Esperanza Peace and Justice Center
In The After-Life
, playwright Jesus Alonzo explores the concept of loss. Directed by Jose DeHoyos and produced by Teatro Audaz, the play comprises five short stories and comes nearly nine years after his last work, Miss America: A Mexicanito Fairy’s Tale, was presented at the Esperanza Peace and Justice Center.
On Thursday, Teatro Audaz will present a staged reading at the McNay featuring two acts from The After-Life
. There are plans for a full staging of the play later this year.
Alonzo, who has become known for his bold, unapologetic works depicting queer Chicano life in South Texas, reveals a years-long process that dates to 2009 during the production of Miss America. That play starred the late Erica Andrews (pictured), one of San Antonio’s most beloved drag icons.
“We formed a friendship and she revealed another side of her that only her close friends knew. I wanted to write a story that would honor this magnificent person,” Alonzo said.
Those experiences led to the writing of a fictional tale inspired by the life of Andrews that is now the first act in The After-Life
. “I didn’t know I had written my homage to her before she had died,” Alonzo said. Andrews, who also starred in Alonzo’s first play, Jotos del Barrio, shocked the gay community when she unexpectedly passed away in 2013 due to complications from a lung infection.
“I really started questioning, ‘How do we embrace loss? How do we get through loss?’” Alonzo explained. “Loss is not just death but it’s something that comes in every shape and style and manifests itself in us in such crazy ways.”
The remaining short tales in The After-Life
approach loss from different standpoints: the loss of innocence, the loss of place and the loss of wealth, yet, each piece points to the ephemeral nature of life.
One of the most challenging aspects so far has been the audition process. While San Antonio may boast of great talent on its local stages, Alonzo says he needed actors who understood the life experiences of his queer Latino characters. “I don’t necessarily want actors with a ton of experience because that’s not the teatro we’ve done,” Alonzo explained. “The teatro we’ve done has been done in the streets and by everyday people, guerilla-style ... The majority of the actors in my plays had little acting experience but they have been brilliant.” The current cast of The After-Life
includes Gabriel Luera, Ceasar Dueñas, Luis Garcia Jr., and Amber Nixx in the role inspired by Andrews.
While the show is being presented during a time when minority rights are seemingly under attack, Alonzo explains that the first draft of the play was actually finished five years ago, long before the current president had announced his candidacy. Yet, the mere act of presenting queer, multi-racial, transgender characters that live their truth seems a political act in itself.
“I’ve never written anything like this,” Alonzo said. “I never aimed to write about loss but it just sort of happened … I think there is a lot of celebration in this piece but it comes at a very high cost for these characters.”
Free, 6:30pm Thursday, January 11, 6000 N. New Braunfels Ave., (210) 824-5368, teatroaudaz.com.