By: Monica Rodriguez
If you haven’t heard las noticias, Teatro Vivo is proud to present this year’s Austin Latino New Play Festival (ALNPF) in collaboration with The Long Center for the Performing Arts and ScriptWorks. The festival features three playwrights and will be showcased at the Long Center Rollins Theatre May 16 – May 18 this coming week.
Today, we will be featuring Ariana Mendez, a recent grad from The University of Texas at Austin and a playwright for ALNPF 2013. Mendez’s play El Jardín Viviente, The Living Garden, is about Susana, a woman in her mid-thirties who is suffering from cancer and has accepted her fate despite her family’s attempts to keep her alive. Mendez’s inspiration for this emotional, heart-warming story about faith gives audiences a dose of Teatro Vivo’s corazón y alma.
“My aunt died of breast cancer last summer. At the time I didn’t know she was that sick so it caught me off guard,” said Mendez. “I didn’t get to see her before she passed away so I wanted to write something that will help me remember her. Susana’s death is how I would have wanted my aunt’s to be.”
Just like Teatro Vivo, Mendez believes that la familia is everything. She hopes that audiences take away the importance of family in El Jardín Viviente.
“Family is important and those relationships are gold, they need to be cherished. A family fights and argues, but when a family member is in need those differences are put aside,” said Mendez. “I hope [El Jardín Viviente] will bring [audiences] together. I think it’s a universal story about family and in my opinion the Latino community is a family.”
Mendez also hopes to touch audiences with her character’s struggles and realizations throughout the play.
“I think the biggest struggle [the characters] face is keeping faith and having something to believe in at a moment of crisis. They all want their sister Susana to live, but have to come to the realization that it’s something they have no control over,” said Mendez. “I think [the play’s purpose is] to show that life is sacred, and that it should not be wasted on arguments or fights, especially amongst family members.”
As a word of advice to future playwrights, Mendez says to dig deep.
“Have fun and write; write every day. Don’t be afraid to write about things that scare you or are unsure about. Explore those feelings, challenge yourself,” said Mendez.