'FADE': You've never seen a woman like Lucia onstage before

FADE in Denver
Photos from the first rehearsal of ‘FADE’ on Jan. 8. To see more photos, click the ‘forward’ arrow. Photos by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

FADE is a new play written by a Mexican-born playwright who acknowledges the first tentative step many U.S. businesses take toward employment equality is the token diversity hire.

FADE takes place in a Hollywood TV studio, where the lead character, Lucia, is out of her element. “This is a practice that has gone on – and is still going on – in the TV and film industries, as well as our own (theatre) industry,” said DCPA Theatre Company Producing Artistic Director Kent Thompson, “where many times a person – whether a writer, actor, director – is the token diverse person brought into a creative situation.”

Jerry Ruiz QuoteBy focusing on a Latina TV writer and her friendship with a third-generation American Chicano who works as her custodian, “FADE really is a play that reveals the complexity that we all know exists within the Hispanic/Latino/Chicano community, but is rarely revealed on our main stages,” Thompson said at Monday’s first rehearsal for the DCPA Theatre Company’s world premiere that starts performances on Feb. 5. “You have two really interesting characters here who come from completely different backgrounds.”

What’s also very different about FADE, director Jerry Ruiz says, is the storyteller. Playwright Tanya Saracho is native of Los Mochis, Mexico, and a Boston University alum who describes herself as “an Americanized, acculturated Mexican citizen with a green card.” Lucia is based somewhat on her experiences as a first-time TV writer.

“There is no playwright on the American theatre scene that is doing what Tanya is doing,” Ruiz said. “Yes, she is very funny, and very provocative, but there are really serious ideas at the heart of all of her plays. She really tackles class distinctions and class differences within this nebulous Latino population that we always hear about. But she really sheds light on just how varied and diverse that set of people is.

“I think she is an incredibly unique and important voice in the American theatre.”

In the play, Lucia is an immigrant, but she is clearly a woman of means. Whereas the janitor, in a very not metaphorical way – cleans her trash. Lucia has been brought in to write specifically for the TV show’s token Latina TV character, because none of the white male writers have a clue what makes the character tick. And it turns out, the custodian may have a better understanding of that than Lucia does.

“What I love about this play is that it is a story about privilege – and who has it; power – and who has it,” Ruiz said. “That’s really why this story is so ‘of our moment.’ This idea of who gets to tell this story, and how is it told? It’s the story of appropriation. It’s about how the experience of a working-class military man who is Mexican-American gets re-shaped.”

This is simply a character, the director said, theatre audiences have not seen onstage before.

“Tanya writes such complex female characters,” Ruiz said. “I think Lucia has had a lot of privilege in her life. She probably comes from money. She is someone who has navigated the world. She has a good education, she looks a certain way. But she is powerless within the hierarchy of the television show. To me, the turning point in the play is when she suddenly realizes, ‘Oh my gosh, I have no power right now. That’s what this terrible feeling is. They just see me as a translator – as one of “them.” ’ So then the question becomes – what is she willing to do?”

Saracho believes it’s not important how she – or Lucia – found their way into the writers’ room. It’s more important that they earned their way into their next jobs. “I am grateful that they were aware enough to know that our voice was missing,” Saracho said. “In time, hopefully these (diversity) programs will be gone, because we will have redefined the mainstream – and we will not be ‘otherized’ this way.

“I say just let us into the castle. We’ll do something while we’re in there.”

‘FADE’ features Eddie Martinez and Mariana Fernández. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter. 

FADE: Ticket information

  • By Tanya Saracho
  • Feb. 5-March 13
  • Ricketson Theatre
  • In this  true-to-life new comedy, Mexican-American Lucia is hired to write for a Latina TV character in a cutthroat Hollywood TV studio. She soon discovers that the Latino studio custodian, Abel, has a windfall of plot ideas. As their friendship grows, his stories start to blur with hers with unexpected consequences. FADE is a standout new play from Tanya Saracho, whose writing “lands in that sweet spot between comedy and drama” (Chicago Tribune).
  • Tickets: 303-893-4100 or BUY ONLINE
  • TTY: 303-893-9582
  • Groups of 15 or more: 303-446-4829
  • Also: Purchase in person at The Denver Center Ticket Office, located at the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex lobby. Buy and print online at DenverCenter.Org.
  • Mariana Fernández of ‘FADE.’ Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

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