LGBTQ+ Theatre Festival Looks at Intersectionality of Oppression

After a hugely successful sold out run last year, CASA 0101 Theater is proud to present the fifth season of BROWN & OUT FEST, A Festival of 11 World Premiere Short Plays and One Original Short Transgender Film Celebrating the LBGTQ LatinXperience.

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This groundbreaking Festival coincides with the 50th Anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in New York City, which ushered in the beginning of the Gay Rights Movement, the 50th Anniversary of the passing of Gay Icon Judy Garland and the celebration of the National LGBTQ Pride Month. The themes of BROWN & OUT V delve into the politics, socio-economics, religious oppression and indigenous roots of the unique, but often oppressed, LGBTQ community.

The Pride LA spoke with the artistic director, producer and actors all participating in their one of a kind festival. Check it out:

Josefina López, Founding Artistic Director of CASA 0101 Theater

Where did the idea come from? How does it work? 

The idea came from my writing workshop and my desire to use celebration to eradicate shame.

What is your relation to the festival/what do you do?

I’m the founder of the festival and I guide the playwrights and producers. I used to teach one of the writing workshops until two Latino LGBTQ  writers took on the role of playwriting instructor.

How did you select which plays to produce? What was the criteria?

They were created in the writing workshop. The criteria was that it had to have been written by participants in the writing workshop and they had to write about their life or an experience that highlighted the realities of being in the LGBTQ Latino community.

What is the importance of the festival to the LGBTQ+ community? 

People in the LGBTQ community get to see themselves represented and normalized as human beings living their lives with dignity and courage.

What play are you most excited about? 

All of them. They are all unique and funny and interesting. They all have something powerful to say.

Why should people come to the festival?

It’s a fresh perspective on live, love and sex.

What are you doing with the festival currently? 

Promoting and highlighting all the writers and actors and inviting members of the Latino LGBTQ community to come and also participate in Q & As to shed light and understanding.

What are your future plans for the festival? 

To continue doing it every year until enough leaders emerge and a Brown & Out Playhouse theater company emerges so that LGBTQ plays are done year round and these stories become part of the American theater.

Abel Alvarado, Executive Producer

In one sentence, what is this festival?

Brown & Out is a unique festival of it’s kind, celebrating the rich, diverse, historical and ever evolving LGBTQIA experience within the Latino community through original plays written by those within the community.

Can you elaborate more? Where did the idea come from? How does it work? 

The idea started in 2011 when Josefina López wanted to bring more inclusive stories about the LGBTQ community to the stage. The first 3 seasons were produced along with Miguel Garcia and were works that came from an open call to writers with works relating to the theme of LGBTQ community and Latinidad. Starting last year for the 4th installment, Josefina created a writers workshop for new works for the festival. It was so successful and the turnout was so great, we continued with that formula for this years festival. People attend a 10 week writing workshop where they have an oppurtunity to write and develop a play with the help of other writers and facilitators. This year’s workshop was facilitated by Brown & Out alumni Gilbert Salazar, who is a produced playwright himself and Richard Villegas, who wrote the original treatment for the hit new show VIDA on the STARZ Network. Of the plays written in the workshop, 11 were selected to be produced into short plays and one was turned into the very first short film in Brown & Out history. The writers then also become Associate Producers to help raise money, do marketing and bringing an audience to the show.

What is your relation to the festival/what do you do? 

This year, I am one of 3 Executive Producers. Along with Patricia Zamorano and Matthew Bejamin Ramos, both of which have pieces in this this year’s festival. I wrote a play for last years festival also. Along with the 2 other Executive Producer’s my role was to ensure we moved the festival forward and kept our fundraising and producing efforts going. I sought out support from donors and sponsors and helped with the artistic development of the show. I am also the Costume Designer for the show and selected the design team to create the best show within the budget that we had.

How did you select which plays to produce? What was the criteria?

All participants who went through the workshop got a staged reading with actors and an audience. From there, the workshop facilitators and Executive Producers selected the pieces that had been developed to the criteria of the workshop. This criteria included, did the participant bring work during the process that was developed with the feedback of the workshop? Was the final draft presented at the end of the workshop in play format, with character descriptions and story log line? Did the play adhere to a 10 minute, or as close to 10 minutes? Playwriting format and development were taught in the 10 week course, so the plays needed to be close to what had been taught.  

