#324 – Santiago Guzmán

Santiago Guzmán (he/him) is a writer, performer, director and producer for theatre and film originally from Metepec, Mexico, now based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Santiago is the Artistic Director of TODOS Productions, an organization that seeks to promote, produce, and support work of under-represented artists in Newfoundland and Labrador.

He is the Artistic Associate for Playwrights Atlantic Resource Centre in Halifax, NS and General Manager for Neighbourhood Dance Works in St. John’s, NL. He is a proud member of The Quilted Collective, whose first anthology, Us, Now, has been published by Breakwater Books in 2021.

www.sguzman.ca
Twitter: @santiguzjan
Instagram: @santig1

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TRANSCRIPT

Phil Rickaby
Welcome to Stageworthy. I’m Phil Rickaby, the host of this podcast. This is episode 324. If you’re listening to this on Tuesday, May 24, or during the week until May 27. Make sure you check out the stage where the Instagram for a chance to win tickets to one of my favourite theatre companies in Toronto Eldritch Theatre and their new show to weird tales. I don’t want to say too much. I’m really excited for this show. And I really want you to see it to a stage where the is a one person operation. So not only do I arrange the guests, I also edit the show I promote it and I also created the music that you can hear under what I’m saying now, I also shoulder all of the financial responsibilities for keeping the show going. So if you enjoy the podcast, please consider supporting it. There are a few ways that you can do that. If you listen on Apple podcasts or Spotify, you can leave a five star rating. And if you listen on Apple podcasts, you can also leave a review those ratings and reviews help new people to find the show. If you want to keep up with what’s going on with stage worthy and my other projects, you can subscribe to my newsletter by going to philrickaby.com/subscribe. And you can also leave a tip for the show by dropping some change in the virtual tip jar. I will put a link to that in the show notes which you can find on the website or in your podcast app. But one of the most important things that you can do even more important than ratings, reviews or even financial support is to share on social media. Even a retweet helps.

You can find stage were they on Twitter and Instagram @stageworthypod and you can find the website with the archive of all 324 episodes at stageworthypodcast.com. if you want to find me you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @philrickaby and as I mentioned, my website is philrickaby.com. My guest this week is Santiago Guzmán. Santiago is a writer, performer, director and producer for theatre based in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador. He is also the artistic director of todos productions, an organisation that seeks to promote produce and support work of underrepresented artists in Newfoundland and Labrador. Here’s our conversation.

So you’re in you’re in St. John’s Newfoundland right now.

Santiago Guzmán
That’s correct. Yeah, this is home.

Phil Rickaby
What’s the is it? Are you still winter there? Are you? Well,

Santiago Guzmán
I mean, I was very hopeful. Yesterday where the weather was absolutely gorgeous. I was like, I think I walked around the city, just wearing a vest and no one stones and it was great. And today it started snowing again. I was like, okay, spring is not around the corner.

Phil Rickaby
So I thought that sounds like a Canadian spring slash winter. To me. What does it we call it we call it fall spring, the spring of our discontent, the full spring, there’s all kinds of levels of spring, before we actually get to the real thing. I mean, as as somebody who grew up in Mexico, how has what’s your winter experience been?

Santiago Guzmán
Well, I mean, it has been, I mean, for the past six years, I have spent Christmas here in Canada. So so like that. I feel like my, I guess I hold on to these like memories of like, oh, you remember that time with the Busaba and be yada. You know, like all of these like traditional Mexican things that I grew up doing? Or eating or? Yeah, anyway, so I think that Christmas time, or like the holidays last winter really in Mexico has always been cold. Well, that’s what I thought. When I was when I was in Mexico, I really thought that those Christmases were very cold, you know, like we were our thickest jackets. And then when I moved here I was like okay, yeah, that’s that’s not it. Yeah. So, but yeah, anyway, it has been an adjustment. I feel like obviously, you know, the snow. Yeah, like, you have to talk about the snow if you’re talking to an immigrant. They’re very, very different feelings about it. I I love seeing, seeing it snow like, but I don’t love being outside in the snow, if that makes any sense. So I feel like especially you know, from all the places that I could have moved to I moved to Newfoundland and Labrador, which is, you know, one of the coldest provinces in the country. But I don’t regret It’s and I guess it’s just because the people here are really, really warm. So they keep me warm here.

