Review Fix chats with SKYLAR playwright Jonathan G Galvez, who discusses the production and why it matters, detailing its creative process, goals and more.
About the Production:
Performing at the new Fringe HUB Theatre, 685 Washington Street, NYC, on Tues Oct 16 @ 8:15pm; Sunday, Oct 21 @ 12:00pm; Thursday, Oct 25 @ 7:00pm; Saturday, Oct 27 @ 4:00pm; Sunday, Oct 28 @ 4:30pm. Tickets are $22, with discounts for groups. More info can be found at http://www.fringenyc.org
SKYLAR, the latest entry in Jonathan G Galvez’s ambitious “Bridge” series of 16 plays, concerns a trans high school student clinging to life after being attacked at a school dance. Their girlfriend, father, and teacher meet in the waiting room and consider the events that led them there.
Led by queer director, Kristen Keim, the cast features Sam Lopresti as David, Skylar’s teacher; Kaitlyn Gill as Pamela, Skylar’s activist girlfriend; Eric Novak as Adam, Skylar’s religious father, Dana Scurlock as the Nurse, Mark Levy as Vice Principal Gonzalez, Ashton Garcia as Scott, a football player, and Eli Denson as the titular Skylar, a trans teen. It should be noted that not only is Skylar portrayed by trans-gender-queer actor, Denson, but also role of Scott, a traditionally cis-gendered (identifying with the sex they were born as) role, being portrayed by trans-masculine actor, Garcia.
Celebrated playwright, Jonathan G Galvez’s, works have received acclaim at the Fringe Festival, Manhattan Repertory Theatre, Planet Connections Theatre Festivity (mention award), and at William Paterson University, where he was winner of the 10th annual New Jersey Playwrights Contest. For additional information, visit www.TheBridgeSeries.org.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
Jonathan G Galvez: Sometimes, as a playwright, you get an image of a scene that you want to get on paper. In this case, it was a bit of dialogue. My mother is fairly conservative and my sister devoutly religious. My community, however, is quite liberal, and as a straight, cis individual with close friends who are members of the LGBTQ+ community, it allows me to see the world from both sides of issues. So when a bit of dialogue crossed my mind, to said by a father and their religious viewpoint of their trans child, I decided to expand upon that. The play i part of my Bridge Series, a 16-play series of interconnected stories and characters. It became a chapter in the series (Chapter 7 to be precise) using characters and story threads from other plays to reinforce the individual play’s story.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Galvez: Every play starts from somewhere, usually a single thing. Sometimes, like with this play, it stems from a piece of dialogue. A lot of times, it’s the act break, the moment that twists everything. But what sells me into wanting to dive deep into writing a piece is the slugline, the short synopsis that you write for play catalogs and press blurbs. If I can sell myself on my own slugline, if it makes me go “Yeah, I’d see that play”, I write it. After it’s done, I sent it to my friends, many of whom I admit are much smarter than me, and get their feedback. Even when the piece is in production, I put it into the hands of people I trust to help craft the work. Sometimes it’s not as I originally envisioned it. But in most cases, it’s better thanI could have imagined.
Review Fix: What makes this different or special from other plays of this subject matter?
Galvez: A lot of plays related to some of the issues brought up in this play have characters screaming to the rooftops, many literally. And that’s okay. But I wanted this play to be more of a conversation than brow-beating. 20 years ago with the death of Matthew Shepard, a community was outraged,and the reaction was filtered into a beautiful play called The Laramie Project. What made that play work so well was that the anger and vitriol was turned into a dialogue. Ranging from LGBTQ+ issues, to challenges facing teacher, to the contradiction of religion, to the simple concept of civility toward one another, these are things I felt were worth having a dialogue about. And that’s really what this play is about. Placing humanity ahead of your anger, and getting people to listen, that’s how we change the world.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process? What did you learn about the country?
Galvez: This year has been weird for me as a writer. Earlier this year, I saw one of my earliest play (chapter one) premiere, and now I’m working on the one I most recently finished. I’ve gotten to see how far I’ve come as a writer in real time in regards to style and craft. What I’ve learned about the country comes in two categories, one from the conservative perspective, one from the LGBTQ+ perspective. I honestly didn’t think what I was writing was controversial, being a cis individual writing a trans character. From one side of it, it’s apparently inappropriate for me to write about this and not issue I’m supposed to be concerned with (specifically being Asian), and on the other side of it, it’s apparently inappropriate to write about this and not an issue I’m supposed to be concerned with (specifically being cisgendered). While I understand where both sides are coming from, it occurred to me how we, as a society, are still obsessed with labels, especially from people who loudly advocate against stereotypes and labels. I wrote a play that got accepted into one of the most prestigious festivals in theater history based on what was on the page, not who I am or what I look like. Shouldn’t it be judged by an audience on the same criteria?
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Galvez: I wanted to do this right. Too many times I’ve seen plays and productions misuse and somewhat abuse trans characters and performers. My goal for this production was to do it right and to show how it can be done. I recently heard a playwright complain about their difficulty finding trans performers when I found it quite easy. I saw a production get cancelled because they had a trans character played by a person in drag, and this seemed ridiculous in this day and age. I want this production to be an example, the low bar, if you will, of how a cis writer and/or producer can create a show that does it right. As for the future, it’s hard to say. If the reviews are great, maybe it’ll get attention, or maybe not. You never know when you have lightning in a bottle.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Galvez: I don’t know, and that’s fine. No one becomes a writer needing a guarantee as to what comes next. Maybe a play I submitted elsewhere will be selected for production somewhere. Maybe I’ll put up another show on my own dime. Either way, regardless of what people tell me, I’ll still have something to say, and I’ll find a way to say it.