NAME: ALEX VITERI ARTURO
HOMETOWN, COUNTRY: CALI, COLOMBIA.
NAME OF THESIS PROJECT: EDEN: PART 3.
MENTOR: YOUNG JEAN LEE
Can you provide me with a brief synopsis about your play or project that you are presenting as part of your thesis?
Hi there! I don’t have a very concrete answer yet… I’ve decided to take a risk and engage in an experimental creative process. I’ve gather forces with a group of artists I consider very talented and kind and we’re preparing a feast in celebration of difference. We are migrants, gender-non conforming, loving beings puzzled by the unsettling socio-political situation of the world. I want to think about this project as a space where to find refuge, a utopian queer Eden.
At the same time, I’m also working on rewriting and adapting the piece I wrote for Shanghai Theater Academy: Under the Mountain’s grass. Some of this rewriting will populate the new play, as I am dealing with similar themes —although in very different ways.
Perhaps the synopsis of the Mountain’s grass can give you a better sense of the journey:
A family comes together to celebrate life in a country on the verge of signing peace after 52 years of war. Or the trip journal of a paranoiac daughter that falls in love far away from home.
Under the mountain’s grass is the recollection of childhood memories from a mind that grew up in the mixt of Mexican mythologies, American movies, Mao’s revolutionary ideas and Colombia’s inner conflict stories. Abroad, the younger daughter of a middle class family recounts the moments that shaped her imaginary. Both a physical trip and time travel where she questions the rise of collective paranoia and redefines her sexual identity.
Can you tell me a little bit about the origin of this play? Where did the idea come from? Did you work on it in class?
Under the Mountain’s grass was born out of the desire to see my parents on their Chinese version. I started writing childhood memories and, while I was writing, I discovered a bunch of personal paranoia, rootlessness feelings and socially dictated behaviors I’ve been struggling with. The play transformed in a quite autobiographical play as a way to deal with the politics of my home country, being abroad and sexual identity. I’m working now on extrapolating it and building its own independent world. I was also reading Strindberg’s “A dream play” and the adaptation by Caryl Churchill (First encountered in Kelly’s class, year one of the master?), “Eterniday” by Chuck Mee and Guillermo Calderón’s “Escuela”. Also thinking a lot on “September Gurls” by our one and only Stephen Foglia —also living in China :). In a way, I realize I’ve worked on this piece in all of our classes: there’s some scenes from a short play I wrote for Lynn’s class, some ideas we explored with Chuck, tools from the rewriting class with David and foundations Kelly gave us in our first year.
For the new project we’re engaging in, and that will be presented at Signature, there’s a bunch of artists I’m working with as references. I believe the seed is a piece by Henrik Olesen, I saw in Munich, where he explores social exclusion and normative thinking: “he draws from (art) historical material to loosen up ingrained information patterns and -in the manner of archives- to redirect them”. It’s a collection of illustrations, articles and photographs that deal in one way or another with the idea of gender. From his work, I dived in the archives of queer lives. Also, reaching to some methods of post dramatic theater companies like Forced Entertainment, She She Pop, GobSquad and the people from Experimenta SUR. All of this might or might not come out in the show… may the force be with us :).
SHORT ANSWER: A song by Mary Ocher: “Eden: No lessons learnt”.
Who is your mentor? Why did you want them as your mentor?
Young Jean Lee’s work caught my attention a while back, loved her way of working, her way of challenging the audience and her humor. We then meet at one of David’s classes and I connected with some of her live stories. We haven’t yet had the chance to work more deeply on my thesis project but I am looking forward to ear her thoughts later in the process.
Is there a question that your play is asking, or that you were seeking to answer when you started writing this play?
I am questioning 😉
What has been most challenging about this process?
Obsessed with Twin Peaks.
What would you like to be doing in 10 years?
Lets all move to Winter and get into the Gethenians’ mood.
Anything else you would like to say?
Gracias totales to Lynn Nottage, Charles Mee, David Henry Hwang, Kelly Stuart and the seven amazing writers that bear with me: Matthew Barbot, Stephen Foglia, Aeneas Hemphill, Becca Plunkett, Alix Sobler, Ellen Steves and Callan Stout. Miss you all.
Alex Viteri is a Colombian theater and visual artist that moved to New York to pursue her MFA in Playwriting. She used to live in Bogotá where she worked as an actress and dramaturge with the theater company TeatroR101.