By: Nikki Dulay
With the fourth annual Austin Latino New Play Festival happening in just a few days, we wanted to spotlight one of the playwrights, third year theatre and dance major at The University of Texas at Austin Stephany Cavazos, and find out more about her show, Cielito Lindo.
Cavazos first heard about Teatro Vivo from friends who have participated in the festival in the past and from the company’s past productions. However, it was her playwriting professor Kirk Lyn who encouraged her to submit her play into the festival this year.
Cielito Lindo focuses on 9-year-old Flarenicia Valdez, also known as Sky. Sky struggles with her identity and what kind of person she wants to become after dealing with bullies at her school. With the help of her friends and family, she is able to overcome this identity crisis in her life.
The storyline for the play was loosely based on Cavazos’s personal life. The play was inspired by events from her family and childhood in San Antonio, Texas.
“This play started out as a sharing of Latina experiences between me and my friend Andrea in direct response to events that had happened in our lives,” says Cavazos. “As a Latina who has yet to ever play or be involved in a Latino production, I felt like I was missing out on a piece of my personal identity since my type doesn’t read ‘Hispanic.’”
Out of all the characters in the play, Cavazos best relates to the kids of the story. She has experienced everything that her characters have gone through: dealing with bullies, standing up to bullies and even being the bully.
During the writing process, Cavazos enjoyed reliving her childhood. She loved adding a dramatic flair to her past and writing about her grandparents. However, there were parts that she loved that did not make it to the final cut of the script. She drafted at least seven versions of the show that only helped to make it better in the end.
While writing this play and preparing for this festival have helped Cavazos grow personally, she hopes to showcase her piece to a broad audience in order to help the community, regardless of ethnicity, grow together as a whole. She firmly believes that presenting these identity issues through theatre is the best way to discuss it.
“There is a main message about bullying explicitly stated in the play, but deeper than that, I want the message that the audience takes away to be [that] you only have one life to live and this is how God made you,” expresses Cavazos. “You can spend your life hiding from yourself, or you can learn to love yourself for who you are.”
Lastly, Cavazos shared advice for future playwrights and students pursuing to be a playwright.
“Find what your passion is and write about it. It becomes a rewarding [and] emotional process that is like no other.”
Cielito Lindo premieres on Thursday, May 8 at 8 p.m. at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.