Saturday, November 3, 2018

PlayFest at the Orlando Shakes

I went to the opening day of rehearsals for PlayFest at the Orlando Shakespeare Center (812 E Rollins St, Orlando, FL 32803). PlayFest presented by Harriett’s Charitable Trust is a two-week annual festival that provides a place for writers, theatre professionals, and audiences to connect and share ideas that promote thought-provoking stories. Audiences experience staged readings of seven new works over two weekends and participate in the development of new plays, conversing with playwrights, directors, and actors while absorbing groundbreaking new works. Over the years, the festival has introduced over 163 new works to regional and nationwide audiences.

The first rehearsal I sketched was 72 Miles to Go... written by Hilary Bettis and directed by Paul Castañede. Hilary and Paul sat side by side at the far end of the table. When a mother is deported to Mexico for the second time, the family struggles to reunite with so much red tape in their way. Set against the volatile backdrop of immigration in the United States during the Obama administration, 72 miles to go… gives us a glimpse at one family’s journey over eight years.

There were many heart warming moments as this initial reading allowed me to meet this family for the first time. The father, who was a Unitarian Pastor, had a sharp wit and tried to lighten any family argument with a joke. His wife had been sent back to Mexico when she was stopped for having a tail light out. His phone conversation with her was heart breaking since their love and respect was crystal clear, despite being forced to live apart. The title of the play comes from the distance between Tuscon, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico—and the distance between deported immigrant Anita (Leesa Castañeda) and her American-born husband, Billy (Joe Llorens) and her children.

When the younger sister Eva (Ana Martinez Medina) has a minor accident, the police escort her home. Being born in America she is a citizen, but her older brother, Christian (Diego Zozaya) faces the possibility of deportation every day. His younger brother Aaron (Rico Lastrapes) helped him
hide in a panic when the red and blue lights flashed outside their home. The play follows all the kids as they grow up in America, The sister becomes a valedictorian graduate from high school and in her speech to classmates she spoke of her mom's deportation for the first time. The youngest brother joins the military and the older brother raises his own family. Though growing up under very uncertain
conditions, each kid turned out fine and contributes to making America great.

The play is particularly relevant today as President Trump is spouting xenophobic rhetoric and hate against immigrants. He even claims he will overturn the 14th amendment, which states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.” and he wants to deport any children born in America who came from illegal immigrants. In this time of deviciveness, it was so nice to fall in love with what is truly important, which is family, and everyday dreams and aspirations.

PlayFest runs from November 2 – 4 and 10 – 11, 2018. 7 original plays are on the banquet.

If you want to catch every performance you can purchase PlayFest passes.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

No comments: