Checking in on Dr. Trevor Boffone’s “50 Playwrights Project” – Interview Series #3

In March 2016, Dr. Trevor Boffone and I chatted about the launch of his 50 Playwrights Project, which focuses on Latino, Latina, Latin@, Latinx theatre and its playwrights. You can read that interview here. Recently, I had a chance to interview Dr. Boffone again and see what has happened with 50 Playwrights Project (or 50PP, as it’s abbreviated) over the last year. Keep reading below the pictures! 



Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda (AJP): Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about 50PP again! It sure has been exciting to see all that has happened. 

Dr. Trevor Boffone (TB): Thank you for the interview! 

AJP: 50 Playwrights Project has been getting a great deal of attention on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere. Can you tell us about this?

TB: Since I launched the 50 Playwrights Project in February 2016, the attention on social media has grown at a steady rate. I think that folks in the Latin@ theatre community are excited to see the people that they work with being recognized in an accessible, public forum. I think that people outside of Teatro circles are eager to learn more about voices that might be unfamiliar to them; I routinely field emails from people who are new to the site and want to be connect with playwrights.

AJP: What has surprised you about 50 Playwrights Project since its launch?

TB: What has been most surprising has been the sense of community that the project offers. I always imagined it as a digital resource that scholars and students would use. It’s accomplished this. But I never imagined that theatre-makers would find each other and connect through the website. For example, writers have been able to find other playwrights in their region, of the same career stage, or tackling similar themes. These playwrights have connected and began forming community both in-person and digitally. Another example has been the countless theatre change-makers who have reached out to me about the playwrights; these people want to expand their circles and bring new voices to their communities.

AJP: Who all have you interviewed for the 50 Playwrights Project?

TB: As of May 8, 2017, I have interviewed 55 different playwrights (See: Interviews). These playwrights represent all parts of the Latin@ spectrum and embody diverse identities in terms of race, ethnicity, age, class, gender, sexuality, religion, and ability. 50PP is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion at every level and this is reflected in not only the interviews but the process of building the digital archive.

AJP: Is there anybody you’re wanting to interview soon?

TB: While I’m still working on interviewing John Leguizamo and Lin-Manuel Miranda, I’m mostly focused on interviewing early career playwrights, women, and LGBTQ+ playwrights. While I love their work, Leguizamo and Miranda don’t need exposure. Their voices already have platforms.

AJP: I know we both teach and write about intersectionality and that might not be a concept all readers are familiar with. Can you tell me more about the various identities, involved with the people you have interviewed for 50 Playwrights Project?

TB: One of the most interesting parts of the 50PP interviews is the question: “How do you self-identify?” When I envisioned the interview template, I imagined this question would be answered very straightforward: Latina, Chicano, Puerto Rican, American, etc. Unexpectedly, the playwrights have used this question to really complicate the idea of Latin@ identity. Their responses really speak to the need to an intersectional, multi-layered understanding Latin@ identity. For instance, Quiara Alegría Hudes identifies as “Feminist muckracker. Boricua.” Kyoung H. Park identifies as “Human… a playwright… Korean-Chilean, queer, immigrant.” Ricardo Bracho: “Primarily, as a Marxist. Also, as a creative intellectual of urban homosexual acts and melodramatics. An LA Mexican writer who writes plays and essays and posts and sex site flirtations from a bottom perspective informed by gay liberation and anticolonialism. Antirealist, antizionist, caribbeanist, europeanist, indianist.” Virginia Grise: “I am an artist, a Chinese-Mexican, a Marxist, a dyke.” And the variations in identity go on and on. These playwrights can’t be definied simply by their Latinidad.

AJP: On this topic and thinking about privilege and oppression: How do you manage or acknowledge your status as a White person working with Latin@ theatre?

TB: I’m always aware of Whiteness and the systems of oppression that impact the Latin@ community in the United States. All of this influences what I do and how I do it. First and foremost, I approach my work in Latin@ theatre as an advocate and ally. I’m always looking for ways to speak with the Latin@ community rather than speak for. So, if we look at 50PP specifically, I have created a platform to showcase playwrights’ voices. The focus isn’t on me. Rather, the spotlight is entirely on the playwright.

AJP: So what’s next for 50 Playwrights Project? What can you tell us?

TB: After reaching 50 interviews (which happened much quicker than I imagined), the project began its 2.0 phase. The name remains the same and harkens back to the original mission of the project: to just interview 50 playwrights (See: The Original 50). Once I reached that milestone I began to branch out. 50PP will still regularly publish interviews with playwrights. I also launched a second interview series–FAQs–which are interviews focused on specific plays that are commonly taught in the college classroom. My goal is to create more resources that will be beneficial to students while also promoting the work on Latin@ playwrights.

In addition, in March 2017, we released our list of the Top Unproduced Latin@ Plays, which was met with a massive amount of positive feedback. The call for our second list will go out this fall, and I am currently working with different theatre organizations to find ways to support the writers/plays on next year’s list. I want this to be more a reward besides just being recognized on a list. I want to take it a step further.

As the digital presence of the 50 Playwrights Project continues to grow, I am also invested in finding ways to support playwrights in the new play development process. I’m currently working on some projects that I can’t quite announce yet, but I’m looking to make more of a commitment to the actual process of getting Latin@ plays produced.

AJP: What can people do to help support you and 50 Playwrights Project?

TB: The easiest way to support 50PP is to visit the site and read the interviews. For artists and theatre-makers, I’d love to see more people learning about other Latin@ artists and looking for ways to connect. For scholars, I’d love for my students to be aware of the site. I know of a few professors who have used 50PP in their courses, but I’d like to see this number grow. This is a resource explicitly created for students.

Also, follow us on Twitter and Instagram!

AJP: Is there anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

TB: Yes! In April 2017, 50PP began hosting a monthly happy hour for emerging theatre folks in Houston. Not only am I trying to make more of a local impact in Houston, but I’m interested in finding ways to build community through 50PP. The idea of a happy hour just for early career theatre practitioners grew out of a need to expand my circles and meet other like-minded people. The April happy hour was a big success; I met several new people that I’ve stayed in touch with and hope to collaborate with going forward. The May happy hour is on Wednesday, May 10, at Wooster’s Garden from 5:30-7:30.

AJP: Wow! 50 Playwrights Project is doing so many great things. I highly recommend it for anyone! I have really enjoyed this chat! We’ll have to do this again sometime and see what other great things 50 Playwrights Project has done. Thanks, Trevor.

TB: Thanks, AJP! 

Alex Beech, playwright on 50PP and Dr. Trevor Boffone, editor of 50PP