Phil Rickaby
You’re not, you’re not alone. And the idea of you know, it’s really nice to look at this snow. It’s best from indoors, unless you’re one of those strange people who really enjoys winter sports, but

Santiago Guzmán
You know, like, I feel like I usually don’t practice any like winter outdoors, anything just because he I guess I didn’t grow up doing them. So practising them, so I had zero interest. But it’s usually my friends that are like, either local or that ice are so into it, that I just let myself try those things. And you know, see what happens. And sometimes I do enjoy them. So anyway, that’s interesting

Phil Rickaby
That’s, that’s good. I mean, it’s good to try them. It’s good to try them. My problem with most of them is that I don’t enjoy the cold. You kind of have to enjoy a faceful of snow now and then for a lot of the winter sports, and I just don’t,

Santiago Guzmán
yeah, yeah, nope, I, you know, I when I am, like out in the cold, and I feel like my face freeze, and I feel like sometimes I say, Oh, this is what having Botox feels. And I’m like, maybe I should consider but then I’m like, No, someday, you’re just called it’s just

Phil Rickaby
as a as a writer and performer and director. You did you? Is that something that you did in Mexico? What what is the story of, of deciding to move from Mexico to Newfoundland?

Santiago Guzmán
Well, I moved here, seven years ago, because I wanted to pursue an acting career. I think that I mean, I thought that that was just like the case in Mexico where, you know, like, the arts were just thought as these like careers that people would do for a hobby or you know, like that there was not a lot of like, seriousness around it. That’s what I thought when I was in Mexico, so I was actually going to pursue a career in communications in Mexico, because I was so afraid of, you know, all of these things that people always say about, like, how are you going to live from theatre? How are you going to do this? How are you going to build a family and blah, blah, blah. So I wanted to pursue communications while also pursuing acting, because I thought that I would have like a backup plan. And I say that in quotation marks, obviously. But then I went to I, you know, I already had my plan, my life plan, they had everything set up for me to stay in Mexico and get my communications degree and all of these things. And then I went to the, to the open house at the University where I asked, so you know, like, I’m so passionate about theatre, is there a way that your degree would, you know, like, intersect with theatre, and the, one of the teachers there looked at me and said, something, I go, this is a business school, we are here to do business. If you want to pursue theatre, go to London, go to New York, go somewhere else, but not here. And then that moment, I was like I was. So at first, I was distraught, because I had my life planned out. And then that was an opportunity for me, I think that my dad, who, you know, fun fact, he’s an industrial chemical engineer. So when I told him that I wanted to pursue the arts, he almost, you know, wanted me to take his last name out of my name. But then, you know, like, oh, he actually got to understand my passion. And then I was actually not that bad at it. So he was very supportive. He has always been I’m really grateful for that. And so he said to me, Well, why don’t you actually listen to this person and find something else? Now? My dad never thought that I would move to Newfoundland Labrador. He thought, you know, like that I would maybe stay in Mexico or move to Mexico City or to a bigger city. Well, ohada Monterrey? I don’t know. And, but then it just happened. I started looking at universities elsewhere, outside of Mexico, just you know, dreaming because again, moving to another country was always like a dream, but something that is like, so far away from actually happening, at least that’s what I thought. And then I was considering moving to Ontario to Toronto, specifically and pursue a career there. And then, you know, like, I looked at the tuition there, and I was like, okay, yeah, this is not going to happen. And my dad said to me something, I love you and I want to support you, but we cannot afford this. I was like, You know what, fair enough. That’s okay. And I thought I was like, Well, that’s it, you know, like no, I’m definitely Same in Mexico, when then I went to a college fair in Mexico City, where all of these universities from across the country had a little booth. And there was only one the university here at Newfoundland Labrador, had the only university in this province had BFA in acting, and I was like, Okay. And the other universities were offering like theatre, like workshops or summer camps or whatever. But I really wanted to look for like a BFA