What is the importance of the festival to the LGBTQ+ community? 

The importance is that these stories that are told have not been incorporated into the fabric of LGBTQ+ writing, stage, film and tv. Being that we are in Los Angeles, where the Latino community is vast and large, and that the Chicano movement began here, the LGBTQ+ narrative of Latino’s has been left out of both Latino and LGBTQ+ history. This festival brings to life these very important stories that incorporate our experience into the collective history of this, our country, our community and our place in this world. Especially in this year, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, it is important that people SEE us and know that Latino LGBTQ+ have been around, and will continue to be, and thrive.  

What play are you most excited about? 

I enjoy them all for various reasons. The one play that really excites me and brings PRIDE is Conrado TerrazasCross’ play “Are You Gay Or Latino?” It is a historical piece and brings to life the IMPORTANT role Latino LGBTQ+ people played in developing change for LGBTQ people but also how these very trailblazers were also instrumental in “El Movimiento,” the Chicano movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. It shows how we are gay AND Latino and that our history is long. It is inspiring and I know I feel fortunate to stand on the shoulders of Latino LGBTQ+ activistas who really changed the world. 

Why should people come to the festival? 

Because it is absolutely FABULOUS! Because it is like nothing you’ve seen before and you will be INSPIRED!

What are you doing with the festival currently? 

Right now we are all making sure we fill the seats! We are also working on bringing more awareness about Trans Rights and making sure that we have REPRESENTATION in as many spaces as possible!

What are your future plans for the festival? 

I would like to see the festival expand to include more elements of Queer artistry. I would love to see a film festival come from this and even bring back Latin Gay Pride and celebrate it at Mariachi Plaza!

Devan Torres, Actor

What drew you to the festival?

Brown and Out was the first queer play I had seen. One of the plays was a monologue about this gay man who grew up playing sports but was afraid to come out and what that would mean. I felt like it really spoke to me and my identity as a trans person. After that I knew I wanted to play a role or write a script for the festival.

How are the plays selected? 

There is a writing class led by writers from the previous year and they guide the newcomers in how to properly tell a story through playwriting. After the class is finished the new writers can submit the play they’ve been working on and the producers and pervious writers choose which stories they would like to be a part of the festival.

What play(s) will you be in?

I am Alex in “Butch” , Nikki in “Mija” , a protestor in “Are You Gay or Latino?”, Sister Rosi in “Romana y El Cuerpo de Cristo” , and a pokemon player in “Better Than Grind’r”. I’m also the writer of “Omens”.

What was the casting process like for a festival? 

We tried to use all platforms of social media to find queer actors of color. We really wanted Brown and Out to be as diverse as we could possibly make it. Last year I was the only trans/non binary person in the cast and I told the producers last year that I want to work on getting more of my community in these plays instead of having cis folx playing those roles. For my piece Omens, my characters are both trans/non binary. I needed these people to play the leads in my play because this is our story and I refused to have cis people play the lead roles. It was very difficult but at the end we found two very strong actors as well as myself to be apart of the cast.

What role are you most excited about? Why? 

I’m excited for both “Butch” and “Mija” because Alex and Nikki are both very strong characters. Alex is a young playboy who reminds me of myself and Nikki is this older generation immigrant who is constantly thinking about their identity as a brown immigrant in the U.S. 

What play are you most excited to be in? Which play are you most excited to watch? 

I think my favorite play overall is “Mija.” I’m such a dramatic actor and I love feeling the rollercoaster that the writer puts me through. I get excited to see my play “Omens” because that story is about the connection I’m reaching for between my ancestors and myself. It’s a brutally honest piece about our history as indigenous people and I find it makes the audience uncomfortable, angry, sad, and leaves them with some hope as well. 

What does it mean to you to be a part of an LGBTQ+ play festival? 

Being a part of an LGBTQ+ festival is a way for me to bring representation to my communities. It brings me hope and joy. The LGB community has not been kind to my trans people and my goal for this festival was to show that our transness has been present just as long as your queerness has. Being a part of this festival is a creative battle. We are brown, beautiful, and here. I want to an inspiration.

Why should people come to the festival? 

