This February, playwright Bernardo Cubría’s Neighbors: A Fair Trade Agreement will receive a staged reading at Stages Repertory Theatre’s inaugural Sin Muros Latinx Theatre Festival in Houston. The staged reading marks a homecoming of sorts for Cubría, who was born in Mexico City but grew up in Houston and graduated from the University of Houston. Cubría’s involvement with Sin Muros demonstrates how theatre artists can maintain ties to their hometowns even after they have left to pursue their art-making in other cities. Now based in Los Angeles, Cubría’s plays include The Redhead is Coming, The Judgement of Fools, and Neighbors: A Fair Trade Agreement. As an actor, he has appeared on stage at The Public Theater, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, INTAR, La MAMA, and The Mind.
In this interview, Cubría discusses Neighbors, the role of the playwright in the age of Trump, and the upcoming Sin Muros Latinx Theatre Festival.
Trevor Boffone: Your play Neighbors has been developed at INTAR, Two River Theatre, and Horse Head Theatere, and will receive a workshop at Stages Repertory Theatre in 2018. Can you take us through the development of the pay? What have been the challenges? The ah-ha moments?
Bernardo Cubría: The hardest part has been not allowing the person I am now to drastically change a play I wrote 3 years ago. I’ve been thinking a lot about why a quick writing process may be better because then you can just write the piece that reflects your worldview at that specific moment. But ultimately I keep trying to remind myself that plays are ever evolving. And so I hope this play has some of the me from three years ago and some of the me from today. The best moments are when a joke you wrote three years ago still gets the same laugh in any city in the country. That feels good and reminds you that maybe it does still work.
TB: How did your approach to the play change after the 2016 presidential election?
BC: Like many people, I now spend most of my time thinking about Trump and the decline of the American Empire. So, if anything, that has made me want to get this play on more stages. I hope this play is about the way in which men and greed can destroy beautiful things. And Trump sure is destroying a lot of beautiful things. Plus, I hate how the narrative in the news is only about Trump’s opinions about Mexico and not both ways. The border has two sides to it and I hope my play touches on that.
TB: What do you see as the playwright’s role, if any, in the age of Trump?
BC: This is difficult to answer because I don’t believe every playwright has the same role. I like being surrounded by a diversity of voices. I like that Dumb and Dumber exists in a world where Blue Valentine exists. And even with Trump in office, I hope to see many pieces about him and I also hope to see many plays that just make me laugh and forget the daily horror. I think each writer should write whatever they want. I just happen to like satire.
TB: I know you’ve started Bad Hombres Comedy as a response to the current regime. Can you tell us more about what you hope to achieve with Bad Hombres?
BC: Brian Nichols and I started Bad Hombres because we wanted to have a place to collect and create satire in the age of Trump. As soon as Trump was elected we kept talking about how much satire meant to us in the Bush era and how necessary it is at a time like this. Sometimes ranting and raving doesn’t get through to people (just look at my Twitter account), and the best way to reach out is through humor. I hope to keep making more videos next year. Plus our podcast has allowed us to reach a larger audience and to have a place to talk about the news in a healthy and humorous way.
TB: You grew up in Houston, graduated from the University of Houston, and worked as a theatre professional in the city for a number of years, making your return for Sin Muros particularly noteworthy. Can you tell us more about your connection to the Houston theatre community and how you have negotiated leaving the city to progress your career while still maintaining a meaningful connection to Houston?
BC: I love Houston. I love my city and I love the artists that live in it. Sadly when I lived there, it seemed impossible to have a career as a Latina/o artist. I kept seeing how Latina/o actors were always spear-carriers at the Alley and how rare it was for a Latina/o plays to get produced. It seemed crazy to me that in a city that is so influenced by Latina/o culture there was so little Latina/o theatre. So I left. But thanks to some amazing people this is changing. Stages Repertory Theatre’s Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin and I talked about creating this festival over 10 years ago and lucky for me he never stopped looking for an opportunity to do it. Thanks to Kenn and Trevor Boffone and a lot of wonderful people this dream is coming true. Plus a lot of great companies have made the Houston theatre scene into the vibrant and exciting place that it is today. I’m lucky this city still allows me to come in from time to time and work, especially Horsehead Theatre Company, so I’m just honored to get to work with some of the most talented theatre people in America.
TB: For Sin Muros, you will be working with director Jerry Ruiz. Can you tell us more about your experiences working with Ruiz? What are you hoping he brings to the new play development process?
BC: Jerry is one of my closest and dearest friends. We met over 10 years ago producing a night of short plays in NYC by Tex-Mex authors. Two of the playwrights were Tanya Saracho and Mando Alvarado, interestingly enough. Since then Jerry has been one of my closest allies and collaborators. He has directed me has an actor in over 10 plays and I can’t wait to begin this collaboration on Neighbors. He is a very gifted and important voice in the theatre world and I hope he comes back to Houston often!
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.