Sandra Delgado inside and outside of the classroom
Loyola Theatre students have spent the past few months in the classroom with Artist-in-Residence Sandra Delgado. We asked her about her experience on campus so far, and how what she’s teaching in the classroom relates to her writing process in her current professional projects throughout Chicago.
We’re so glad to have you here teaching a Playwrighting and Devising Workshop this semester!
Me too! It is the highlight of my week. I’m loving getting to know and work with this vibrant, creative and kind community.
What are some things you are currently doing with Loyola students in the classroom?
Together we are exploring the techniques and methodologies that I use to create my plays. First, we focused on text. We just finished our section writing scenes inspired by María Irene Fornés’ intuitive, at times whimsical and excitingly unpredictable process. Now we are throwing away words and looking at how other theatrical elements, such as architecture, light, sound and props can lead the narrative. When I start writing a play, visuals are guiding posts to me. I can see images--flashes of the play-- in my head. I think that’s a big part of the reason that I am so drawn to Moment Work, Tectonic Theatre Project’s, process for creation. It’s inspiring our next few weeks together. I got to raid the props, costume and light shops (Thank you Jamie, Austin and Clare!) and bring in a bunch of goodies for everyone to play with. Today we started experimenting with light and discovered some breathtaking, hilarious and creepy moments with light as the guiding force.
Next: we put both together.
Photo by Joe Mazza for Writers Theatre
What do you hope your students this semester gain from the Devising Workshop?
I want my fellow creators here at Loyola to build their risk-taking muscles, value experimentation and fall in love with process. In our culture there is so much pressure to be/present a perfectly polished “insert whatever it is you can think of-um gee--basically everything” quickly and effortlessly and with a smile on our face. In my creative process, since I have consciously stopped putting so much pressure on myself and/or recognizing when I am doing it and saying “just stop,” the more fun I’ve had and the better I’ve felt about the work. But even more importantly, I have noticed a trickle-down effect into all areas of my life. So, let’s take this pressure of perfection off! In this workshop, the emphasis has been on diving in and letting go and seeing where that takes you. It is about presenting the not fully-formed, the raw in all its possibility. I hope the honesty, vulnerability and power that everyone has shown in our time together continues as they navigate this life. Watching their work, and seeing those muscles grow in just a few weeks has been a very moving and inspiring experience for me.
In class you’ve covered such techniques as María Irene Fornés’ freewriting activities. Do you use similar techniques to approach your own projects?
Yes, absolutely. One of my big artistic mantras is “it will reveal itself to me.” And if you trust yourself, it will. Being introduced to Fornés’ methodologies was revelatory to me. It got me out of my own way—out of my head—so I could access what was deep inside of me. She was not a trained writer, she came from the visual art world. So she developed her own instinctual process, based on meditative visualization, accessing personal memories and encouraging stream of conscious writing through eclectic text, visual and action-based prompts. Again, this is a methodology that stresses letting the unknown guide you. It unleashes your subconscious. You are just writing, generating material that is your own natural response to the prompts you are being given, without forcing any sort of narrative. It is freeing because there is no pressure for anything to “make sense” in this generative phase of writing. Just write. Just create. This is the same principle that guides Moment Work, it’s about possibilities. The editing and polishing come later.
Can you tell us more about the adaptation of the Writers Theatre production of A Doll’s House and/or the creation of your New Stages piece at the Goodman?
A Doll’s House was a delicious challenge that I just couldn’t pass up. I entered the professional theatre world as an actress and in that role found a home and passion for new work. I have never had much interest in the classics—which is partly a function of being a woman of color who historically has not been called in to audition for Chekhov or Shakespeare or Ibsen (more on that below); partly not seeing a place for myself in those plays anyway; but mostly because I love the rigor and challenge and fun of working with living playwrights on new work. Being commissioned to adapt a classic was a complete surprise. When I was brought on to the project, the roles of Nora and Krogstad had already been cast with Latinx actors. Reading the original with them in mind changed the story completely for me—it opened it up for me in a way it hadn’t before. And even though this production still takes place in Norway in the late 1800s, this story is very much of the now.
A lot has changed in the twenty years that I have been a part of the theatre world. Just five years ago you would have never seen a Latina Nora. And to have a Latina adapting a Norwegian man?! What? It has been a truly fulfilling experience to have this conversation with Ibsen...maybe I’ll do it again. Who’s next?
Photo by Joe Mazza for Writers Theatre. Sandra Delgado and Michael Halberstam, Artistic Director of Writers
Delgado is a creator of the Work-in-Progress performance of (the) FAIR: A Fantastical Time-Traveling Exposition Through Chicago's Future, Its Past and The Now, which will be presented at Goodman Theatre’s New Stages Festival on November 9th, 2019. Her adaptation of A Doll’s House at Writers Theatre runs until December 15th, 2019. And, look out for a staged reading of THE BOYS AND THE NUNS, her latest original piece, which will be performed by Loyola students in the Newhart Family Theatre in the spring.