New York City’s Atlantic Theater Company kicked off its annual Latino Mixfest yesterday; a weeklong festival featuring several readings of new plays penned by Latino writers. Each of the readings are free and open to the general public.


Quiara Alegría Hudes speaking at Latina Magazine’s “Next Generation Latina” Awards (Source: www.quiara.com)

Latino Mixfest is of the many programs made possible by the Time Warner Foundation, which seeks out innovative ways to identify, nurture, and promote the next generation of storytellers. Now in its fourth year, Latino Mixfest features a series of readings from notable playwrights, such as Quiara Alegría Hudes. Hudes authored the book for the musical In The Heights, winner of the 2008 Tony Award for Best Musical, as well as Water by the Spoonful, winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The Time Warner Blog had the pleasure of speaking with Quiara recently about her experience with Latino Mixfest:

Tell us about Daphne’s Dive and how you came to write this play. Were any of the events inspired by a personal experience?
The play takes place in a corner bar in North Philly. It's six regulars and an unexpected young person who comes into their lives. This is the first play I wrote after completing my Elliot trilogy, which was ten years of writing about an Iraq vet with PTSD. So I wanted an emotional break. I wanted to write a more laid back play, something that didn't feel so fraught. I needed a more pleasant writing process. So I said, "let me just hear everyday people tell stories." The result is that this play has a very different rhythm, a sort of patience and slow accumulation that is quite different than my previous writing. People take time to spin yarns. The seed of the idea came from two things. The first is that my stepfather used to own a bar called Sanchez Lounge in North Philly and sometimes I'd have to hang there after school while he worked. It was dark. There was a bowling game. I just observed the rhythm of passing time there. The second seed was a performance artist who used to dance for peace on the corners of West Philly--a kind of radical disarming beautiful protest in the form of free dance every day. To most people she was a nuisance, but to me she was amazing.

How did you become involved with the Atlantic Theater Company and Latino Mixfest?
Jaime Castañeda who runs Mixfest has been trying to work with me for a while. Finally the timing lined up: I had a new play, and he had a slot to help me work on it. Then hurricane Sandy knocked out the Atlantic Theater and my reading was the least of their concerns--we had to cancel. Finally we're getting in the room to work. I have long been a huge fan of the Atlantic--The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow and Spring Awakening being two personal favorites.

Are you thinking about your next project yet? Do you have any other plays or ideas in the pipeline you’d like to share?
Always, always. I am writing a new musical with a singer songwriter named Erin McKeown. It's still in its infancy, so I'll leave it at that. Saying too much early on can spoil the romance.

Mixfest not only introduces the Atlantic Theater Company to great Latino writers, it gives budding playwrights important exposure and connects them with key contacts within the entertainment industry. Fernanda Coppel’s play Chimichangas and Zoloft was selected for Mixfest in 2010, and later would debut on Atlantic’s Stage 2. The buzz surrounding Chimichangas and Zoloft put Fernanda on the radar of producers for FX detective series The Bridge. Today, she’s a staff writer for the show. 2013 Mixfest Fellow Marco Ramirez is currently part of a team writing the upcoming Netflix original series, Orange is the New Black. The exposure Coppel and Ramirez received at Latino Mixfest put their extraordinary talents in the spotlight - and Hollywood noticed.

Latino MixFest is curated and overseen by director Jaime Castañeda.

2013 Latino Mixfest Festival

DAPHNE’S DIVE by Quiara Alegría Hudes
Premiered Wednesday June 12
A corner bar in blue collar Philly. Six regulars have gathered for years, telling jokes and spinning yarns to the melodies of the pianist who lives upstairs. Until one day, when a neglected girl literally falls into their lives and changes this joint forever. A play about a garbageman, an artist, a politician, a biker, and a rebel who share a drink and an unexpected chance at salvation.

FEATHERS AND TEETH by Charise Castro Smith
Friday June 14, 2 p.m.
Atlantic Stage 2, 330 W. 16th St.
On a spring evening in 1976, in the quaint kitchen of a nice Midwestern home, Carol makes a pot roast and Chris listens to rock and roll records. But when Arthur accidentally runs over a mysterious creature with his car, he unwittingly cracks open the full force of grief and suspicion that lies just below the family’s pristine surface. Part dark fairytale and part revenge tragedy, Feathers and Teeth shows us just how far we can be carried away by the strength of our convictions.

…IN THE FOUNTAIN by Cusi Cram
Friday June 14, 4 p.m.
Atlantic Stage 2, 330 W. 16th St.
At a small, international school in Rome nothing is quite as it seems. A small scandal unravels as five lives collide and combust in this darkly comic piece about love gone sour and picking up the pieces after you lose everything.

THE SOLID SAND BELOW by Martín Zimmerman
Friday June 21, 3:30 p.m.
Atlantic Stage 2
Julian Flores narrowly escapes a prison sentence and lands in Iraq where he’s anything but a model soldier. But when an I.E.D. blast nearly costs him his life, something changes for Flores. Soon the adrenaline, clarity, and intimacy of battle become something he can’t live without—even after he returns home.

YOUR NAME WILL FOLLOW YOU HOME by Carlos Murillo
Friday June 28, 3:30 p.m.
Atlantic Studio 476 Ninth Ave Suite 537
Danny Santiago’s novel Famous All Over Town was a gritty, authentic depiction of Chicano life in East LA told through the eyes of a troubled teenager. But who is the real Danny Santiago? And is the work authentic? Charlie Chaplin. Communists in Hollywood. HUAC. The Blacklist. 50s B-Monster Movies. Architectural Fantasias. Fake Latinos. Jesse James.