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Going Home

Carmen Pelaez

Carmen Pelaez

If I’d been asked to write for the South Florida One-Minute Play Festival a few years ago, I would have paused.  I felt very out of touch with Miami even though it was the production of my first play in South Beach that gave me the foundation for my career.  But thanks to Facebook, the world is as small as it is endless. Distance, time and differences are factors that can be zeroed out with the click of a mouse.  Social has made the old adage of “You can never go home again” a moot point. Home is a news feed and being a part of it is as easy as hitting a share button.  I was hip to the artists, newsmakers and goings on of my hometown so I said yes without thinking twice about it.   Then ‘home’ took me to task as it always seems to be able to do.  Challenging me to the prove that my ideas could actually be put to practice.  I’ll s’plain…..

In the line of seemingly endless artists statement/vision/purpose essays I have to write for playwriting grant applications and fellowships, there is one thing I make sure to include in every one:

“I love to explore how devastation and laughter live in the same breath. I have written everything from dada like marionette plays to kitchen sink plays to solo plays What they have in common is that they all began with a small moment that snagged on my imagination….”

Although I happily surrender to grandiosity, a cultural trapping being Cuban, I know that a life is not made up of a series of huge gestures or firework like emotions.  The truly seismic stuff happens in quiet glances, split second decisions and impulsive seconds.  Worlds are created and destroyed in a minute and writing for this festival gave me the chance to test my most deeply held artistic belief.

I had two plays to write.  I knew that I wanted them to reflect who I was and who I had become.  I wanted to theatrically represent what happens in my head when I land at Miami International Airport; how the woman walks through the streets that the girl grew up on.  So I had two blank pages to fill one.  I filled one with the memory of a first kiss and the other with an electrified opinion about a city wide meme.

Staring out my Brooklyn window, I started to tap on the keys and wondered if it could actually be done.  Could I actually take one of these moments that had grabbed me and turn them into their own plays with 89 minutes to spare?  Could I find a way to speak to the community that nurtured my early career while remaining true the artistic sensibilities I’d developed in New York?  Would I be able to be true to my life and my hometown without falling flat the way outsiders tend to fall.  All ‘huge’ questions, for me, with the most unsurprisingly simple of answers.

Turns out I have great affection for the girl I was.  Not nearly as embarrassed by her vulnerability as I would have imagined.  I became nostalgic for the sleepy little town Miami was when I lived there which seems like a lifetime ago.   I wanted more than a minute, but was happy to type THE END at the bottom of the page.

On the other hand, the cutting opinion of the artist I’ve become gave me pause.  One thing is to opine in a status update-but its quite another to put it on a stage, taking responsibility for the characterization of others based only on their actions.  But if we can’t judge based on actions-what can we judge on?  There was plenty of white space on the page when I finished and was happy that I was confident enough not to dilute it.

In two different minutes of theatre,  I proved to myself that you can artistically be who you’ve become and go home again.  Whether ‘home’ responds to it or not is out of my hands.  But the opportunity to answer a couple big questions in under a minute has ignited something in my writing, and I look forward to following wherever it may take me.

 -Carmen Pelaez 

 

The First South Florida One-Minute Play Festival will be held Sunday Feb 26th at 4:30PM and 8:30 PM at The Deering Estate. Tickets are $25 and proceeds will benefit SFTL’s playwright workshop programming.  For tickets and info click here. 

 

 

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