Hello, Azuka friends and family —
If you’re just checking in, over the past couple of weeks (and in the next few weeks to come) we’ve been highlighting each of the playwrights in our New Pages writers’ group. Wait, Azuka has a writers’ group? Yes! Check out the Azuka Extras blog post here to learn more from me and New Pages leader Maura Krause. Last week we heard from Val Dunn, and this week the spotlight’s on Erlina Ortiz. Erlina, the floor is yours.
“I was born in the Dominican Republic. I came to the states at 4 years old and was raised in the %50 Latinx city of Reading, Pennsylvania. I came to Philly to attend Temple University's Theatre program. I always felt like Philly was calling to me and that there was an opportunity here for me to discover who I wanted to be as an artist.
After graduation I joined the newly formed Power Street Theatre Company and very quickly transitioned into a co-leadership role with founder Gabriela Sanchez. Gabi had founded Power Street as an act of resistance. We were both disappointed by our time at Temple, by the lack of inclusivity from the curriculum to the teachers to the shows that were cast and presented. We wanted Power Street to be a place where everyone was welcome, and where everyone had a chance to express themselves and showcase their talents in whatever way they wanted to. We wanted to present work that felt relevant to our lives and what we were seeing around us, we wanted to see all different kinds of bodies on stage, and we wanted our audience to reflect that.
I had never written a play before, but I when I realized the opportunity for me to write and direct our first show was presenting itself I jumped right in and never looked back. That show was MinorityLand, a play about gentrification in North Philadelphia. We will be remounting MinorityLand, opening September 27th!
I've written four plays that have been presented with Power Street up to this point, and we've devised several performance pieces together over the years as well. I was accepted into The Foundry and just graduated this year. Being accepted into the Foundry was actually the first time in my life I started calling myself a playwright without feeling like a fraud. I guess other playwrights acknowledging that I was a playwright was different than Gabi yelling ‘you're a playwright Erlina!’ and me not believing her. This last year I received my first professional production at Passage Theatre Company which was Barrymore Reccommended!
This last year I was also asked to join New Pages which, if Foundry felt like the masters program then New Pages is like... the PhD? It has meant a lot to me to share space with Philly great's such as James Ijames and Jackie Goldfinger (a Founder of the Foundry). It's really great to continue to have a group that will hold you accountable, and who has a vested interest in helping you make your play the best it can be. It's also something that we are, in a way, creating together since it hasn't existed before and that is exciting.
I'm currently reading Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown, and I recommend it to every human who wants to be a good human. So I'll leave you with a quote:
‘E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G—is connected. The soil needs rain, organic matter, air, worms and life in order to do what it needs to do to give and receive life. Each element is an essential component. Organizing takes humility and selflessness and patience and rhythm while our ultimate goal of liberation will take many expert components. Some of us build and fight for land, healthy bodies, healthy relationships, clean air, water, homes, safety, dignity, and humanizing education. Others of us fight for food and political prisoners and abolition and environmental justice. Our work is intersectional and multifaceted. Nature teaches us that our work has to be nuanced and steadfast. And more than anything, that we need each other—at our highest natural glory—in order to get free.’”
Thank you so much, Erlina. And that reminds me — I have summer reading to do. Readers, do you have any recommendations? Maybe there’s a future blog post in that…
If you’ve enjoyed hearing from New Pages playwrights, check back next Friday for another spotlight. And I promise some more Azuka Extras are on their way too! Thanks for checking in.