Opening Remarks for 30/30/1

Quiara Alegría Hudes

A day celebrating Latino playwrights? Yeah, right. Ha ha. Very funny. Though today does not appear to be April 1. . . Hm. And these flyers are pretty slick and well designed. If someone wanted to prank me, they really went out of their way to do so. Hm. Do we get the entire twenty-four hours? Or do they just give us like from noon to four and then kick us out? Oh, hold on. “They” don’t give “us” anything? We made the day ourselves? And invited whoever was game to join in the fun? And people who weren’t Latino actually came? Holy shit, that’s amazing! Oops. I probably shouldn’t curse on Latino playwrights day. If I act too crazy, they’ll make sure this shit never happens again. They’ll be like, “You give ’em a day and see what happens?”

I’m just kidding. Obviously I’m giddy by the whole notion of this, this raucously exciting gathering of true believers, of rabble rousers, of artistic mischief makers, of all of us. So what exactly is a Latino playwright? Can you spot her in a crowded room? Is she a new phenomenon or an endangered species? Does she write with an accent? Is she a Latina by choice? A playwright by necessity? Does she require nontraditional casting or is she casting a new mold? If a Latina writes a play in an empty forest and no one is there to listen, does she make a sound? Is she allowed to be ordinary, not just extraordinary? Is she Mr. Miyagi or the Karate Kid? Is she a grateful guest at someone else’s table? Or is she a carpenter building a new damn table from scratch? And will you come to her table when she invites you? Are Latino playwrights a “they” or a “we”?

Sometimes I brew my coffee, sit at my writing desk, and every fiber in my body quivers for delight: hot damn, I’m a Latina playwright! Other mornings I sit at my writing desk and the thought of any sort of label being put on me — by myself or anyone else — feels like duct tape slapped over my lips. At times being a Latina playwright has felt exhilarating, alive, pulsing, gritty, mischievous, furious, ferocious, unapologetic, and limitless. Other times being a Latina playwright has felt humiliating, alienating, hopeless, lonely, burdensome.

But today, oh 30/30 sisters and brothers, today, here, before you, using the wondrous word “us,” it feels alive.

In the words of playwright Nilo Cruz, from Anna in the Tropics, “Everything in life dreams. A bicycle dreams of becoming a boy, an umbrella dreams of becoming the rain, a pearl dreams of becoming a woman, and a chair dreams of becoming a gazelle and running back into the forest.”

My fellow Latino playwrights, we are the dreamers and the agitated nightmares. The insomnia and the spa. Irrational bewitchers. Deserts who brew tropical storms. We use words like cop cars use sirens. We use our pencil strokes to steer great ships through agitated seas. We eat trash and shit gold. We are the word stupid misspelled s-t-o-o-p-id. We stand in our ancestral kitchen, stirring the magma. We are hackers of the status quo. Saturation bursters. We show up to the water balloon toss, but our latex is filled with honey and mud. Syncopators. Sixty-niners. Smut-mouthed calla lilies. Unhappy prisoners, jilted strivers, we fall off the edge of the cliff, and as we plummet we happen to crack open a Neruda poem or hit play on a Lila Downs song, and our landing is cushioned. We repair our broken ankles and climb the cliff again. Every day in the rehearsal room, at the writing desk — cliff climbers, we, with no ropes or rigging to shield us from gravity. We are glass-paneled walls facing the sea. Glass-bottomed boats that reveal cumulus clouds. We are the 99 percent of the 47 percent of the whole damn caramel flan. We are the edible desert, a mouthful of sand. We are the rot that bears the ripest fruit. We are the canaries in the cage in our tia’s dark living room. The sun-faded flags dangling from papi’s rearview mirror. We are machos weeping for want of love. Cancer patients who are belly laughing for joy. We are montunos possessed by Baptist gospel chords. Chopin nocturnes that are thunderstruck by Chango. We are the hump-backed abuela who lifts the car with one finger. We are lickable lightning.

We pledge allegiance. We pledge civil disobedience. Today, we pledge dramatic action.