A DTLI Thanksgiving
To celebrate Thanksgiving, the DTLI Cohort, and Director Jose Solís, met for a Zoomsgiving where they shared the theater they’re thankful for in 2021.
Jose Solís: Thanks for being here everyone! We’re sending our love to Bedatri who couldn’t join us but is always in our hearts. It’s theater potluck time! What were the tastiest theatrical appetizers you enjoyed this year?
Juan Michael Porter II: I’m going to start and say the Public Theater’s Romeo y Julieta which was something that I listened to in the bathtub quite a lot. It was horny, it made me understand that Romeo and Juliet were actually teenagers instead of adults pretending, and it made me think about how everything is such a big deal when you are that age because you have no control.
Christian Lewis: I feel like that about the Meatpacking ambulatory theater thing that happened this summer, Seven Deadly Sins. It was like seven amuse bouches or little tapas that gave you a taste of seven potential plays.
Ran Xia: Sheep #1, which is live cinematic projection, object theater that originally had a run at The Tank a couple years ago, and had a encore run at Japan Society. It was inspired by The Little Prince, the author of the whole piece created this whole series with this miniature sheep and tracked its journey. There was this one super memorable scene in which they put everything on a hot plate over which there was a sheet of foil. On top of the foil, they had ice cubes which had little pieces of paper with words written on them, including “childhood,” “loneliness,” and “isolation.” As the ice melted away so did “loneliness” while the sheep remained on top. To me, more than an appetizer, this felt like soup because it was so heartwarming.
Jose Solís: I wish I could’ve seen that! I guess my appetizer would come in the form of a cocktail, in this case Ryan J. Haddad’s magnificent, hilarious Hi! Are You Single? Which ran at Woolly Mammoth in DC but I was able to stream in Brooklyn. I’m so grateful for all that digital theater did for us this year! What other things have kept you warm and cozy during these troubling times?
Juan Michael Porter II: Thoughts of a Colored Man engaging with the audience around me and seeing how they react to it. Christian and I both attended the same performance where the audience was talking back to the people on stage. I love that so much when an audience is really there and getting their life from the show. It’s what brought me to theater in the first place.
Christian Lewis: I love that for Cullud Wattah at the Public they even encouraged people to do that and put a sign out about it, how we’re over this whole old school, white, stuffy theatre etiquette thing.
I saw that last night and it was just really exciting to see that note in the pool.
Ana Zambrana: I saw that in Merry Wives and Chicken and Biscuits as well, I will always preach for that beautiful production and how the audience was a part of that family. More than that they were encouraged and invited and that’s what we need to be doing more it was just amazing.
Jose Solís: In the spirit of family, who are you adding a seat at your table for this year?
Juan Michael Porter II: Jocelyn Bioh, who of course adapted, Merry Wives of Windsor and wrote Nollywood Dreams. She’s a wellspring of just joy and I would just love to drink with her.
Christian Lewis: I’d have to say LaChanze’s character from Trouble in Mind, because I feel like that’s the person you want to bring to Thanksgiving to yell at your potentially problematic family members.
Ran Xia: I will say Meghan Finn at The Tank because of all the programming since day one of the shutdown, they produce over the work for over 2000 artists a year. And there’s just nothing else that could replace that.
Ana Zambrana: I know La Gringa is over 20 years old already but I’d bring Carmen Rivera just so my family can see there is another woman who looks like me, who can make it in this industry. She’s so much fun, I wanna live with her!
Jose Solís: My guest would totally be Judy Kaye, not as Queen Elizabeth II but as Barbara Cartland from Diana. She’s the Legally Blonde meets Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother of my dreams and I’d want her to work her magic on me. Now, let’s carve the bird! What’s at the center of your table this year?
Juan Michael Porter II: If you want to go somewhere fast, go at it alone, but if you want to survive and get the shit done, you do it as a community. Kristina Wong just totally reminded me of that with Sweatshop Overlord. I don’t know what Thanksgiving is really about but if I’m going to be thankful for anything it’s having a support system like that and then seeing it on stage.
Ran Xia: For me, Medicine by Enda Walsh was something juicy and you can turn into sandwiches, and put it in a variety of things, and then boil the carcasses into into the soup next day. I might be biased because I’m a big fan of Walsh, especially when he collaborates with composer Teho Teardo which gives the work a jazzy vibe. This piece dealt with mental health but ultimately, it’s about listening. It actually took me almost a week to process the piece after seeing it. But it was not like an indigestion, it almost felt like I was ruminating on it for a week.
Ana Zambrana: When you think about a turkey and carving, you think about who’s carving it, right? And who’s taking out those pieces? My turkey this year is the Latinx representation in theatre and film. Who’s gonna make the best turkey sandwich? Probably someone who knows how to make it. We have West Side Story coming up, we had In the Heights…I want to see what happens when we try out new ways of making our sandwiches.
Jose Solís: Delicious! My main bird this year is Arturo Luis Soria’s Ni Mi Madre, which I saw a few years ago and was delighted to rewatch at Rattlestick this year. It made me think of when you Ziploc and freeze something you love, just so you can have more of it in the future. OK, let’s make some room for dessert, what hit your sweet spot this year?
Christian Lewis: I’m a vegetarian and a baker so I live in the dessert and side dish world, and I actually think there’s been a lot of conversation about Diana recently and what a show needs to do. I think there are side dish shows that maybe are not perfect or high art, but we really like them for what they do.
Juan Michael Porter II: The production of Winnie the Pooh, which was so sweet. It was put on by Rockefeller Productions and they specifically make theater for people of all sensory levels to attend. So there were grown adults with autism who were there who were so happy getting their life, along with children, and then big kids like me, who were crying to see that there was a space for everyone to enjoy this beautiful sweetness and craftsmanship.
Ana Zambrana: I definitely think that Six is my dessert. It reminds me of coquito, a little bit of alcohol, it’s sweet. That’s what Six was for me, I love it!
Ran Xia: I’ve been working on a production of Orlando and that’s been the thing that I feel the most gratitude for this whole year, because I’m working with 19 to 22-year-old actors and designers, and they’re some of the most creative people I’ve ever worked with. This production is making me reconsider everything about myself and about gender identity, things like desire and what it is, what does it mean to be a woman or like, what does it mean that someone is a woman, period? If it’s a dessert, it might be a little be too rich.
Jose Solís: No such thing as too rich a dessert! Thank you all for this delightful Zoomsgiving, I am grateful for all of you and wish you, yours, and our readers the happiest of holidays.
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