Nancy García Loza

November 2022 View more

Mexican American playwright has her world premiere

The eldest daughter of Mexican immigrants in a family of seven children, Chicago playwright Nancy García Loza didn’t see her first play until she was 27. It was a feminist retelling of the Mexican Revolution, and she was hooked—but not on acting or directing. She looked at the many scribbles in her notebook margins over the years—ideas, pieces of dialogue, character sketches—and knew she wanted to emerge from the margins and never go back.

In 2011 she started volunteering in Latino theater and in 2015 formed a Latinx writers’ group. After writing in her kitchen for a dozen years, she’s  scored her first world premiere—BULL: a love story runs through November 20 at Paramount’s Copley Theatre in downtown Aurora. Now 39, she’s juggling two babies: her play and newborn son, Dune. And there’s more on the way: She’s under commission with Steppenwolf Theatre (Ascent), Goodman Theatre (Rust), and the National Museum of Mexican Art (Pénjamo: A Pocha Road Trip story and Macha).

Q: What’s your writing process like?

A: I am a self-taught writer. I learned to tell stories in the kitchen by watching who made who laugh, who made who cry, who held everyone’s attention, who would get asked to “tell that one story again” over and over, who was the keeper of stories in my expansive family that spread out from Jalisco to Chicago and everywhere in between. I learned to tell stories from people that never saw a play and lived hard, fast, and messy. Lyrical people who sang without stages and told big stories. 

I was being blessed with observing the epic and flawed humanity of the adults all around me from a very young age. While I may have been a pissed-off, mostly obedient Mexican daughter, I picked up a pen, clawed my way out of a massive box of expectations, and became myself: an irreverent, terca, pocha writer.

Q: BULL was workshopped through Paramount Theatre’s Inception Project. How did that work?

A: I had a play with a name, I knew the characters, I knew the story, and I knew the world. I had not written a single page. Some plays are ready to pour out—this is one of them. I wrote this play in 30 days. Within two weeks following the virtual public reading, I got a call from Paramount and heard the best news: “We must bring this play, your play, to stage.” After 12 years of writing in my kitchen, I was down the road to my first world premiere. 

Q:  How would you describe the play? 

A: It follows a recently incarcerated man who dealt drugs, got caught, and served his time. He is eager to return to his old Chicago neighborhood, Lakeview, now unrecognizable. While he wants to resume life with his family, as if time didn’t stop, he is confronted with how much has moved on without him. This play is a love story about all kinds of love: family, community, and the places we call home.

Q: What did you love about this project?

A: The artist-driven process. Building my own core creative team is integral to my process. If you work on a Nancy play, she comes with her crew: My longtime director and friend, Laura Alcalá Baker, is one of my ride-or-dies. I build intimately with trusted collaborators who are deeply invested in the world I am trying to bring back to life. They have to get it. There is no middle ground, there is no room for lukewarm doubts, because I am determined to bring to stage a body of work, a world, lives, and a Chicago Mexican lyricism that is incredibly specific and living in my head and memory. 

Q: Any advice for new writers?

A: Stay curious. Be more curious than anyone about exploring what you don’t know about your play, your story, your characters. I don’t misspend a minute in workshop rooms—I dig and dig and dig. Don’t leave a stone unturned. Don’t be afraid to start over. Don’t be afraid to try a radical idea all the way. Don’t forget that first impulse and spark that demanded: Write me. Love your plays harder than anyone. 

Photo courtesy of Juli Del Prete