at the time because I Well, first of all, because I didn’t understand the difference between the college and the university format. And I just thought that the university format would also make my parents feel comfortable and feel that I was actually pursuing a career. And, and yeah, so I I applied to the University also fail if I’m being completely honest, I was really afraid of rejection. Hmm, I was really afraid of dealing with being rejected. I did consider applying to the National Theatre School in, in Mexico City. But I felt that I didn’t want to deal with that rejection, there was always me No, I guess it happens to all of us that we have a little voice in our head set saying you’re not good enough. You’re not worth it. And that I didn’t want to deal with that. And so the way that that worked out for me to apply to come here, I only had to do a self tape. And at the time, you know, like, that’s seven years ago, where I got it was a really, it was a show in itself. But like doing a self tape seven years ago was completely different. But I thought to myself, well, if I only have to do a self tape, and I don’t know them, they don’t know me, if I get rejected, it will be easier for me to deal with that rejection. For some reason, I felt that that will be the case. And well, lucky for me because I didn’t have any like Plan B or anything. I only applied to this university, and I got in. Now, it wasn’t until I was in my, in my second year of university that it actually clicked. I was like, Santiago, what? What have you done? What did you do? Uh, because I have, you know, when I was in Mexico, I’ve mainly focused on on acting, that was my priority. And that was the thing that I was excited about. I had directed like, one play, but I was really, really drawn to acting. And at the time, I was obviously, you know, well, I thought I was bilingual. And but what I mean was that I was able to communicate in English properly and engage in a conversation, but I was not actually bilingual. And it was until it wasn’t until I was here that I realised I was like something like, how do you think that you’re going to do a career in your second language that it actually requires you to speak? Like, how are you going to do that like, and the thing was that I, to me, the most interesting thing about my, my career and or the degree that I was pursuing, at the time, was figuring out how to perform in my second language, which was something that nobody taught me how to do not even my professors, and actually, they didn’t know what to do with me. Because, you know, that was a very different experience when you were not born speaking in language, and then you are acting in set language. So I had to develop my own system for it.

Phil Rickaby
Can I ask you, so many things I want to ask about, first of all, that that teacher who told you that we teach business here, what a favour that person did for you.

Santiago Guzmán
I know. And, you know, like, the funny thing was that again, I mean, I say that this is not gonna go anywhere. But this this person, like his, his son was a dear friend of mine, who was a film actor. And I was like, and, and I thought I was like, I just don’t understand why you’re pushing me away. Like if your own son is pursuing a very similar career. Now, I think that his son actually stayed in Mexico. And I think he’s still I think now he’s a film director, I think. But anyway, yeah, in the end, I do and sometimes I wonder if I should just send him a letter and say, Thank you so much. Like that was the best thing you could have ever done to me?

Phil Rickaby
Well, because it’s interesting, because it immediately told you this is not the place for you. Because there’s so many other ways that that could have been approached. They could have been, yes, we’re gonna teach about communication. And yes, we mostly focus on business but there is a business aspects to what you’re doing. And you know, they could have done that, but no, they didn’t. They sort of told you that this was not the place for you

Santiago Guzmán
and It’s interesting, because you know, like, to this day, I feel like business is such an important part of what I do. And even like my partner who is a business person, he is always so impressed by how I carry my business. And he’s like, I just don’t understand, I thought that you were a theatre maker. And I was like, yeah, and a business person, excuse you. And, and I think that like, for instance, that was one of the things that I deal in, learn at university, how to deal with the business of theatre creation, and you know, like filmmaking, and I have come to learn those in my own practice. But yeah, at the same time, I agree, I think that they did me a good one with, you know, letting me go and saying, Yeah, this is not the right place for you. And look at me. Now,

Phil Rickaby
the thing is that that idea of a business is that is, that is actually such a rare attitude to have. It’s very rare that we encounter people that I encountered people, and then I think most people encountered people in the theatre world who think about what they’re doing as a business. But it is we get caught up in the art of it and things like that, but, and that’s what often keeps people away from producing from creating their own work from really developing that that aspect is the idea that, that what you’re doing is a business. And so because it’s a business, you have to figure out how you’re going to make money. Yeah,

Santiago Guzmán
well, and I mean, to me, a theatre is like, yes, it’s business, but it’s also community, right. And I think a lot about about how with that business, because the thing is, I take my job very seriously. I know, I think that I am worth and my stories, and every single thing I do is worth my time, hence, I should be paid for it. And because of it, you know, like that, this is my business, this is how I pay my bills. And it has always been my intention, even being an immigrant to this country where the government is not set up for artists to succeed, especially immigrant artists. So I think that I find that really interesting when, you know, like my, at least on my legal journey in this country, where I haven’t been able to really, you know, like, to fully develop my artistry because of those legalities. But at the end of the day, I’m like, Well, I do make money from my work, and I shouldn’t be making money from my work. So how can I do that? But not not only how can I do that for me? But also how can I do that for the people working around me, working with me collaborating with me, because we are all worthy of that. And, and it is important to me in the way that I work that that is acknowledged first and foremost. But also I think about the impact. I mean, theatre is like, I think is the love of my life. And I, I just think I have so much love and respect for it. And I also think a lot about the impact of theatre, not only, you know, to my life, but also to others. And how do we use this vehicle for storytelling and building relationships and community that is also so ingrained? And what I do

