Twitter: @BarbotRobot

Full disclosure: I’m a member of the Bats, the Flea Theater’s resident acting company. In fact, that’s how I Hate Fucking Mexicans came to my attention – then again, that title’s just screaming for it.

ihatemexicans

Censored in most of the theater’s email blasts, but not on the posters and fliers, and certainly not in the script, the phrase “I hate fucking Mexicans” seems perfectly timed right after a presidential debate that avoided the immigration issue in a presidential race that everyone seems to think hinges on the “Latino vote,” whatever that is. Fittingly, the play was written by a Mexican playwright with an almost comically Spanish string of names: Luis Enrique Gutiérrez Ortiz Monasterio, often shortened to LEGOM, who says of himself:

Mi nombre no es LEGOM es Luis Enrique Gutiérrez y soy un imbécil. […] Tengo escritas más de cuarenta obritas de teatro y en mayor o menor medida, todas son una mierda.

(My name isn’t LEGOM it’s Luis Enrique Gutiérrez and I’m an imbecile. […] I have more than forty little stage-plays written and they’re all more or less shit.)

I spoke to director Danya Taymor – herself of Mexican parentage – about the play, which begins previews tonight.

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287015_10101516816150178_1197925039_oIntroduce yourself.
My name is Danya Taymor. I am a director and a sometimes playwright and translator. I live in Brooklyn but miss California very very much.

Any relation to the Broadway director?
Yes yes, she’s my aunt. My senior year in college I wrote and directed a play after I came back from spending 2 months in Medellin, Colombia. She came down to see it and afterwards offered me my first job in New York.

Do you hate fucking Mexicans?
Sadly, fucking a Mexican is a pleasure I’ve never had. But I’m all for it as my birth is a result of that beautifual act.

Tell us a little about I Hate Fucking Mexicans.
The play is set in an unnamed southern town in the United States. To me what sticks out most is the theme that hate breeds hate, that if you hate yourself it spreads to everyone around you. One of my favorite things that LEGOM says about the play is this: “I Hate Fucking Mexicans is a caricature of Americans written by a Mexican, just like Speedy Gonzalez is a caricature of Mexicans written by Americans. I suppose that some people could feel offended, in the same way that some Mexicans feel insulted when we see ourselves portrayed as a little coked up rat or a lazy sombrero wearing rancher.” It explores stereotypes – of Mexicans, White Americans, Nigerians, Homosexuals, Religious people -pretty much no one escapes LEGOM’s exploration of what it means to be an “other”.

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“I Hate Fucking Mexicans is a caricature of Americans written by a Mexican, just like Speedy Gonzalez is a caricature of Mexicans written by Americans. I suppose that some people could feel offended, in the same way that some Mexicans feel insulted when we see ourselves portrayed as a little coked up rat or a lazy sombrero wearing rancher.” – LEGOM

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How did you become interested in LEGOM and his work?
I was introduced to LEGOM by Ana Graham, a wonderful Mexican actress, translator, producer and costume designer who is based in both Mexico City and New York. She and Play Co. produced a series of readings last spring called Hecho en Mexico, which consisted of 3 readings of plays by incredible Mexican playwrights that had never been translated into English. I co-translated I Hate… with Ana and Debbie Saivetz and then Ana and Play Co. asked if I would direct it for the reading.

What was it like bringing the play to the Flea’s stage?
It has been an utterly wonderful experience. Jim Simpson, the artistic director of The Flea Theater, came to that reading at Play Co. and immediately fell in love with the play. He is one of the bravest artistic directors in New York City, one of the few that is willing to push whatever arbitrary boundaries of theater exist in New York. I knew I needed excellent collaborators, so I brought in Adriano Shaplin (of The Riot Group) to act and do the amazing sound design, and the wonderful Tymberly Canale to choreograph (who works with Big Dance Theater). The downstairs space at The Flea is unlike any other theater in New York, and Starlet Jacobs has created an incredibly evocative set that doesn’t fight the natural architecture of the space. Erica Evan’s costumes toe the line between familiarity and stereotype, and Jonathan Cottle’s lights are stunning.

How did you connect your cast – all non-Mexican, but also largely non-White – to the text? Was there an aim in casting this piece with such diverse actors?
So when I got the play, it was all written in one voice and there was only one stage direction–if you can call if that–at the top: “A monodrama in four or five voices”. One of the things I admire most about Legom is his ability to open his work to the interpretation of the particular ensemble and creative team that is working on the play. He seems to understand that craving absolute control can stifle creativity, and this allowed me to find the best ensemble possible, without looking for particular “types”. What I was looking for in auditions were 5 individuals who could function together as an ensemble, because together we divided the text up into the characters you’ll see now. I think that the play could be performed by actors of any race, sex or age, and that is the beauty of what Legom has written. In the case of our production, the actors I cast were simply the absolute best actors for the part, regardless of what they look like, as well as being actors who I thought could work as an ensemble with me and the creative team to create the world of our production together.

little monkeys-1How do people react to the title? (The Flea’s fan page had a huge spike in Facebook “unlikes” when they posted your flyer.)
The title makes people react in crazy ways. Sometimes they laugh, but sometimes they get really pissed off. They don’t realize that a Mexican wrote it and they take the title literally. It can also get you into potential danger when you’re talking about the play on the subway or while walking down the street. Out of context they might seem like fighting words. The thing I love most about the title though is that it makes people look up and listen, which I think the entire play does as well. It is an impossible title to ignore.

What is your favorite Mexican restaurant?
This is by far the hardest question you’ve asked me. And to be honest, no one makes better carne en salsa verde than my mother. I do love the little place around the corner from where I live in Brooklyn, Cafe Los Arcos. They make really simple Mexican food but they always make it fresh.

Who is your favorite Mexican musician?
Lila Downs, she is a goddess.

What’s next for you?
Right after Thanksgiving I am traveling to El Paso and Juarez to work with the photographer Dominic Bracco on a play we are writing about youth living in Juarez, Mexico. Hopefully we will finish the play in time for an early spring world premier at the Flea!

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UPDATE 10/18/12: It’s got a trailer, now, and it’s pretty great.