Next Season preview: LUCHADORA!

Alvaro Saar Rios
By Erica Davis
Alvaro Saar Rios’ new original work LUCHADORA! was recently selected as part of Teatro Vivo’s fourth annual Austin Latino New Play Festival.  The three-night event brought together playwrights and audience members to explore cross-cultural topics, modern dilemmas and timeless themes and traditions with Latino roots.  In this interview Rios shares his impressions of the festival and reveals more about the inspiration behind LUCHADORA!

As a playwright, what was it like to be part of this festival?
I've been part of a few festivals across the country and I have to say that being a part of the Austin Latino New Play Festival was like... and I hate to be cliche but that's the best I can come up with right now... it was like a dream come true.  Teatro Vivo provided me with a dramaturg.  Her name was Brianna Figueroa and she was extremely smart.  I've never actually worked with a dramaturg in my life and yet now that I have, I am not sure I can ever work without one.  Throughout the process, she constantly provided me with questions and insights that definitely helped me when it came to rewriting the play. Overall, it was great to be part of something that purely focuses on the words I put on the page.  As a playwright, that's very important.

How would you describe the Austin Latino theater community?  How does it compare to Milwaukee?
The word I would use to describe the community that attended the Austin Latino New Play festival is "supportive."  They knew that what they were going to see/hear wasn't fully developed yet.  They saw past the imperfections (lots of them) and put their attention towards the play has a whole.  Because of this, it also  reminded me of the theater community we have here in Milwaukee.  I've attended staged readings of new work (mine as well as others) and the community never fails to support new work by attending and asking lots of questions.

LUCHADORA! Illustration by Olive Young, MIAD
The Austin Latino New Play Festival selects plays that, "push and challenge the theatric envelope for audience members."  How does LUCHADORA! push and challenge the envelope?  
LUCHADORA! is set in a world that traditionally isn't seen on the American stage.  It's a play that mixes the uncommon with the familiar. It's a story about family, something that I hope everyone can identify with, and yet it is set in the secretive world of lucha libre aka Mexican wrestling.

What struck you about the audience discussions following the reading of LUCHADORA!?  What initially struck me was the audience itself.  There were at least 100 people in the audience. I've had various staged readings of my work and have never had 100 people there.  It was quite amazing.  In terms of the talk-back discussion, the audience was great.  They knew that their answers and questions were vital to the development of my play.  After the talk-back session, one audience member came up to me and said, "I don't usually see plays but I would definitely see your play!" This response meant a lot to me because I am always trying to figure out how my plays can reach theatre lovers as well non-traditional audience members. 

LUCHADORA! deals with family traditions.  How did your own traditions inspire the play?
When I was a kid, I would watch wrestling a lot.  On TV as well as live at the Sam Houston Coliseum in Houston.  Sometimes, if my grandmother was visiting, she would watch it with me.  At times, I think she enjoyed it more than I did.  This was part of the impetus of LUCHADORA!  I wondered.  Why did my grandma like wrestling so much?  I never got a chance to ask her so, being a storyteller, I came up with my own reasons.  What if she had a secret?  What if she actually used to wrestle?  It may seem far-fetched but if you think about it, grandparents in general have all kinds of fascinating secrets.  Some get shared.  Some don't.

What else should audiences know about LUCHADORA!?
I am very grateful for this opportunity that Jeff Frank and First Stage have provided for me as part of the Wisconsin Cycle.  I look forward to rewriting the play over the summer and making sure I tell the story I set out to tell.

LUCHADORA! premieres as part of First Stage's 2014-2015 season – April 10-26, 2015.  Reservations for school groups, private groups and Family Packages are available now.  Visit for more information. 

To learn more about Austin Latino New Play Festival, Click here.   

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