Faculty, MFA in Creative Writing Program
Residency Site: Plainfield VT / Residency Site: Port Townsend WA
MFA, Playwriting, Columbia University
BA (w/ Honors), Television, Radio, and Film / English and Textual Studies, Syracuse University
In 1980, I arrived in this country from Cuba. As I was leaving the boat, I was given a can of Coca-Cola. I tried to open it but I couldn’t figure out how to work the tab. Around me, dehydrated Cubans were all trying to figure out how to open these cans. That vision stayed with me for years. Twenty-five years later I wrote a play called Fizzabout Roberto Goizueta, the head of Coke during the New Coke disaster and a Cuban immigrant himself. I realized that to tell Roberto’s story I didn’t have to look far. Roberto’s story is my story. It’s the story of finding your piece of the American dream and not being able to completely understand it or experience it.
Writing a play or a film is a way of giving shape to your past — those memories that refuse to go away. For me, writing begins with connecting to your past, to who you were. I love writing exercises because they help you discover your obsessions and interests. Whenever I found myself lost in the writing of Fizz, I’d connect to the way the ten year old boy in me saw the irrational world that I had suddenly become part of. I found that my view of that world was not at all different from the way Roberto saw the world during the lowest point in his life.
Having lived a life with its share of randomness, I encourage writers to introduce a little more randomness into their work. I help them infuse their work with energy, a sense of play and naughtiness. I encourage writers to make decisions and not to brood. I am a big believer in the bold theatrical moment — the angel crashing through the ceiling, the frogs falling from the sky, or a group of Italian men following Monica Vitti around a plaza. Ultimately, I respond to writers who have a great curiosity about life and who approach the work with questions rather than answers.
I received my MFA from Columbia University where I studied with Romulus Linney, Eduardo Machado, and Anne Bogart. My play Illuminating Veronica was workshopped at the Public Theater and produced at the Pacific Playwright’s Project at South Coast Repertory. The play will be published later this year by Broadway Play Publishing. Learning Curve was produced Off-Broadway on Theater Row. It was published in an anthology of the best plays of 2005. Arrivals and Departures was produced at the Summer Play Festival on Theater Row. Displaced was produced at the Marin Theater Company. While at New Dramatists, I was commissioned to write my first film, Journey to Havana. I have just finished adapting my play Fizz for the screen. With my new play, When Tang met Laika (Denver Center Theater Commission), I am exploring the relationship between the Russian and the American space programs and their efforts to build an International Space Station. I am also in the process of finishing a commission for the Atlantic Theater Company about present day Cuba and the mystery of an invisible Castro. My play, Will in Space, about the effect that Pluto’s demotion has on a couple is being developed at Primary Stages. I am the recipient of numerous awards and commissions including a Princess Grace Award and a James Hammerstein Award for my play Union City, which was produced at EST with Rosie Perez.
- DisplacedMarin Theater Company2006
- FizzOhio Theater2006
- Learning CurveTheater Row2005
- Union CityEST2002
- Arrivals and DeparturesOyo Repertory2000
- Illuminating VeronicaSouth Coast Repertory1999