A Playwright Finding His Foundation by Juan Ramirez

Crimson_2The Cimientos Play Development Program at IATI is where playwrights meet with staff to work on plays that lean away from realism and sit comfortably on avant-garde. Selected playwrights read each other’s work and gather for weekly meetings to analyze, praise but most importantly, deliver constructive criticism. Cimientos in Spanish means “foundations” and the mission for everyone is to help the playwright find exactly that. At the time my play was chosen, it was not only the play that needed a new foundation but so did my writing process.

Stroke Of Madness is my first attempt at writing avant-garde. BJuan Ramirez headshoteing much more of a playwright that dabbles in realism and naturalism, I needed to reinvent my own writing process to discover the kind of imagination I had hidden in my head. When it came time for me to sit in the hot seat, I was eager to find out what my fellow playwright-sufferers thought and if my work had any chance of living in the avant-garde world. Winston Estevez (Associate Artistic Director) and Haydn Diaz (Literary Manager), guide the live and Skype meetings with a format that is called “the bad, the good and the title.” When an artist of any medium sits in a room with other artist-sufferers who collaborate to make your work and essentially you better, there is nothing more satisfying.  I was informed that my piece needed a further push into the genre. This was wonderful to hear because it was like receiving permission to go ahead and create more chaos. With a new approach and game plan, I set off to rewrite the play and in doing so, I found the next draft.

Gerardo Gudino, Bertha Leal, Sebastian Stimman and Carmen Cabrera

Cast in Rehearsal

Now it was time to get the play to come to life. I met up with Victoria Collado (play director) and discussed the plan of attack. Our main mission for the reading was to continue on the road of discovery to find new elements of the play. How would intensions change characters? What if she stood over here instead of over there? Is this clear? There were no questions too daring to ask and no answer unworthy of finding. We were all invested in this search of the fine line between sanity and insanity. The theme was resonating within all of us in such a way that we all rediscovered why it is we love doing what we do. I want to give a big thanks to Sebastian Stimman, Carmen Cabrera, Gerardo Gudiño, Bertha Leal and Nora Tjossem for their endless investment in making this story as much theirs as it is my own.

Sebastian as Manuel and Carmen as IsabelBefore the reading, I reviewed what I had thus far completed. I took on notes and saw my characters come to life. Now the next step after building this foundation was to finally see if it all worked. I look forward to an audience lending me their time to bless me with truth. There is no greater education than when a playwright gets to witness the audience react. I will be ready with a pen and pad for the new notes I hope to receive. Join the Cimientos play readings this season so that the playwrights can watch you watch their work.

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