Phil Rickaby
one thing that sort of, I’m leading away from, from, from what you were saying about about how, because of the fact that you’re an immigrant to this country that you haven’t really been able to take to use some of the resources of grants and things like that. I’m curious as somebody who, who has looked at what they’re doing as a business, but hasn’t been able to, to sort of like lean on the granting system. Do you? And this is like this. I don’t know might be controversial. Do you think that as Canadian artists, we rely too much on the grants?

Santiago Guzmán
Off? That is a good question. I mean, yes, I think that there is if I’m being completely honest, I think that without those grants, a lot of artists wouldn’t be able to, you know, to, to perhaps try and grow and learn from this, this thing that we call theatre making. So indeed, I think that that is definitely a positive thing. Now, let me tell you something when I was in Mexico, because of the lack of the support from the government theatre was not seeing something professional, you know, like, at least here and now this is my perspective when I was 18, you know, like years ago. So at the time, I never actually considered theatre being a career because of that because there were not a lot of supports by the government here. I am always amazed by how much support the government gives to artists. And I think that that is something outstanding. Yeah, I think that at the end of the day, we may be relying a lot on those grants. But without that support, we wouldn’t be able to thrive, to grow, to fail to learn. So I think that that is something really great about the granting system. Now, of course, for me, personally, as an immigrant, who, for the longest time did not have access to any of the funding opportunities available, it was tricky, because then I had to convince a larger organisation or an institution that I was worthy, I had to convince them that my stories were interesting, or that they would sell, you know, and I mean, I actually looked, luckily, I never got to that point of like, talking about, you know, like, my show will sell. So that’s why you should get me. But, but, you know, like, I think that there was, there was something about the lack of agency in me saying, This is the show that I want to do, because I want to not because I feel like I am fitting in someone else’s mandate. So now, I have managed to build a career even without, with those limitations. Because again, I just I’m very passionate about this. And, and I guess, with my own learning of like, how to navigate the system, I have also been able to support others around me, that are also you know, maybe considering theatre as a as an option for a career.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. One of the other things you mentioned right, before we started talking about about, about that is, is the idea of, of how you came up with your own method for acting in a language that you was not native to you. How did you develop that? And what did that look like?

Santiago Guzmán
Have you ever heard of this? fella named Shakespeare?

Phil Rickaby
Yes, yes. Yeah.

Santiago Guzmán
Well, when I moved, and one of the reasons why I also moved to, to an English speaking country, was because I knew that going into, into, you know, whatever acting career I wanted to pursue, Shakespeare was going to come up. And at the time, I thought that you know, like Shakespeare, well, I, as I said, my English or my understanding of the English language was pretty decent. So I thought to myself, well, we will obviously going to talk about the Greek theatre. I don’t speak Greek, but I do speak English. So what if I actually study how you know Shakespeare is supposed to be performed in its original language. So that was one of the catalysts as well for me to find an English speaking country to study. Now, when I moved here, I wasn’t taught how to perform Shakespeare, even though they were asking me to present Shakespeare monologues at school, they were they didn’t teach me until I was in my third year of university. So it was kind of late in the game, right? But I was still very eager and still very intimidated when I got to my third year of university, and had to deal with, with Shakespeare. And what was so amazing to me was that I remember when we were in our third year, Jeanette Lambert and Maury was my Shakespeare teacher who I mean, oh, who else than Jeanette Lambert memorial to teach you how to perform Shakespeare. So she was the one who taught me and I remember, you know, when we were talking about the process, and you know, like tackling like heightened language and all of these, like methods that we learned, I realised that my process was very similar to what the thing that I was already doing with the other monologues that I was performing even, you know, like, whatever thing I was performing in English. So I realised I was like, Oh, my God, like, this is exactly the same thing that I already do. And I remember my classmates saying, Oh, my God, this is a lot of work. This is so hard. And I literally remember turning to them and saying, Yeah, welcome to my world. This is what I do. And the thing was that Shakespeare and the reason why I love Shakespeare, I also have some issues with Shakespeare, but I do love Shakespeare, because it’s the only time for me as an English as a Second Language performer. I feel like I am playing on even ground with fellow performers whose tongue is English, because we all have to go through the same process. This is our basically our extra language. It will be my third language for me might be a second language for someone else. So It just I remember, like the joy of being finally in a place where we were all on the same boat, in terms of language, obviously. And that was very exciting. So without knowing I had already developed a system that then was reinforced to me through Shakespeare, I was like, Oh, my God, this is awfully familiar.

