Bilingual Play Illuminates the Stories of Women from La Colectiva

By Ariella Wolfe 

In mid January, A.C.T. Studio 8G was filled with stories, Spanish and English translation, songs, laughter, and even some Beyoncé. Sky Festival, the annual three-week period during which the A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) Program explores and develops student-originated new material, provided an opportunity for M.F.A. students, staff from the Education & Community Programs Department’s Stage Coach initiative, and members of the San Francisco community to create theater together, build relationships, and share their work with the rest of the A.C.T. community.

Part of the ensemble of Mariposas de Papel. Photo by Ariella Wolfe. 

Following last year’s Sky Festival/Stage Coach production of Stories from the ’Loin (humanizing stories of homelessness in the Tenderloin), M.F.A. second-year student Diana Gonzalez-Morett and Community Producer Rebecca Struch proposed a community-devised theater project that would feature the stories of women from San Francisco who have immigrated from Latin America and are employed as domestic workers. Allowing space for these stories is crucial, as the narratives of women of color, immigrants, and the working class have often been overlooked or silenced in traditional theater spaces. In the New Year, Struch and Gonzalez-Morett connected with Guillermina Castellanos, the co-founder of La Colectiva de Mujeres, “a worker-run collective that helps empower immigrant women and connect them with jobs.” The newly formed ensemble began sharing stories and developing creative content that eventually became the play Mariposas de Papel.

Learning a dance. Photo by Jennifer Apple.
Team-building game. Photo by Jennifer Apple. 
In community collaborations, the process is a large part of the product. Throughout the week and a half of rehearsals, ensemble members shared moving experiences from their own lives, fostered trust, navigated language barriers, and supported each other in deepening their skills as performers. When the doors opened for the culminating performances, audiences shared in the joy and strength of the women’s stories. Nancy Livingston, the Chair of A.C.T.’s Board of Trustees, explained one powerful result of the production: “the woman sitting next to me . . . came because her domestic worker (who was in the play) asked her to. She was in tears by the end of it and told me that although she had been to A.C.T. before, she had never seen anything like this and was so glad she had come.” Hopefully this project will lead to a continued relationship with the women of La Colectiva, especially as it affirms A.C.T. as a space for both embracing and transcending cultural differences through theater.

Photo by Rebecca Struch 

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