Playwright Alexis Scheer on ‘Laughs in Spanish’ (part 2)
Part two of award-winning playwright alumna and Adjunct Assistant Professor Melinda Lopez’s conversation with Laughs in Spanish playwright Alexis Scheer.
Melinda: And what does ‘Laughs in Spanish’ say that’s true to you? How is that play yours?
Alexis: I think it’s the most unapologetically Miami-thing I’ve written. For so long I felt it was something I didn’t want to even try to write, because the Latinx experience that’s reflected onstage and screen—deportation, crime, poverty—these life or death situations—is just so far from my experience. It was only recently that I realized that my personal narrative was also part of the Latinx experience, and there is space onstage for that too.
Melinda: I feel like what you’re articulating is this very familiar struggle for me which is, “Is my life interesting and do I dare lay claim to the capital ‘L’, Latinx experience?”
Alexis: Right, which I don’t claim at all—I’m just now turning a corner where I can finally claim my experience, which is a world populated with badass Latinas who make the rules and are successful.
Melinda: What you’ve also articulated is the same journey of a playwright—finding your voice. Do you feel like you’re there? Did you do that? Did you find your voice?
They both laugh.
Alexis: I think I’ve figured out what matters to me. And I think I’ve come into my voice because I’ve also really come into myself. Someone who’s known me forever recently commented on the fact that I always wear hoop earrings now when I never did before. And I couldn’t because I spent 15 years in acting training—we were always rolling around on the floor. So going to grad school for playwriting was kinda the first time I got to make choices about who I am, instead of focusing on being other people. So I started wearing hoops—I love them. And this was the same time I started figuring out what makes a play mine. And I think the two things are related.
Alexis: Like when you’re a baby playwright, so much of the early work is writing other people’s plays—which I think is an important part of it. You say, “I’m gonna write a play like Johnny Kuntz or Sarah Kane”—and that’s how you learn all the ways to write a play, until ultimately you forget it all and figure out how to write your play.
Melinda: I feel like I asked this earlier, but you didn’t answer it—
Alexis: I’m practicing that skill in case I go into politics. (laughs)
Melinda: Oh please do! (laughs) So what is “Alexis” about this play?
Alexis: Laughs in Spanish is about people who make art, who are surrounded by it, and are defined by it. The art has a direct effect on everyone’s values and relationships. So a lot of the questions I ask in the play are questions I’m asking in real life—how do I be an artist and a person—particularly a woman, where there’s this extra level of societal expectation? And the thing that’s also very “me” is that at the end of the day this is a play about Latinas with agency.
Laughs in Spanish runs at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre Feb. 21-March 3. Tickets