Phil Rickaby
It’s fascinating because the anytime that I’ve performed Shakespeare, and it is you mentioning this sort of reminds me of the fact that when we’re doing Shakespeare, the first thing we do is we spend a day or more going through the script, making sure we all understand what the words mean. It’s only in really Shakespeare, I mean, other classical texts as well, that will do that. But for the most part, since Shakespeare is ubiquitous, and probably one of the most, at least in Canada, and England, one of the more common classical texts, is we all sit down, we have to figure out, do we all agree on what these words mean? And that, again, is sort of a thing that you that you were doing, and it’s it’s necessary to figure out, so that we all understand so that our audience can understand because the audience is essentially having to be attuned to language, they don’t necessarily understand as well.

Santiago Guzmán
Exactly. But but the thing is, feel that I think that that should apply to everything. And I mean, what a gift I received, coming here, because, sure, when I was back in Mexico, I was not doing this, you know, like I was looking up the Spanish words, I mean, the words that I didn’t know, what they meant, or what they you know, how to pronounce them, or whatever. Yeah, I did that process. But really engaging in that rich way with the language is something that I took for granted when I was performing in Spanish. And I have come to realise the importance and now that I’m a playwright as well, like, I spend significant amount of time figuring out the language of my pieces, especially because I also do a lot of like, English and Spanish scripts. So that, you know, I think that there is a lot of value in the way that you know, these words have been arranged on a piece of paper. And in my directing, I really, for me, as a director, I tried to the first thing is for me to understand the text, as though I was I was going to perform it because it is important to me, to make sure that the that the actor that I’m working with is also understanding of the text, even though that might be their first language. I think that it’s so important for us to have that clarity.

Phil Rickaby
I mean, English can be somebody’s first language, but they’re their words that not everybody knows their context and other but knows there’s there’s so much work that can be done and should be done on a on a script. Just because it’s in it’s in the colloquial or modern English doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t investigate it in much the same way.

Santiago Guzmán
Yeah, well, and the same thing happens with you know, like, inside jokes and references, like I like I didn’t get a lot of them. I still don’t. So that’s why I have to do that research that I, you know, I think and maybe this is a hot take, but I think I am a very good actor, because I My job is to make you feel like these words that I’m about to say, are coming from my heart when I wasn’t born speaking this language. So if you believe my, my emotional journey, while I speak these English words, I think I have done a really, really good job.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, you mentioned being a writer. And I’m curious, as a writer, myself, I’m always curious about people’s writing journeys. was writing something that you did when you were a child? Or is it something that’s new to you?

Santiago Guzmán
It’s relatively new. I mean, you know, I can also say, Oh, I have been working since I have been writing since I was a child. I mean, sure. I was writing like, whatever. I Well, when I was in high school in junior high, I wrote a play or Christmas Pageant. So you know, like, I did that, but I did that because I felt like, I was tired of the Santa Claus play. I was tired of the Nativity play. So I was like, Okay, no, let’s do it. Let’s spice it up this time around. So anyway, I wrote a play that it was really fun for me to write and also be in it. But um, but yeah, like recently, I have embraced playwriting now for four different reasons. And one being, I think that to me, playwriting is an act of rebellion. And it has been an act of rebellion because for the longest time, I never saw myself on stage. I never saw my communities on stage. i The stories that we were telling or that my friends and I were telling were not reflected on local stages, and I thought that that was a big, big, huge gap. up, and the thing was like, I mean, personally, as a performer trying to make it in the, you know, in the theatre scene, I was always being cast in these, like, background roles. And, you know, like these supporting roles that are clearly just serving the white narrative. And I got tired of it, I got really disappointed by it, because I could tell that I will. And I mean, I guess I’m not being objective here. But I thought that I had something to offer, that I was able to perform the boots down of Nova Tech’s like, I really thought that I could do that work. But I was never given that opportunity. So I began writing my own material, just clearly showing what I, what I was able to do. And I think that part of like, My, how I can measure that success is when people say, you know, people had said to me, Wow, I didn’t know you could do that. I was like, well, because I was never given the chance. So I guess that proves my point.

