San Diego Rep goes virtual for fourth Latinx new play festival next weekend

The playwrights featured at San Diego Repertory Theatre's 2020 Latinx festival.
The playwrights featured at San Diego Repertory Theatre’s 2020 Latinx New Play Festival are, from left, Diana Burbano, Francisco Mendoza, Jaymes Sanchez, Makasha Copeland and Margo Gomez.
(Courtesy photo)

Founder Patrice Amon said this year’s play selections all relate to issues of family

When San Diego Repertory Theatre and Amigos Del Rep’s Latinx New Play Festival returns for its fourth year next weekend, it will be entirely online. But its organizer promises the showcase of playwrights from North and South America will be just as interactive as in years past.

This year’s festival will be presented on the online platform Hopin, which will allow users to create a personal account they can use to network with other festival-goers, watch performances, ask questions in group sessions, vote in polls and virtually tour a designers booth fair.

The festival will run from Friday afternoon through Sunday, Sept. 6, and will include staged readings of four new plays and a showcase performance by Latinx comedian and playwright Marga Gomez. There will also be several panel discussions and events.

Festival founder and producer Patrice Amon said this year the festival committee received 90 play submissions from playwrights in North and South America. In previous years, the topic of many of the submission focused on immigration issues. But this year, Amon said she noticed most of the scripts dealt with the theme of family and intrafamilial relationships. Family dynamics have certainly come to the fore since the pandemic began, but all of these plays were written pre-pandemic, she said.

Since the festival began in 2016, 16 plays — including this year’s four — have been produced. Many have gone on to full productions at the Rep and at regional and national theaters.

“We’re looking for stories that are exciting and are going to hook our San Diego Rep audience as well as stories that are going to expand beyond our region and speak to a national audience,” Amon said.

Although the pandemic has eliminated in-person performances this year, it has enabled the Rep to cast actors and directors from all over the country. And because lighting, costume and set designers can’t be featured onstage this year, a special showcase of 40 Latinx theater designers will participate in an online booth fair, where festival patrons can click into folders to see their portfolios.

Here’s a look at this year’s festival selections:

The fest’s first reading at 5 p.m. Friday is “Machine Learning” by Brooklyn-based Argentinian playwright Francisco Mendoza. It’s about a tech pioneer who invents a healthcare app to care for his dying father, from whom he is estranged. Amon said the play deals with the tension between the choice of what’s medically best for the patient versus what’s emotionally best.

At noon Saturday, Burbano’s “Sapience” will have a reading. It’s about a primatologist and her nephew, who are both on the autism spectrum. When an orangutan named Wookie begins to communicate with the nonverbal boy, it changes the primatologist’s views on autism and communication. For this play, Wookie will be played by an actor and the two human characters will be played by neurodiverse actors.

At 3 p.m. Saturday, Makasha Copeland’s “Extreme Home Makeover” will be read. It’s a gritty comedy told through the filmed auditions of a family of four who are hoping to be chosen for a rags-to-riches reality TV makeover show. “It’s a beautiful family story about moving through the process of grief and finding resilience in yourself,” Amon said.

Spotlight performer Gomez will present her funny autobiographical coming-out solo play “Spanking Machine” at 6 p.m. Saturday. Amon said Gomez is a dynamic, exciting performer and the play is about “the secrets we hide or the stories we keep personal.”

At 1 p.m. Sept. 6, Amon will direct the reading of Jaymes Sanchez’s play “The Cucuy Will Find You.” The Cucuy is a mythical boogeyman character in Mexican-American folklore. In the play, the character Rey is trying to be the “good child,” both as a child and later as an adult, to avoid a visit from the Cucuy.

A festival pass is being offered at a “pay what you can” price. The suggested value of the pass is $50 or more. To reserve a pass, visit sdrep.org/Latin_New_Play_Festival.php. Because the registration process on Hopin and the Rep’s festival streaming module may take 10 or more minutes, festival-goers are encouraged to visit the site in advance. For assistance, call (619) 544-100.

Latinx New Play


Friday

4 p.m.: Directing panel

5 p.m.: “Machine Learning” reading

7 p.m.: Opening reception

Saturday

11 a.m.: Designer Showcase

Noon: “Sapience” reading

2 p.m.: Dramaturgy panel

3 p.m.: “Extreme Home Makeover” reading

5 p.m.: Dinner break

6 p.m.: “Spanking Machine” performance

Sunday, Sept. 6

11 a.m.: Frontera Project panel

Noon: Historical context panel

1 p.m.: “The Cucuy Will Find You” reading

3 p.m.: Closing playwrights panel

—Pam Kragen is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune


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