GUEST POST: Marco Antonio Rodríguez, A Powerful New Dominican Voice, Returns to Repertorio

2013 MetLife Nuestras Voces Playwriting Competition winner Marco Antonio Rodríguez
2013 MetLife Nuestras Voces Playwriting Competition winner Marco Antonio Rodríguez

“I grew up taking in Repertorio Español productions such as “Café con leche”, “La casa de Bernarda Alba”, “Me saqué la lotería” and the always electric Pilar Roja… Although born and raised in New York City, the language spoken at home was strictly Spanish as was most of the entertainment absorbed: television, concerts, theater… From an early age I knew I desired a life in the arts. To work at an internationally renowned institution such as Repertorio Español which collaborates with Latino artists from around the globe would be, as they say in the Dominican Republic, ¡UN PALO! (A hit!) During these formative years the “MetLife Nuestras Voces” National Playwriting Competition had yet to come into existence.

I left the city and went off to undergraduate and graduate studies where I developed my skills as an actor, writer and director. Years later I came across the “MetLife Nuestras Voces” Competition… Was this for real? A national competition that strives to discover and nurture the best Latino plays and bring them to the attention of the American theater community? AND they can be written in English OR Spanish OR both? Count me in! Platanos and Hamburgers unite!

The first go-around the play I entered in the competition (a play written in Spanish) did not make it to the finalist stage. Instead, I received invaluable feedback from the judges and Repertorio team. Even without making it to the finalist round, they encouraged, advised and empowered me to continue onward with my script. This led to major re-writes and ultimately a full production at this other company which gave it a massively successful and award-winning run! Without “MetLife Nuestras Voces” I probably wouldn’t have had a platform to submit this Spanish-language play, and to receive encouraging feedback and  connections and confidence to make productive re-writes which led to a successful production.

Two years later I entered the competition again with my play, “Barceló con hielo” (Barceló on the Rocks.) This time, I was a finalist! Through the critical process of receiving a stage reading (which is part of the competition when you are a finalist) I was given constant guidance and feedback from the judges, Repertorio team and, most importantly, an audience. I was able to hear and see what worked and what didn’t without the pressures of a looming full production. For a writer, the development stage of the script is a necessity that some tend to want to bypass. I was thrilled to be immersed in one at Repertorio.

A few rehearsals, notes, rewrites, the stage reading in front of a live audience, more notes, more rewrites and then…My play WON the competition! I went from not even being a finalist two years prior to winning the whole thing! The play will now receive a full production/world premiere, June 13th, 2014.

With the win came national and international attention. I credit this to Repertorio Español’s reputation of providing quality Latin American, Spanish and Hispanic-American theater in New York City and across the country. I’ve now lost count of the many theater companies, production companies, and press that have reached out inquiring about and taking an interest in my work. Since the competition, several members of the Repertorio team have made themselves readily available to assist in the further development of the script. I’ve made many re-writes and through each one, I have a pool of trusted experts that I reach out to for feedback and encouragement.

Competitions such as “MetLife Nuestras Voces” are crucial to the development of new work and critical to the survival of up-and-coming Latino voices. At the moment, platforms for the development of new work are scarce and those specifically catering to Latinos are close to none.Winning is great, but there is an even greater gift that we must recognize – the fact that there is a place where Latinos can submit work that explores their own identity and experiences in the United States. Being able to submit work (regardless of the stage that it is in), receive feedback, and in my case as a finalist have a full staged reading and development time, is an opportunity that we must empower and support.”

Marco Antonio Rodríguez is the winner of the 2012 Nuestras Voces National Playwriting Competition and writer of “Barceló con hielo” and “La luz de un cigarillo.”

“Barceló con hielo” will premiere Friday, June 13th. For tickets, visit www.repertorio.org or call (212) 225 9999

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