Phil Rickaby
It’s so I mean, I think that that’s been a problem that that Canadian and English Theatre has been contending with, or facing, and only recently started to address a, you know, kudos to the Stratford Festival in the past year for really buckling down and examining the bias that it’s had with people who are on stage. But oftentimes, in, in the theatres, and in the schools, often the teachers are white, and they carry their own, they carry biases, and they carry their own blinders. And often with with people who are people of colour, if they’re black, if you’re indigenous, if they are not white, they often find have a quote, unquote, a difficult time figuring quote, figuring out what to do with them. Instead of like, I get so frustrated, when people are like, Oh, we’re going to catch all the white people this is we’re gonna do this, like, oh, we can’t cast these people together because they don’t look like a family. Well, what does a family look like? In in theatre, we people suspend this, quote, unquote, disbelief, more than they do in a film in theatre is our opportunity to put exactly what we see on the streets, all the multicultural, all the multicoloured everything on the stage and have people just accepted. I always get frustrated when people get stuck, quote, unquote, stuck on this.

Santiago Guzmán
Binary. Yeah. I think that that’s exactly right, you know, where I feel like for the longest time, people were seeing me in the surface, you know, like the things that they could see. So my brown skin, my curly hair, perhaps my accent, like all of these things that I was like, well, but you’re not seeing beyond me, and not to say that those things aren’t relevant to me, because, of course, that experience me holding on onto this body that, you know, like, drives me around the world that has shaped my experience, and has shaped my way of thinking. But, you know, like, sometimes I I am a person, I am a sibling. I am a partner, all of these things that go beyond race, language culture. Like I think that at the core, you know, like we’re talking about human values. And I think that that goes beyond anything else. And the thing about the presentation, I mean, to me, it is so important in the work that I do. And I guess obviously, I started writing a lot of like, Mexican stories, because or Well, I mean, not even Mexican stories. They’re characters from Mexico, in Newfoundland and Labrador. I mean, talking about being specific, but I think that I wrote those stories, because that was like my lived experience. And I thought to myself, where I, well, I am a part of this community and my community are not seeing me. And if they don’t see me, can they see someone else? And in the work that I do, I try to do that as much as possible to share those opportunities and to say, okay, yes, here I am. But here’s also this person and this person and that person. So it’s not only about me,

Phil Rickaby
one of the things I think about representation and how important it is, is, when we don’t have diverse representation on our stages, we were essentially telling our audience that what is on the stage is what we are and who we welcome. Yeah. And it essentially shuts off anybody who does not match what we’re putting on the stage. You know, we can tell them sure come and see this, but we’re not really producing this for you. And it’s such a closed minded just a tear like just It’s so small for the theatre world, and it’s so much more interesting to to bring the world that’s actually on the street onto the stage and share that and bring all of the experiences and all of the people together.

Santiago Guzmán
Yeah. And I think like something that I also want to say about that is that just because, you know, like, say we are seeing a diverse or a racialized experience on stage, that doesn’t mean that it is only for those people, you know, I that happens a lot with my work, I find that people say, you know, like, I’m always saying, like, oh, this plays about a queer young, Mexican man. So and so people assume that the play is for only Mexicans or only for for queer people. And people have said that, like, openly to me, where they are like, how, why would I? Why should I consume your queer content? And I’m like, Why should I consume the straight, you know, that I am forced to continue to consume? So I think that yes, absolutely. It’s this thing about representation and how important it is to say you have a space here. But also, the thing that I would ask back is to the audiences and say, but, you know, are you also making space for the stories that are not only yours? Because I feel like that’s also lacking?

