Meetup #31: Marisela Treviño Orta’s Heart Shaped Nebula

Heart Shaped NebulaFor our 31st Meetup event, Works by Women San Francisco the second show in Shotgun Player’s six-show, all-female playwrights 2015 season: Heart Shaped Nebula by San Francisco playwright Marisela Trevino Orta. Previously, we saw Orta’s The River Bride for our January 2014 meetup (see the discussion here.)

This production is directed by Desdemona Chiang, whose work we’ve seen on Rapture Blister Burn at Aurora and 410 [Gone] at Crowded Fire. Additional women artists on the project include: Marilet Martinez and Gisela Feied (actors), Stephanie Buchner (Lighting Design), Nakissa Etemad (Dramaturg), Antonia Gunnarson (Costume Design), Nikita Kadam (Stage Manager), Maya Linke (Set Design), Kirsten Royston (Properties Design), Leigh Rondon-Davis (Production Assistant), and Andrea Schwartz (Master Electrician).

You can read more about Orta’s inspirations for the play here.

If you saw the show with WWSF or on your own, please leave a comment and let the artists involved know what you think!  If you haven’t had a chance to see the show yet, it has been extended until June 21st.  Get your tickets here.

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9 responses to “Meetup #31: Marisela Treviño Orta’s Heart Shaped Nebula

  1. Didn’t get much chance to talk about the show’s themes last night at our post show drink stop, so very curious about what others have to say.

    It was absolutely lovely to see a story with Latino characters that wasn’t focused on borders/immigration, cultural identity, or any culturally specific signifiers, beyond character names.

    The interplay of emotion and science was a cool theme, and I”m looking forward to exploring this more with Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information next month.

    I particularly enjoyed the first Miqueo and Dalila scene on the roof – the adolescent blossoming romance was beautifully delineated in Marisela’s writing, and strongly staged by Desdemona Chiang.

    Lighting Designer Stephanie Buchner did outstanding work on this production – lighting for projection, integrating light/stars with Maya Linke’s set design,having actors light themselves with flashlights (Kirston Royston, props design) – light and darkness and all the stages in between were an incredibly important element of this production and well executed and integrated.

  2. I loved seeing these vivid characters brought to life by the outstanding cast. The lyricism of the writing and how that was translated to the stage by the director and designers made this production a joy to watch.

  3. Marisela: Thanks for offering (in a Facebook conversation) to answer questions about the evolution of the script. In (an) earlier version(s) Amara had a back story of her own and a more specific motivation for wanting to hear Miqueo and Dalila’s story – what led you to omit this story/motive from the current script? Was it a choice that evolved in the process of working with the Shotgun team? Or a response to discoveries earlier in the development process?

  4. Hello Carol: This is an excellent question. I’ve been working on HEART SHAPED NEBULA since 2008. The inspiration for the play–an Amber Alert–is actually no longer part of the play. Nor is, as you pointed out, an earlier version of Amara. Here’s what led to the big rewrite I did as I went into production for this play and why.

    I try to write plays so that all the characters have interesting arcs. But what I didn’t realize when I first started writing NEBULA was that sometimes those arcs can compete and weigh down a play. Before we started production I had this inkling that NEBULA was being weighed down by two competing arcs–Amara’s and Miqueo’s.

    Last year I saw WATER BY THE SPOONFUL and I remember being struck at how the character arcs were handled. There were a lot of small arcs and a larger story arc. It was becoming clear to me that I needed to look at my own play and discern which arc should be more prominent–or in other words, who’s story is it really.

    There were other complications about the earlier version of Amara that pushed me to rewrite who she was. Mainly, that the Amber Alert and police conflict made it very hard not to view Miqueo as a potential predator (which I was adamant that he should be viewed that way) and secondly, the science analogy (I was using a different one) was muddied and resulted in muddied understanding of what was happening at the ending.

    As I went into production conversations with my producers we talked about that muddiness and how to refocus the play onto Miqueo so the narrative becomes about his journey. Rewriting the character of Amara allowed the play to take on some mythic qualities and also helped me answer why this one magical moment existed in the earlier version of the play.

    So all the changes felt right. Felt like they serviced the story I was trying to tell which essentially was about an extraordinary, cosmic love.

    It wasn’t always easy to say good-bye to the earlier version of Amara. I miss her and her backstory. I plan to keep her in my back pocket for some other play some time in the future.

    It’s been interesting to work on a play for this length of time (since 2008). My abilities have improved and sometimes I look at the script and see challenges created by my earlier self. And honestly, I may not have the abilities right now to address all the challenges I created. But maybe in a few years I’ll know how to address any rough edges that still exist.

    A play evolves, just as you mentioned. It evolves because the writer evolves. And when both the play and writer are introduced to new perspectives and questions–whether brought on by acquiring more life experience or because they’re brought up by other artists–a play can continue to evolve, even if ever so slightly.

    They say playwrights need productions to improve their craft. It’s so true. So much came up during rehearsal–questions, edits, etc. I think all a playwright can do is be open to that process. You can say no to a suggestion or recommended edit, but just be sure you can articulate why something is necessary–what on the play hinges on that line or moment or plot point. It will make you a better writer and help those in the room better understand your play.

  5. Thank you for the thoughtful response, Marisela! I read an earlier draft of the play too (draft 6) and found both Miqueo and Amara vivid characters from page one. I appreciated the way their stories were revealed through their interaction with each other. The choice to eliminate the Amber Alert was a good impulse. It is so clear that Miqueo is a loving person that we want to get to know and the Amber Alert set the stakes artificially high. I hope you come back to the script again and would love to see how it develops.

  6. Thanks, Marisela, for opening the door on your thought process. I agree: we need multiple productions to hone our craft and discover the journeys of our characters. I wish you many more productions of plays written and yet to come. I look forward to seeing the next incarnation of The River Bride at OSF next season. And I’m glad you’re keeping Amara’s story in your back pocket for a future play. I want to see that play too!

  7. Pingback: Meetup #38: Penelope Skinner’s The Village Bike | Works by Women San Francisco·

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