People should come to the Brown and Out Festival because these stories that we tell aren’t just about being queer. Anyone can relate to them. Do you have questions about the community? Maybe one of the plays has an answer for you. Struggling with terminology or lingo? We’ve got that. Want to see yourself on stage? We’re here with you. LGBTQ+, allies, even your cis straight tio who wouldn’t understand could come and challenge themselves. If you’re uncomfortable question it. 

Giovanni Navarro, Actor & Playwright 

What drew you to the festival? 

I was part of the acting company in last year’s season. I had an incredible experience being part of this important festival and so I told myself I would come back for a second round.

How are the plays selected? 

The plays are selected from a panel of executive producers. We as writers got a chance to produce a short play, at the end of a 10 week writing workshop we got to submit our pieces to the executive producers, and from there selections took place based on well written and strong material.

What play(s) will you be in? 

This season I will be performing in 5 selected plays: Zaddy written by Daniel Muñoz, Omens written by Devan Torres, El Cuerpo de Christo written by Felipe Agredan, #Cumdump written by Matthew Ramos and To Rocco with Love wriiten by yours truly.

What was the casting process like for a festival? 

As an actor, the casting process is pretty similar to other casting procedures. Here we got to audition with a monologue of our choice, if the directors/writers thought you had potential, they will then call you in for a callback. During callbacks we did chemistry readings with other actors so they could see how well we fit the roles being casted.

What role are you most excited about? Why? 

This year the role I am most excited about is Tomas in Zaddy. Its a role that requires comedic as well as dramatic chops. Tomas is a young insecure man going through the ups and downs of online dating. After several failed dates where he has been stood up he feels like giving up on “love” but then comes this older gentleman whom he learns some valuable lessons from and actually ends up going on a date with. It’s a role that is both fun and sad, as you feel empathy for this character. It’s a real treat playing him every night!

What play are you most excited to be in? 

Which play are you most excited to watch? #Cumdump is the play I am most excited yet scared to play every night. It’s a play about hook ups and searching for the one. Here both Arash Aiinehsazian (the other actor playing opposite me) and I strip down to our underwear in front of the audience, that can be a challenge for any performer! simply because many of us are not used to being exposed in front of many people. Nevertheless it’s a challenge for any actor and it’s also fun and liberating!

What does it mean to you to be a part of an LGBTQ+ play festival? 

Being part of a LGBTQ play festival means alot to me. I get the opportunity to share with the world the importance of our community and the value behind it. To represent queer narratives is to share our voices to the outside world and to let them know that our voices matter, that we experience the same issues and circumstances as everyone else. We experience, happiness, loss, trauma, triumphs, and many other things just like everyone else. Also to share this experience with other members of the LGBTQ spectrum is a true honor.

Why should people come to the festival? 

People should come to the festival simply to experience beautiful art. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing stories being told onstage and that is a real treat. Theater allows people to feel, and that is what we do here, we make you feel, so come on out you will enjoy the experience!

Gabriella Rafiele, Actor 

What drew you to the festival?

What drew me to the festival was the opportunity they gave to trans/non-binary actors, that’s not common. 

How are the plays selected? 

I believe they host a writing class, and if your play was selected, your play was picked up.

What play(s) will you be in?

I am in: Are you Gay or Latino?, Black Sheep Rainbow Sheep, Butch, Omens, and Romana y El Cuerpo De Cristo. 

What was the casting process like for a festival? 

We had auditions, and call backs. 

What role are you most excited about? Why? 

I love all my roles! However; the role of Roxana, the lead in Romana y El Cuerpo De Cristo, hit home with me. It is about a trans woman who goes to a Pentecostal church and is encountered by bigotry.  I grew up Pentecostal and actually had a dream about going back to visit post-transition. 

What play are you most excited to be in? Which play are you most excited to watch? 

I wish I could split myself in two and watch the whole thing, but especially Omens – where I play Koko, it is intense. 

What does it mean to you to be a part of an LGBTQ+ play festival? 

For me, it is an honor. I am one of three transgender actors – that to me brings me to tears because these are one of the few places in which we are able to enjoy working on our craft. 

Why should people come to the festival? 

Because it is truly a great show! These stories are not often told, even though they are LGBT oriented, you will see how relatable these are to everyone. 

Performances will be presented at CASA 0101 Theater, 2102 East First Street (at St. Louis Street), Boyle Heights, CA Thursdays – Sundays, now through July 7, 2019.  There will be no performances on on Thursday, July 4, 2019. For more information, visit www.casa0101.org