Friday, May 24, 2019

Spotlight On...Gabriel Maria Rodriguez

Name: Gabriel Maria Rodriguez

Hometown: Mamaroneck, NY

Education: Mamaroneck High School, BFA in Acting from Emerson College, ongoing participant in The Michael Chekhov School in Hudson, NY

Favorite Credits: the umbilical point (Walking the dog Theater, the first full production for a solo play by me), fire (Walking the dog Theater, a piece my friends and I created from scratch), and playing Elliot in Water by the Spoonful by Quiara Alegría Hudes (Lyrics Stage Company, Boston)

Why theater?: In this life, I have been and always will be a storyteller. I have always felt most myself when seeking out stories, studying stories, feeling about stories, learning stories, learning from stories, standing in front of people and telling stories. I don't have an explanation. It's just what I do. I don't know that I could stop myself even if I wanted to. I secrete stories.

Tell us about Jack of Cups: Jack of Cups takes place thousands of years from now. Whatever environmental catastrophe we in the present have ahead of us, the people of this future have behind them. They have survived and grown a better world from the rubble. Every Spring, the communities of this world come together for the Remembrance Festival, a collective ritual of healing and renewal and the biggest party of the year. On the first night of the Festival, Jack of Cups, a mysterious servant of the goddess Mother Ocean, arrives and tells the origin story of this world: their post-apocalyptic creation myth. The play takes place at the Festival, during this first night.

What inspired you to write Jack of Cups?: The first thing was necessity. I met someone who ran an event space, and she invited me to do a solo show in her space. I said yes to her, without knowing what I’d do. I looked out into the thin air and said “Okay so I need a play now, please!” I started listening for it. Some weeks later, Jack and his world started showing up. I am always wondering (obsessing) about the future of our planet and the beings who live here. I believe that, however much we are able to come together to unify and heal, we have gone too far and the catastrophe is here. And it will worsen. But! At the same time, I don't believe total annihilation is certain, and I do believe that humanity is not fundamentally hateful, that we have inherent goodness. We have forgotten who we are, but we will always be capable of remembering. This picture lends me a kind of paradoxical discomforted hopefulness. Because we have pushed ourselves to such an All or Nothing sort of precipice, this moment in our history is likely the best opportunity we're ever going to get to create a free, loving world! This play was generated through asking the question: “If humankind DID become reborn through surviving the struggles to come...what would that look like?” As a storyteller and sci-fi/fantasy nerd, I find abundant hope in the power of the imagination. In writing Jack, I looked to the practices of legendary worldbuilders like Ursula K Le Guin and Carla Speed McNeil. If humanity is going to make it through and create a harmonious world, we will need to imagine that world first. Jack of Cups is one attempt to do this.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I am most drawn towards stories that incorporate perspectives both human and non-human, and explore the interaction between the two. It is sometimes difficult for me to get into Humans Sitting in a Room Only Talking About Human Stuff. That being said, I like any well-told story. Creators who are working out of a sense of wholeness, who are deeply listening, who are open and curious and playful. I’ll watch people like this tell any story. Artists who are searching for something, who are living in the questions. I can be soothed by a “Here’s the right answer, the end” sort of story as much as the next person, but ultimately I believe the most nourishing art is art that wakefully encounters uncertainty and paradox. My fellow members of Experimental Bitch Presents are prime examples of this. They inspire me constantly.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Kate Tempest or Peter Brook.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: What The Constitution Means to Me was pretty incredible. Talk about an artist standing courageously in uncertainty and paradox!

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I would play me. It would be called “Word Witch.”

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Peter Brook’s Mahabharata.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. Pleasure is an inherent good. If the thing that gives you pleasure isn’t hurting anyone, there’s no reason to feel guilty. I non-guiltily love chocolate.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A queer theologian studying, writing about, and teaching about comparative religion and mythology.

What’s up next?: More Experimental Bitch things! In July, I’ll be playing a role in the upcoming workshop for EBP’s production of member Sophia Heinecke’s New Nostalgias, directed by our amazing, kind, incisive artistic director Tatiana Baccari. Sophia is a brilliant, poetic, singular playwrighting voice. I am overjoyed to have a part in helping her work reach a wider and wider audience.

For more info on Gabriel, visit and