5-minute interview with Gabriela Ortega

Where did you get your idea for the show and how did you develop it?

Photo by Luis Kelly Duarte
Photo by Luis Kelly Duarte

I took a playwriting class at school in the fall of 2015 with Oliver Mayer and in that class I sort of found my voice as a writer. I started writing scenes about my youth in Santo Domingo, re-visiting memories with a different perspective now that I don’t live there anymore. It was nostalgic, healing and very eye-opening. I was also writing a lot of poetry and performing spoken word.

During Christmas, I had the idea of writing a solo show using my poetry and personal stories, but I was worried about it being self-indulgent or boring. So I started doing some research in both my country and my family history. I looked into the bloodiest civil war in our country, the “April Revolution” of 1965. A time in which many of my family members and family friends fought to restore the freedom of our country after the fall of a 30-year dictatorship. Thus, the character of “Cristina” came about, a vibrant woman representing the fighters of the time and inspired in stories from both my grandmother and my mother.

The hardest part to write was the version of myself living in present day 2016. The character of “Gabriela” is who I would’ve been if I had been brought up in the US. I wanted to show that part of myself that was lost and split in two because I felt so in tune with my roots yet so far away since I have been living in LA for the past 3 years. With this character I tapped into my privilege and how I was brought up, thus taking many things for granted. More of the Gabriela story is autobiographical, like being brought up with nannies and my relationship with “Patria”.

In all and all, I thought about the story and characters for a couple of months and started writing in March, by late April I had my first draft done and thanks to my director, Alex Alpharaoh (who served as a dramaturg), we both fleshed out the story into the version that is being presented today.

What was your relationship like with Patria and what happened to her?

Patria lives! She’s been working with my family since before I was born. She is my nanny, and my “second mom”. She still lives with my mother in Santo Domingo and she is basically part of my family. In the play we see that she leaves my house…this happened but for different reasons. When I was about 8 years old, she left for a year in order to finish high school but then came back. For months I acted out and had 14 nannies before she returned. I didn’t understand what Patria had to do for herself and so I lashed out because I missed her so much. I wanted to use that feeling of entitlement and hurt as a defining element in the play.

Who did you end up with, Raul or Ryan?

Well, both characters are fictional but inspired by real people.
Ryan, the 2016 character is inspired as my first love and consequential my first heartbreak. Someone whom I have learned from immensely and who I still love but I cannot be with at this moment. A big lesson for both my character in the play and me personally is that: understanding I can’t have it all and that I must sacrifice some things in order to get what I really need.

Raul, on the other hand, is the representation of all the passionate heroes of the April Revolution, many who are unknown. I wanted to honor their bravery with this character. Personality wise is a combination of my grandfather and father. Both men who are strong and with a lot of conviction but who also have a soft heart and a poetic/romantic nature.

Do you plan on expanding your story for another show?

I really want to flesh the story out, its a growing project and I plan on working on it for the rest of my life. I am also writing another play called “Spoiled Milk” that focuses on my upbringing in Santo Domingo and the real relationship between me and my nanny, Patria.

Where can people log on to find out what you’ll be doing next?

I am a big social media person! so people can follow me on Instagram (@gabrieortega5) and on the show’s twitter (lasgarciafringe). At the same time my website is www.ortegart.com and there you can find all my updates.

What is your next project and when and where can people see it?

Right now I am developing a film script for Las Garcia with the hopes of getting it produced and hopefully I can extend the solo show past fringe so stay tuned!

I have two short film projects shooting this summer which I will be giving updates about soon. I am developing my next two plays “In the Heart of the Sun” and “Spoiled Milk” here in LA.