David Lozano spotlights history and culture on the theatrical stage
By Jesse Garcia
A great man once said “Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.” What Cesar Chavez uttered many decades ago still rings true today. Chavez and other legendary Latino figures, including great literary works by Hispanics, have struggled to make it into school textbooks. New generations of Hispanics have to enroll in college ethnic studies, seek out their roots via libraries and the internet, or rely on their elders to pass down stories in order to get a true glimpse of the past.
Luckily for us, one North Texas man has focused his life on telling our tales.
Enter David Lozano.
The local writer and director will bring to the stage a rendition of Sandra Cisneros’ award-winning novel, “The House on Mango Street.” His play will debut this March at the Dallas’ Latino Cultural Center. The University of Texas at Dallas alum just wrapped up a second season of the critically-acclaimed “Crystal City 1969,” and is hoping to replicate that success with a classic work that is sure to resonate with many Latino families.
Infórmate DFW: Tell us about your new creation.
Lozano: “The House on Mango Street is the coming of age story about a young Mexican-American girl named Esperanza. Always moving from house to house, she hopes that her father will finally buy the home of their dreams. Instead, he buys the house on Mango Street. Esperanza’s story is the experience of so many Mexican-Americans during the stage of life between childhood and adolescence. We see her rush into the innocent games, fantasies and friendships of childhood, yet she begins to become conscious of the dangers and contradictions of being a young woman living in the barrio. Esperanza tries to make sense of her place in the world while observing the lives of the women around her and decides her life is going to be different. Adapted for the stage by Amy Ludwig, ‘The House on Mango Street’ is an important story for young people and their parents.”
Infórmate DFW: Why is this story relevant for today’s audience?
Lozano: “‘The House on Mango Street’ is universal. Anyone who remembers the difficulty of growing up from childhood to adolescence can relate to this story. However, the main reason I was inspired to direct this play is because we see how young girls are often unprepared for the leap into womanhood. Young women are not often prepared for the moment when teenage boys and even grown men will begin to look at them for sexual reasons. Moreover, these young women are essentially still children psychologically, yet they become objects of desire. So, I feel that this story is critical for our community to see. Obviously, ‘The House on Mango Street’ brings a lot of feelings of nostalgia but that is not the reason I think this story is important. It is important because it alarms us to the needs of the young girls who are becoming women in our families and communities.”
Infórmate DFW: What is the hardest part of putting a play together?
Lozano: “The hardest part of putting the play together is selling the tickets. As artists, we spend so much time in the rehearsal studio and working on the production elements that we don’t have time to go out in the community and promote. We have several volunteers who help us but we can never have enough. And selling tickets is so important to our theater company in this economic climate when public and private funding is being challenged.”
Infórmate DFW: What motivated you to get involved in theater?
Lozano: “I had dreamed of writing, acting and directing since I was 12 years old. At that age, I was inspired to make films but I didn’t feel confident enough or didn’t know enough to voice this secret of mine. So, I never really shared this dream with anyone until eight years later. I was attending Santa Clara University in California which is an excellent school but I didn’t feel like I fit in. Actually, I was surrounded by a multitude of friends but somehow I felt more alone than I ever had in my life. I didn’t feel like the world of Santa Clara reflected the person who I really was inside. And honestly, I didn’t know who that person inside me was.
After my 20th birthday, I returned to Dallas and spent a year just reading, reading, reading, reading and reading. My favorite writer became Jack Kerouac. He was so free, poetic and unafraid to experience the world in all of its colors and variety. I wanted to live like him. Around that time, I was reminded of my childhood secret. Looking back, that dream was like a buried treasure. So, I took an acting class at Richland College because I thought that could be my first taste of working in performance. And when I performed before an audience the first time, I felt more alive than I had ever felt in my life. Almost immediately after that experience, I decided that I was going to commit myself to making a life out of theater.”
Infórmate DFW: How do you engage Latinos audiences to come see live theater?
Lozano: “I don’t think that our Latino audiences come to the theater to just be entertained. Cara Mia Theatre Co.’s audiences attend our plays because our plays affirm our audiences’ experiences by what we depict on stage.
‘Crystal City 1969’ brought a civil rights story to light that had been buried for 40 years. The play also reflected the experiences of thousands of people throughout our country when, historically, there have not been enough plays and movies to represent that experience, to appreciate that experience. I felt like Mexican-Americans who lived through stories like ‘Crystal City 1969’ were forced to hold on to a painful secret over the course of decades. ‘Crystal City 1969’ allowed us manifest their experiences on stage and I believe many people went through a catharsis while watching our play. I experienced several cathartic moments over the course of two years writing, producing and directing the play.”
Infórmate DFW: Is it hard for Latinos and Latinas to make it in Broadway? Or has the theater world diversified enough?
Lozano: “My aspiration is not to make it to Broadway but Broadway represents mainstream live performance and theater. I would have to say ‘yes,’ it is hard for Latinos to make it to Broadway. What plays are written with Latino roles that could make it to Broadway? Can we name even one besides Zoot Suit? The theater world has not diversified enough but the theater world is not going to do it for us. We as theater artists and arts patrons have to empower our artists and teach future generations the importance of theater.”
Infórmate DFW: What do you recommend for someone in high school interested in going into the business?
Lozano: “It is hard for me to give advice to young people wanting to make a career in live theater. It is really such a personal decision based on one’s convictions. A young person’s ambitions may be so different than mine so in the end, I don’t really have any practical business advice other than to just begin training and working right away. By doing that, an artist will discover his passion and carve out his own path, ‘follow your bliss.’”