispering, "lo siento Berni", at the last second I "pants" him. So Oskar Eustis...should I email you the play directly or just slide into your DMs on Twitter?

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  My mom's father was great man. Octaviano Cabrera. He came from extreme poverty. His father committed suicide when he was very young and yet he somehow managed to become a doctor in Mexico and raise a wonderful family. He was an example of what a single human can achieve in one lifetime. And I have all these wonderful memories of spending summers in Mexico with him. We would sit around the dinner table talking for hours. And when we were all eating desert he would tell jokes. He had an infinite knowledge of jokes. They were so funny. And he seemed so magical to me. How he could just make everyone laugh over and over again. I miss the hell out of him. He taught me that funny was better than bitter. And in my worst moments, I try and remember that lesson.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  The Audience. I hate the make-up of theatre audiences in this country. We HAVE to change it.

A quick story: So my play Neighbors, which I hope someone will produce (wink wink), had a workshop at the wonderful Two River Theatre in RedBank, New Jersey. The superb team at Two River commissioned me to translate the play into Spanish. They did two readings of my play. One in in English and one in Spanish.

Red Bank is a town in Jersey that has a very large immigrant population. And most of these people have never been to a theatre. The day before my reading, my younger brother and I went door to door and asked people to come. I told them why I wrote the play, why it was in Spanish and why it was free of charge. I had no idea if these people would come to a big building that seems like a place only "others" go to. But they did. And, if I may say, they loved the play. I sat in that theatre so fucking happy that finally I got to do my play in my home stadium. Because, in my opinion, any writer who doesn't come from a "classic American" background is always playing an away game in American theatre. And yes, a great team wins on the road, but at some point wouldn't it be nice to play for a home crowd? So for that night, in my stadium. I felt so fucking happy.

Let's get those people in the building.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  A bunch. Sorry but here we go:

Mando Alavardo, Jerry Ruiz, Stephanie Ybarra, Lou Moreno, Jorge Cordova, JJ Perez, Ed Cardona, John Concado, Juan Villa, Gerry Rodriguez, Michael Escamilla, Kristoffer Diaz, Sean Daniels, Felix Solis, Liza Fernandez, Fernanda Coppel, Tanya Saracho, Caridad Svich, Alex Beech, everyone in Inviolet Theater, everyone in Ammunition Theatre, Lucas Caleb Rooney, Mark Cirnigliaro, Bixby Elliot, Megan Hart, Zabryna Guevara, Migdalia Cruz, Matt Olmos, Maggie Boffil, Florencia Lozano, Raul Castillo, Emma Ramos, Audrey Esparza, Matt Citron, David Ryan Smith, Flor De Liz Perez, and so many more!

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love all theatre. So this will sound weird. I know the future is bright because of theatre twitter. There are so many smart, passionate people out there fighting the good fight for our art form. Example: follow Kristoffer Diaz on Twitter and tell me you don't have hope for this art form.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Hang out with people you love making shit with. And get in a room, any room and create. Your community is everything in this art form. Just say yes, make and repeat.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Houston! Come see The Judgment of Fools

link for tickets here: THE JUDGMENT OF FOOLS

Los Angeles come and see the workshop of Neighbors at The Blank Theater!Living Room Series

Last I do a theatre podcast and I just had Stephen Adly Guirgis on and even Adam Szymkowicz!:
Off and On: A New York Theatre podcast by Unknown on iTunes

oh and I'm on Twitter. Mostly making fun of Trump Supporters@bernardocubria

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