Phil Rickaby
Yes, absolutely. It’s kind of we saw this this sort of thing recently, with some people’s reactions to the Pixar film turning red. Like, oh, yeah, so much. So many people were like, well, you know, I can’t see myself in this story of a young Chinese girl. And it’s so such a beautiful story that if people would just sort of sit and watch it without, I don’t know, being stupid. There’s so much that we get out of it.

Santiago Guzmán
If I can relate to Cinderella, they can relate to turning red,

Phil Rickaby
right? Absolutely. Like totally, because it’s it good storytelling and good story. And good character is good storytelling, a good character, regardless of, of Skin colour, language, everything else?

Santiago Guzmán
Exactly. Oh, my gosh, absolutely. And that was the thing that I feel like, I have been forced. And it’s not a choice, Phil, I have been forced to take in all of these, you know, and I say that in quotation marks the standard, right and the norm, this is what a family looks like, this is what the love interest looks like this is. So I have been forced to embrace it and accept it. Why can’t we just open up our understanding of what does that mean? What does that look like? And we focus on the core value, and that’s the thing that I have always been attracted to is like, Okay, this story is about love. This story is about, you know, motherhood, this story is about friendship. Because at the end of the day, that’s what I care about, you know, yes, of course, I see. I see. I see the story from the perspective of hotels that and probably, you know, like their lived experience will shape the way that the storytelling unfolds. But let’s look at the core value, because spoiler alert, we are all human beings.

Phil Rickaby
Spoilers, indeed. I wanted to ask you about altar. It’s just looking at at your website, it looks like you know, you’re working on altar in 2019, which is like, the, you know, the year before, like, all the hopes and dreams that we had for what was going to happen, the for what was going to start in 2019, and carry over into 2020. So you started the the workshop of it in 2019. Tell me about about the creation of the play, and what is it about?

Santiago Guzmán
Yeah, thank you, I mean, that it holds a very, very special place in my heart because of I think that that that play really changed the path of my career in so many directions. Because that was my first time writing a play. That was my first time doing a one person show. So that took a lot of me. And it was I mean, I wrote this play because of this thing that I was telling you where I felt like I was not seeing myself represented on stage. So I wanted to write a story about something that was close to my heart that I could be able to perform. And I actually like, I made the choice to make this a one person show because I said this is an opportunity for people to just focus on me, perhaps very selfishly, but I was so desperate and so frustrated back then in 2019 people not being able to see me, you know, beyond all of the things from the outside. So I wrote this play, I began writing it when I was in in the UK. I was in, you know, as part of my studies, I had to go there to Harlow and do a term there. And I began writing it because there was a deadline for a festival that I wanted to be a part of. Going back to spoilers, I didn’t make it into that festival, but that’s okay. I so I wrote this play. It was a very, you know, a rough draft. I, I was there with my class, the class of 2019 and I had a friend, my friend Robin oxer, who, you know, I, I thought I was like, Oh, she’s very good at dramaturgy. And I mean, of course, at the time I we were all very young and we’re trying everything and and I said to her well, I don’t have much to offer but would you would you mind like me know dramaturgy my piece. And you know, in the beginning, it was just like very, very that very, like small. Then the play got into another festival, the St. John’s short play festival in 2019. And oh, but the big thing about that was that about writing the play in the UK was that I actually was go set by my boyfriend at the time. Now when I wrote this play Alta I wrote it simply coming from the perspective of my curiosity at the time was to say, what would happen if I ever get to see all of the people that have ghosted me all of the dates that I have, you know, that have ghosted me? What would that experience be like? And originally, my intention was to have the ghosts talk about me, huh? As opposed to me engaging with them. So that curiosity came from that place. And then the thing about the altar, I was like, at the time also, like, Coco is speaking about these right acts or movies. Coco was had just come out, and I loved it. And I thought, well, there is already like a pre knowledge of of the muertos day of the dead because of this movie. So what if I just lean a little bit on it? Because, you know, that’s part of my culture. So I thought on connecting something that was like, personal to my experience and my culture, with this curiosity that I had, which was, you know, this notion of being ghosted, and I thought to myself, well, what if I do write a play about that anyway, so that’s how that plane came to be. But at the same time, when I was in, in, in the UK, my boyfriend was ghosting me at the same time, but I didn’t know it. It wasn’t until I came back to Canada that I was like, did I just right? Yeah. So that was such a hard because then obviously, when I got here, my boyfriend at the time was gone. And then I had to finish this play. So it was a very, you know, like, a difficult process, just like trying to deal with that. I mean, I, I took a lot of care,

