Not every theater piece signals its subject as clearly as Patricia Crespín does with her play We Are Hispanic-American Women … Okay? In fact, all of its five characters are Hispanic-American women, and their family is facing a turning point. The New Mexico playwright offered this summary: “Four generations of women laugh, love, fight, and cry as they struggle to deal, in their own ways, with the news that the patriarch of the family has terminal cancer.” That patriarch, however, never appears in the play. He’s in the hospital, and his absence leaves the women in an uncensored space, free to express themselves in ways they might not otherwise.
A three-week run of the play begins on Thursday, Feb. 7, at Teatro Paraguas. Before its opening night, Crespín shared her thoughts about the piece.
Pasatiempo: How did you come to write We Are Hispanic-American Women … Okay?
Patricia Crespín: It started when I was a student at New Mexico Highlands University, as an assignment to write a one-act play. Then I took a second semester of the playwriting class and expanded it into a full-length, two-act play, running maybe two hours, including a break. It was premiered in 2006 at Highlands. We took the second act of it to Farmington and put it in AACT [the American Association of Community Theatre showcase competition]. We gave it at Teatro Paraguas in 2009, then in Albuquerque, and now here it is back at Paraguas.
Pasa: Have you rewritten it through the years?
Crespín: It was my first play and it turned into my first movie, under the title Before We Say Goodbye. The producer saw the play at the AACT fest, and he optioned it and hired me to co-write the script. For the film, we decided to include the men in the family. It really became about the men, about the father dying. We still see a lot of the women, but I feel the focus shifts from the strength of how the women deal with adversity and the things going on in their lives and it became more about the men saying goodbye or dealing with their own pain.
So far as the play version goes, in the various productions, we would go with different casts and directors. It was fun to see a different take on how everyone related to the characters.
Pasa: Do you have hands-on involvement in this revival at Teatro Paraguas?
Crespín: It is directed by Alix Hudson, and it’s her first go at the play. I’ve never met her. I’ve never met any of the cast members. I haven’t made many changes. I do want to go to one of their rehearsals and just make sure the language is still current to the times. I’ve basically given it into her hands and let her do what she wants to do with it. That’s always a little frightening to do as a playwright, but with this play, especially, because I’ve had so many runs of it and so much experience with it, it’s fun for me now to just let it go and see what happens.
Pasa: The title — We Are Hispanic-American Women … Okay? — do you think that sounds a little confrontational?
Crespín: Like, “You got a problem with that?” It’s very confrontational. It’s interesting how that title came about. We grew up in Bernalillo, so there was this certain accent that was around us all the time. With my sister and my niece, we would create characters and put on that really strong accent, and say things like “I am a Hispanic-American woman,” “I am proud, OK?” — and it sort of evolved from that. It is confrontational — an in-your-face statement of who we are.
Pasa: Do characters in this play resemble people in your own family?
Crespín: I took a lot of stuff from my family, my cousins, my friends. A lot of the characters aren’t specific to anybody in my life, but there are little bits and pieces of them. It fell into place easily because there is just so much material in Hispanic culture. It all takes place in the kitchen. For most Hispanic women, the point of contact for us was always in the kitchen. We gather in the kitchen, we cook, we talk.
Pasa: Have you written other plays that focus on women, or on people of Hispanic heritage?
Crespín: I’m now working on my 12th play, and most of them are about women. I was an actor, but one of the reasons I really wanted to get into playwriting was that I realized there are just so few really powerful roles for Hispanic women. I wanted to fix that and change it and make my journey about creating these roles and telling the real, heartfelt, sometimes very painful stories of these women. ◀
▼ We Are Hispanic-American Women … Okay?
▼ Teatro Paraguas, 3205-B Calle Marie
▼ 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Feb. 7-9; 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 10; continues Thursdays to Sundays through Feb. 24
▼ $20, $12 limited income; tickets at the door or from brownpapertickets.com; for reservations, call 505-424-1601