The Madres opens in Chicago tonight!
I started writing plays in Chicago in or around 1999. It might have been 2000. I was working for a commercial theatrical production company - Fox Theatricals - as the executive assistant to the Executive Producer Mick Leavitt. We were opening the Cadillac Palace Theater with Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida. Thoroughly Modern Millie was in production. Fox Theatricals was making big things happen including a production of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest with Gary Sinise at Steppenwolf. I was already a writer then. I wrote fiction and poetry. But, it was this inredibly exciting entrance into the world of live theatre that had me try my hand at playwriting. That and passing by Chicago Dramatists on my way to and from work. I took a chance and signed up for a Dialogue Workshop taught by playwright Lisa Dillman. That class changed my life.
I still remember the first scene I brought into class. Lisa arranged for actors to come in and read our short plays and though it was a cold reading, hearing my words come to life so briliantly hooked me immediately. That was it. I fell hard for playwriting. Now, 18 or 19 years later, a play I wrote is opening at the Biograph theater produced by the wonderful company Teatro Vista, under the direction of Teatro Vista's Artistic Director Ricardo Gutierrez and starring an extraordinary cast led by THE Ivonne Coll. This is absolutely a "pinch me" moment. Last night, one of my former colleagues from those Fox Theatricals days-- Eileen LaCario- was in the audience of our final preview and this all came full circle for me. The encouragement I got from my bosses and colleagues and family back then is what allowed me the courage to take the first steps down that path.
I dreamed of this moment. Of seeing a play of mine up on a beautiful and brightly lit marquee. And now it's happening.
I tend to focus too much on outcomes and miss the moment. I'm making sure to presence myself to the accomplishment of this moment and savor it. My heart is filled with gratitude.
Tonight we open a play that has been a long labor of love. THE MADRES. I wrote the first draft in 2015, but you could say that I began writing it long before that. Perhaps before I was even writing plays. When a friend invited me to go with her to the Plaza de Mayo and march with las Madres one Thursday afternoon in 1998. I hadn't known much about Las Madres, los desaparecidos or the dictatorship before then even though I spent time in Argentina throughout my childhood and even though I have Argentine relatives and even though I was a Spanish major in college and even though the first time I was in Buenos Aires when I was 5 was during the dictatorship. I still didn't know. So, I started researching and continued to read about this very painful period in Argentine history over the years. I was inspired by these women-- the first to stand up and call out the dictatorship at great risk. They used their voices to bring the world's attention to what was happening in Argentina and they never gave up. It's a complicated period and one that the world should know about. I am a character-driven storyteller and as such, this play is about the characters more than it is a "history play." It's a play about a family set in a specific moment in history.
I hope it entertains, horrifies, challenges and ultimately inspires audiences. Though this play is about a difficult and dark subject, it's filled with moments of hope and joy and humor. Because that's what we do. We humans. It's how we survive.
I am filled with gratitude for the care that Ricardo Gutierrez and this entire company has given this story. And I'm so excited for Chicago audiences to see their work as they bring it to life. It's a beautiful production. Don't miss it.
THE MADRES by Stephanie Walker
Directed by Teatro Vista's Artistic Director Ricardo Gutierrez
Assistant Director: Cruz Gonzales-Cadel
Playing in the Richard Christiansen Theater at the Biograph in Chicago now until May 27th.