Thrilled to be have been a contributor to the May/June 2017 Dramatists Magazine, for it’s issue on Retreats and Residencies, featuring the process of La Paloma Prisoner. #TheDramatist
RAQUEL ALMAZAN – interdisciplinary artist, facilitator and activist. M.F.A. Playwriting, Columbia University. Her work has been featured in New York City- including Off-Broadway, throughout the United States and internationally in Greece, Italy, Slovenia, Colombia, Guatemala and Sweden; including several plays from her (Latin is America play cycle).
Throughout my career as a playwright I have participated in residencies and retreats as part of my play building process and development as an artist – activist. My instinct is to create work with a community, I need to have marginalized voices be part of the vital dialogue that illuminates the reality my plays represent.
Most recently through the Net Exchange Travel Grant, I collaborated with Pangea World Theatre. We held an immigration round table with a diverse Minneapolis group, the major points in the piece we were building was supported by the contribution from immigrants, lawyers, Native tribe and indigenous members in the room. These experiences allow for additional voices to be included in the script development.
The upcoming residency with Hi- Arts will deepen the relationship with formerly incarcerated women, community organizations and how the play La Paloma Prisoner will serve different groups dealing with mass incarceration. As well as the time to work with a dramaturg and develop an organic score with a musician to build the vocabulary of the piece.
The international retreats with La Mama, Tre Roma University and Women’s International Conference-Sweden, allowed me to have a global perspective of my work, we all became collaborators sharing in a multi-cultural landscape, infused in a communal understanding of what was oppressing women in our plays and countries. This created a place for exchanging theatrical tools with the purpose of invigorating our communities in our hometowns. Pass it forward!
The residencies with the following organizations provided the environment for re-writing goals: The Playwrights Center (CAFÉ), Professional development residency at The Eugene O’Neill Center, Theatre Masters Program (Theresa Rebeck and Andrew Leynse) – mentored the development of Dar a Luz in Aspen, Colorado – NYC and with Labyrinth Theatre Company Intensive to workshop and culminate in a staged reading of La Paloma Prisoner. Those particular residencies allowed me to be in the company of other writers whose works and goals were dramatically different from mine. It was important for me to understand that each play needs a different process; aesthetic, language and socio-political content heavy plays demand a particular journey.
The ability to stage with a director, hear actors read the pages on their feet and then be able to come back the next day and implement pages directly into a rehearsal process was incredibly beneficial. Theatre is a living organism and doesn’t always read at a table. Being in the room to make choices with your collaborators for me has been a key way to grow a play, knowing you are moving towards presentation and not product. How your work fits in or challenges the culture or aesthetics of a theatre, is also something that can be discovered through a residency.
Residencies and retreats have become, sometimes the only way writers can get out of the product oriented process and explore a play, challenge themselves and be in community. Once you can create an ideal way of working, a practice that is both holistic, fruitful and rigorous, you can create the conditions for your career to have that same process unapologetically.