Published: November 13, 2015
Virginia Grise, a writer, performer and teacher came to The University on Nov. 11, for her event “An Artist’s Statement,” located in The Royal Theater in The McDade Center for Literary and Performing Arts.
At the event, Grise read several excerpts from her works, including her plays “Siempre Norteada: Always Late,” “Always Lost,” “Rasgos Asiaticos,” and an excerpt from her 2010 Yale Drama Series Award-winning play, “blu.”
Grise holds many prestigious awards, including the Whiting Writers Award, the Loft Literary Center Spoken Word Immersion Fellowship, the Women’s Project Theater’s Playwriting Lab, the Pregones Theatre’s Asuncion Queer Playwriting Award and many more.
Grise is a Latin American woman from San Antonio, Texas. Her plays predominantly focus on the issues within Hispanic, Latino and Latin American communities, while simultaneously exploring themes of confinement, oppression and struggles with being lost.
Grise said her career in writing began because of confinement. As an educator, she took a position helping teach the literacy program at a juvenile detention facility.
While working at the juvenile detention facility, Grise was paired with a 12-year-old boy who could not read or write.
A poet with whom she was working with, Raúl Salinas, told Grise, “Listen to his story. The reason we’re here is to listen to people’s stories.”
“To listen I have to write. The moment he started telling me his story and I started writing it, he keyed in and realized ‘I’m going to have to tell this with other people, so how to I tell this with other people?’” Grise said.
Before taking the job at the juvenile facility, Grise did not work with poetry or playwriting. Rather it was her experience in teaching the 12-year-old that ignited her passion for writing and telling stories. After that, she began playwriting.
“Although I never had experience writing or performing in theater at the time, it felt natural to me, and came natural. The voices of the characters would just come to my mind, and I can hear them, so I write them down,” Grise said.
Grise got her MFA in Writing for Performance from the California Institute of the Arts in 2009 when she was 31 years old. Fairly new to the playwriting world, she has made her work stand out in the theater world.
Perhaps her most famous play, “blu,” has been produced widely in the Southwest. Grise says she notices differences between the actors she works with in New York, versus the actors she encounters in San Antonio, Texas, or in Los Angeles, California.
“Whenever I work with different actors, I notice the difference in the way they deliver or digest the lines, and I think it is a regional thing – these stories are San Antonio stories and Los Angeles stories, and locals will tell you that,” Grise said.
“Blu” focuses on one family’s struggle with confinement, wanting to break the cycle of oppression and identifying with a larger collective or idea. In an excerpt from her artist’s statement, Grise says she writes to tell stories, in order to remember them.
“I write stories to keep from feeling lost,” Grise said.
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