There’s something in the water!
We moved to Baltimore in 2002. I was furious. Furious! I wanted to stay in Miami. At least I had friends in Miami. At least there are Latinos like me in Miami. At least my artistic pursuits could blossom in Miami. And of course, there was the beach and that soft, soft sand.
So, what did I do? I pouted for a very long time. I didn’t do much writing. I didn’t go to plays or shows. I did a lot of nursing, dishwashing, and carpooling and found myself pregnant all over again. Baby number four, here we go again! I think there was something in the water.
Then BAM! I received that ONE -TWO sort of punch to the face that only life could give you. It knocked me completely off balance.
A few months after baby number 4 came into our lives, my husband came home with a cancer diagnosis. WHAT! He seemed too young to have melanoma, the most dangerous kind of skin cancer. Oh boy…and now we have all these little kids. If the surgery didn’t get rid of it, then there wouldn’t be much hope. I cried a lot. I prayed a lot for him, for me. (And yes, he survived.)
Now, this is when listening to one’s intuition, for me, became of supreme importance. I listened to that teeny, tiny voice inside my head: If you were to die tomorrow, did you do what you really wanted today? I knew the answer in my heart. And sometimes, an artist must heed the call regardless of how crazy it appears.
I pulled out my old plays that I had written at Tisch School of the Arts. It had been about twelve years since they had seen the light of day. And, I liked them. They were like old, familiar friends. I rewrote one and “Kosher with Salsa” was produced through the Baltimore Playwright’s Festival. This led to joining the Baltimore Playwrights group, which then led to more opportunities.
I joined the steering committee of the Jewish Theatre Workshop. Yes, there is a Sabbath observing theater in Baltimore! From time to time, I work in their box office. I was recently hired to be a “bilingual set of eyes” on a new play that will premiere at Single Carrot Theatre this spring—“The V.I.P” by Aldo Pantoja. Would I have been able to evolve in another city? I’m not sure.This is something that I discovered and it truly is Baltimore’s little secret: Theatre abounds in this city–not just traditional theatre with a subscriber base, but all kinds of theatricality (magic, music, acrobatics, storytelling, spoken word, performance art; I hope I didn’t miss anything). I could go out every night if I wanted and experience something new. Even if you’re looking for theatre that doesn’t exist, you could probably get it going. Among creative artists, you will find more lovables than dislikables, more open hearts than closed minds, more unobstructed windows than locked gates. Creativity overflows here. There must be something in the water!
Even with all this said, sometimes the waters aren’t so sweet and the drinks don’t bare charming names—Lonely Lolita, Stifled Stella, Frustrated Fridah. When I feel isolated at the Imagination Station and have had too many cocktails, I ask myself: What is a good, next step? So, this is where looking around and extending beyond my watering hole comes in. I used to write mostly plays for and about Latinos. I still do. But, I have expanded the cast to include other races and use Baltimore as my backdrop. Race, culture, religion and the kinds of things that make us hate or love each other is at the core of my current work. This city is pulsating with character!
Baltimoreans are a receptive and thirsty people. They want good theatre experiences. But they also want to see themselves reflected in what they pay for. Should we forget this? Baltimore is not just a black/white city. There are other groups within these extremes and they should be included in the conversation.
Sometimes, I can find myself fantasizing about an actor/playwright/director lab, a place where theater peeps can play and test out scenes—a playlab for people who create, live, and love in Baltimore. And, I am not talking about play labs that require approval or an application. (Please…no more applications!) It’s not easy to know what a play’s strengths or weaknesses are if you haven’t flexed your dramatic muscles. I wish I could tell you I had artistic collaborators. I have the Baltimore Playwrights Group. Thank goodness for this thoughtful, intelligent bunch of people!
This One Minute Play Festival feels like a theatrical blind date. A person named OMPF is coming to Charm City to take me out for a drink. Actually, OMPF is taking a bunch of playwrights out for a drink—so it’ll be like speed dating. And, you know what? I’m grateful for my one sip, my one drink, and my one minute.
Baltimore’s First One-Minute Play Festival in partnership with E.M.P. Collective is Feb 9th and 10th at 8PM at E.M.P. Tickets are $15 and available here. The Sunday performance will livestream on New Play TV.