Papito and More: Interview with playwright Christian Ávila

Papito is a new play by Christian Avila, a talented writer in NYC.

Papito is a new play by Christian Avila, a talented writer in NYC. Playwrights are the driving force behind theater. A well written play is essential to garnering good reviews and giving actors a chance to show off their talents. Christian Ávila, the playwright who penned Papito is a prime example of a talent in theater writing. Christian currently lives and works in New York City.

Papito centers on 17-year-old Milo, a wrestling champion who must face off against his childhood best friend, J.T. Milo is Mexican-American and queer. J.T. has strong homophobic tendencies which add tension to the wrestling event, especially in this conservative environment. The outcome of the match sets off a chain of events that will challenge both Milo’s personal strength and the binds of his untraditional family.

Christian Ávila spoke to HVY about his experiences working as a playwright:

Meagan Meehan (M.M.): What inspired you to become a playwright?

Christian Ávila (C.A.): I was an English Major studying abroad in Cambridge, England, and after seeing the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Taming of the Shrew, I was hooked.

M.M.: How did you go about getting your first play produced?

C.A.: Daddy’s Boy was the first play I produced.  It was terrifying and joyful and a huge leap of faith.
M.M.: So far, how many plays have you written?

C.A.: This is my fifth.

M.M.: How did you come up with the idea for “Papito”?

C.A.:  I’ve been wrestling (pun intended) with a lot of ideas and wanted to examine and write about the politics and class struggles in a Latinx community, constructing identity, and non-traditional families. I have seen great plays that address some of these issues and themes but none with a Latinx point of view.

Also, my nephew had related a personal story that happened to him a few years prior that deeply disturbed me. He was a champion high-school wrestler in a small town in Texas and loved his team and coach. He felt so comfortable, that he decided to come out to them as gay. As a result, he was kicked off the team and shunned by his teammates and coach. He was then bullied. It got so bad he had to leave the school. My nephew has since achieved great success, overcoming great obstacles and staying true to himself. This play is dedicated to him.

M.M.: Which of your plays is your favorite and why?

C.A.: I love all my “children” equally. Each play teaches me about differing points of view and what truth and authenticity means for each character, each person.

Masseur, a play I put on last year at Theater for the New City, meets the Me Too era as it exposes the power, race, and class dynamics in today’s massage industry. It is drawn from real life experience.  I don’t usually write autobiographically; it helped work stuff out regarding my own personal Me Too story.

M.M.: To date, what has been the most rewarding part of working in the theater? 

C.A.: Having people reach out to me after a show and express how the work has moved them is the greatest reward and why I love working in the theater, an artform that viscerally connects us, in a time when we are so divided and disconnected.

I moved to New York after graduating from UC Berkeley many years ago and encountered many obstacles. I had no network or support system and never found my tribe. As a result, I wasn’t able to launch my theater career. I had worked in the hospitality industry since high school and college and had that to fall back on. I ended up working my way up the ladder and achieved success. I was content but not passionate about my work. I had always longed to return to the theater. I moved back to New York for grad school and completed my M.A in 2016. I have had the opportunity to work with extremely talented theater artists, some of whom have become mentors. I found my tribe. I have been actively creating theater for the last few years as well as directing. I am thrilled to be working and following my dreams and passion. I took a great risk moving here from Miami and leaving a good life and friends.  It has been anything but easy but totally worth it. It’s never too late to follow your bliss!

M.M.: If you could work on any kind of play, what would be your “dream project”?

C.A.: An epic opera about the Mayans. I was born in the Yucatan and love all things Maya.

M.M.: Career wise, where do you hope to be in ten years? 

C.A.: Writing, creating, directing with my own company.

M.M.: What advice would you give to someone who is striving to become a playwright?

C.A.: Go for it. Just start writing. Write about something that is personal to you and from your own experience. It has been my experience that once the writing process begins the characters come to life quickly and they start speaking to you and communicate their truth. Seek to find what is true for your characters and for yourself as a playwright and artist!

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To learn more about Christian Avila visit his website and Facebook. The play is also listed on Facebook. To learn more about his plays Masseur and Daddy’s Boy see here and here.