Arts & Culture / Mosaic / Theater / January 20, 2010

Spanish-influenced play explores identity, sexuality

Junior Caroline Castro went to California for the first time in June 2009, where her play “Breasticulars” placed fourth in the New Works Festival. Castro was a sophomore when “Breasticulars” got into Catch last year. The piece has come a long way since.

The New Works Festival takes place during the summer in California and is hosted by the Breath of Fire theatre ensemble. Breath of Fire is a Latina theatre ensemble founded in 2003, and its purpose is to provide the opportunity for Latinos and Latinas to represent themselves in the performing arts. The ensemble is based in Santa Ana, California. Its artistic directors and co-directors are Sara Guerrero and Elsa Martinez Phillips, respectively.

Castro says she got lucky.

“I entered the Goodman Theater. It all happened so fast. I was seeing the rehearsal process, and I started talking to the assistant director Alvaro Rios.”

Rios is a PhD at Northwestern University, who is Puerto Rican like Castro. She gave him her email address, and he began forwarding her messages about contests. Although she just passed the submission date, Castro made it into the festival.

A month later, she found out she was one of six finalists. Rios had also submitted a play called “A Trip through the Mind of a ‘Crazy’ Mexican,” and he made it into the festival, as well. It was a nationwide contest, which received about 30 script submissions. Castro sees the opportunity as a stepping stone. “Breasticulars,” was directed by the co-founder of Breath of Fire.

Castro went to California from her home in Puerto Rico. She flew into Los Angeles with her parents, where she was excited to find that she shares something in common with the actress Meryl Streep.

“I fit my hands into Meryl Streep’s [hand prints], and they fit perfectly,” she said.

“Breasticulars” is about sexuality and identity. It is one of Castro’s most Spanish-influenced plays, with about 40 to 50 percent of the script in Spanish. Some of the characters do not speak English at all, but most of them switch in and out the languages. One of the main themes is about being “in between.” For example, the main character is a woman who owns a lingerie store, and fits lingerie exactly to a woman’s size, just the way she is. But she is struggling with the business, and feels conflicted when a surgeon offers to pay her to make post-op corsets for women who are recovering from plastic surgery. Her 11-year-old daughter faces similar issues, and is between womanhood and girlhood. She wants large breasts, and wants to fall in love. Another character, Zafiro, is a drag queen who works at the store, and is also caught between two worlds.

Castro has been writing plays since sixth grade. In one of her earlier plays, she made an adaptation of Cinderella, which was performed in her middle school. It had a modern “ghetto” prince, and thug mice who sang to “Dirty Pop.” Years later, at her church, she won the silver scholastic medal from the youth pastor. The play was called “Picking up my Cross,” which she wrote her junior year of high school. She used to do Saturday Night Live type skits, with high school stereotypes and modern songs like “Milkshake” for the choir to sing.

Currently, one of Castro’s plays will be directed in playwright workshop, an opportunity outside of class to put scripts and acting through a test run. The play is called “Hush,” and is about characters trying to find their voice. The setting is in 1966. Senior Meredith Noseworthy will be directing the play, and Mandy Guttman-Gonzales may be helping with the Spanish.

Castro said of writing bilingually that, “I want multicultural audiences to share the moment and experience it together. Maybe they will laugh at different parts, but they will not be segregated.”

Zoe Hatton

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