MASA Playwrights: A Slice of Life, Served Family Style

Tania Thompson
 | Aug 06, 2020

The works of four playwrights featured in MASA celebrate the historical and cultural importance of masa, dough made from corn flour used to make tortillas, tamales and a variety of dishes. This free event will be livestreamed on Monday, Aug. 17, at 5:30 p.m.

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Playwright Juliette Carrillo, who’s directing the online reading, points out that masa recipes have lineage and stories behind them; those family traditions are what MASA will explore through these playwright' voices.

Luis AlfaroLuis Alfaro

The Gardens of Aztlan (An Acto Hecho A Mano)

Playwright Luis Alfaro found inspiration for The Gardens of Atzlan during a meal at El Torito Grill in Costa Mesa, Calif., where he ​cooked up an existential crisis for one of the tortilla makers. The story follows a woman who ​leaves her dead-end tortilla-making job ​to find a place where her skills will be appreciated. She connects with other women tortilla makers in search of their lost heritage.

Alfaro is a director and an SCR-commissioned playwright; his current commission is the third for the theatre. He is an associate professor of dramatic writing at the University of Southern California’s School of Dramatic Arts. Among his honors are a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, PEN/America/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theatre Award, Joyce Foundation Fellow and a two-time recipient of a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Play Awards. He was Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s inaugural playwright-in-residence from 2013 to 2019.

Lisa LoomerLisa Loomer

“El Maiz” from Café Vida

Actor, playwright and screenwriter Lisa Loomer wrote Café Vida as the inaugural play in Cornerstone Theatre Company’s Hunger Cycle (2012). She interviewed dozens of people who were part of Homeboy Industries, lauded for its programs for at-risk young people and former gang members, and Homegirl Café, a division of Homeboy Industries. The café transforms young people through culinary training. In full, the play is about two women from rival communities who, after serving time in prison, find a fresh start through growing, cooking and serving food. At the heart of the story is the hunger for community. MASA will feature a section of Café Vida, about the character “El Maiz.”

Loomer’s first play, Birds, was produced at SCR in 1986. Her plays—including Roe, Living Out, The Waiting Room, Distracted, Café Vida, Homefree, Expecting Isabel, Two Things You Don’t Talk About at Dinner, Maria, Maria, Maria! and Bocón!—have been  produced at such theatres as The Mark Taper Forum, Arena Stage, South Coast Repertory, The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Seattle Rep, Denver Theatre Center,  Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Trinity Repertory Company, The Williamstown Theatre Festival; and, in New York, at The Roundabout Theatre Company, The Vineyard Theatre, Second Stage, INTAR Theatre and the Public Theater. Her work has also been produced in Mexico, the Middle East and Europe.  She’s a two-time winner of the American Theatre Critics Award and has also received awards from the Kennedy Center, the Pen Center, the Imagen Foundation, (Norman Lear Award), the Jane Chambers Award and the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, among others. Her film credits include Girl, Interrupted, and she also writes for television.

Amilcar JaureguiAmilcar Jauregui

“Tejuino” from Tejuino

Actor and playwright Amilcar Jauregui is from Orange County, Calif., and a recent graduate of the University of California, Irvine. Tejuino is his most recent work that tells stories that are important to him and to empower the Latinx community. The sweet and tart cold beverage, tejuino, is made from fermented masa.

Diane RodriguezDiane Rodriguez

The Path to Divadom, or How To Make Fat-free Tamales in G minor

Playwright Diane Rodriguez helmed Center Theatre Group’s new play production program from 2005-19, part of her nearly quarter-century of work for CTG. Her Path to Divadom is the story of Rachel who decides to make masa from scratch and take her place as a keeper of the tradition.

Among her other work, Rodriguez directed at readings and plays at SCR including The Beauty of the Father by Nilo Cruz (2002, readings, Pacific Playwrights Festival and Hispanic Playwrights Project); Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams by Nilo Cruz (2000, reading, PPF); and the production La Posada Mágica by Octavio Solis and Marcos Loya (2001-03). ​She passed away in 2020.

Learn more about MASA and reserve your free “ticket” by Aug. 16, 2020, to watch the live event.