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New York Daily News

Contest Helps Hispanic Playwrights Raise Their Voices


April 25, 2002
Copyright © 2002
Daily News, L.P. All Rights Reserved.

Jorge Gonzalez never thought that winning a small playwriting contest would suddenly take him from struggling grad student to successful sitcom writer.

Two years ago, Gonzalez was working toward a master's degree in playwriting at Columbia when he entered the Nuestras Voces playwriting competition at Repertorio Espanol, the venerable Spanish- language theater company in Manhattan.

"I did it just to have people tell me how good or bad my writing was," says the 28-year-old from San Juan.

He submitted " Vieques ," a politically charged family drama set in the controversial Puerto Rican territory. The play won first place - and changed Gonzalez's fortunes.

While the $3,000 prize was welcome, he says its true value can't be measured in dollars - winners also receive a fully staged production of their work at Repertorio's E. 27th St. space.

But because the company stages its plays in repertory - and tours the U.S. and Latin America - " Vieques " has been seen almost weekly for two years.

"The exposure you get is amazing," says Gonzalez, who returned to San Juan and quickly landed a job there writing for a TV comedy, ""

"Hispanic playwrights rarely get an opportunity to have their plays produced, let alone for so long." he says. "It's like having a showcase for your work that never ends."

Submissions to the competition can be in English or Spanish (winning plays in English are translated into Spanish), but the works must be new and feature a Latino theme (this year's deadline is Wednesday).

"A lot of the submissions tend to be from emerging writers, but it's meant to give all playwrights a unique opportunity to be heard," says Repertorio's special projects manager Allison Astor- Vargas.

Dolores Prida, who wrote the hit revue "Four Guys Named Jose and Una Mujer" in 2000, was already a produced playwright when she won the first Nuestras Voces, in 1999, for "Casa Propia," about buying a house.

"But winning still gives you validation as a writer no matter, what stage you're at," she says.

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