A conversation with Monica Palacios
We sat down with playwright Monica Palacios to discuss her play I Kissed Chavela Vargas and more. An accomplished playwright and performer, we are thrilled to have her for the inaugural INGENIO.
Tell us about I Kissed Chavela Vargas.
I was inspired by a 60-something Latina actress who was cast in my play Clock in 2014. I was greatly intrigued by her range and I found her sexy, strong and dynamic. By watching her perform every night made me want to write a play for her. My creative mind opened up and presto—the main character Rosa, an outspoken charming Chicana, came forth and presented herself to me. I saw her as a 70 year old retired cabaret performer who can’t work anymore because she had a heart attack at the age of 68. She now lives with and is being cared for by her only daughter Petra, who she’s always had a tumultuous relationship with. And as all this information was coming forth, the title popped into my head—I Kissed Chavela Vargas, and I had to figure out what the title meant. I was off and running with a new play.
How long have you been working on it?
The first version of my play was born in August of 2014. I wanted to enter a short play competition in the city of Santa Monica and I cranked out a 15 page version in two weeks so I could submit it for this competition. It wasn’t selected but I had a new short play. As soon as I completed this short version, I knew I was going to have to create a full length play because I could barely contain it in 15 pages and I wanted to create theater for Chicana women over 50. In August of 2016 I was selected to be in the week long inaugural Irene Fornes Playwriting Workshop led by master playwright Migdalia Cruz in Chicago. Migdalia’s expertise, Irene’s spirit and being in the city of Chicago charged me up and when I returned home to Venice Beach, I cranked out my first draft in 30 days. I wrote this draft with the amazing actress Ivonne Coll as the lead. I rewrote, sweated, rewrote and cried and by November 10, 2016, I had what I felt was a solid draft that I then submitted to my mentor Jorge Huerta. On November 14, Jorge said he loved my play and felt it was strong enough for a reading. Jorge got a hold of Ivonne Coll who read the play and by November 20 agreed to do the reading. The reading was December 13 at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in downtown Los Angeles featuring Ivonne Coll, Yareli Arizmendi, Carolina Zeller and Esperanza America. Director and producer Jorge Huerta. Guitarist, Moises Vasquez. Stage directions and stage manager, Sylvia Blush. This reading was outstanding and the audience of about 65 people gave us a standing ovation. The reading confirmed that I had created something special. I felt proud.
Are you working on anything else now?
I’m always working on something. I just completed the premiere performance of my new solo show here in Los Angeles called: BROWNER QUEERER LOUDER PROUDER, about my reaction to and my survival during this chaotic political climate by the jack o’ lantern billionaire, idiot, racist, sexist, poor excuse of a human. I’m also feeling that a new play is brewing in my soul about the victims of police brutality.
Do you have any advice for emerging Latina/o playwrights?
Stop talking about your ideas and write them down and turn them into plays—tonight!
I KISSED CHAVELA VARGAS
Concert-style reading followed by a feedback session
Saturday September 9, 2017 at 2:00 PM
Read more about I Kissed Chavela Vargas and the other INGENIO Play Fest selections, September 8–10, 2017 at Milagro.