to, you know, for myself and my process to really just like, focus on the story without without it being too personal, in a way that it would be harmful. And then I, at the time, I was really good friends with Meghan Greeley. We had just finished doing a show a tour across the province and, and then I taught told her about my experience. And yeah, she was very intrigued. So then I went to Montreal to visit her after our tour. And I went there to finish my second draft of this play. And then I thought to myself, well, like she would be perfect to drama church with her experience as a playwright. And I also thought to myself, well, she should also direct it. As I said, like part of like, my journey in, in the community. And my practice has always been to make space for other people even, you know, in my projects, so I thought that she would be a perfect director, but she just needed an opportunity. So that’s why she she, you know, for that reason, and more like she’s just like very gifted artists. I invited her to direct it, and she continued with the dramaturgy then, and then we present that the show and it was I mean, Phil, I thought that I was like, I thought I was gonna get a GG. I was like, Oh, my God, where was all of this? You know, like this play is the play that everyone was looking for? Why did I kept it from all of you, my fans. Now, did I mention that that was the very first play that I wrote. So probably it was not that great and actually, it was not great. It was good in terms of like, it gave me some sense of joy. rection but of course, I think what happened after that was that I have reached out to the Resource Centre for the Arts Theatre Company, and told them, Hey, would you like to produce my play? And they were like, Hmm, let’s talk about it. So we had a really good conversation about the possibilities. One of the things that have always been really important to me about this play is this, like, the impact of a presentation. I think that my work again, focuses on on really opening space for the concept of what a Newfoundland and Labrador you know, peace, theatre or, you know, play script looks like. And to me, I was thinking, well, this is a very Newfoundland Labrador play. I mean, it’s set in St. John’s, what else do you want? You know, it obviously it is interwoven with my Mexican culture. But that doesn’t mean that it’s only Mexican. So part of that thing that I wanted to do was to actually take it to schools to high schools, because I believe that youth are, I mean, I say it as though I am, you know, like a fossil, but youth is really shaping the future today. And if we are talking about these things about queerness, about race, now, I think that our future would look brighter. Yeah, climate change all of these things that are so so so important. And, and then that was something that that Resource Centre for the Arts, was really interested in, touring it to schools. So then they they decided to engage me in the development of like a longer piece, aimed to schools to high schools. But that was back in 2020. I was actually in Toronto, I was teaching at George Brown Theatre School with Jeanette, actually. And I was at the gym at the Y was working out. I was having a meeting, you know, about like, next steps with the Resource Centre for the Arts, it was so exciting. And then, you know, you know, came around the corner. And we were supposed to actually premiere this show in 2020. So it was just like, very disheartening, because we were like, Oh, my God, okay. Okay. So 2020 Didn’t happen. But the great thing was that the Resource Centre for the Arts said, Well, maybe we can continue developing the scripts, because that needs to happen anyway. And I was like, great. So we had like, a week long workshop in the fall. And that was my first time like, I think, like a year in between, for me from like, performing it to reading that draft again. And that’s when I found out that the player was not as great as I thought it was. It was me know, like a year of me like learning more about playwriting, I was diving more into dramaturgy as well. So I was like, okay, okay, so I found a lot of loopholes, a lot of things, you know, like, also, like poor writing period.

That I think that the play took a leap forward. And then in the spring of 2020, we were going to do the show, and then the tour. And we had a Reese. Yeah, well, you know, another wave of moving. So we had to cancel. And we decided at the time, we said, well, maybe let’s just wait for 2022 this year. But luckily, we were looking at doing a production of this show, at in the fall of 2021, which felt unreal, and at the time, I said, Well, I’m not gonna believe it until I see it. And, but what we decided was to stagger the, like the mainstage production and the tour. Just because we, we were really, you know, like trying to move this project forward. And so we got to do and it was actually a really fun coincidence that we got to do the show during the other monitors. It lined up perfectly with, with the dates of, well around the dates of Day of the Dead. So we got to, you know, it was an opportunity for me not to only bring this play that was like, personal to me, but also my culture to the theatre. And it was so special to me to see the the LSBU Hall welcoming and creating this community altar, I was like, wow, so it’s not only like a play, it’s also like, this experience of people like trying to be a part and welcoming and welcoming them into my culture as well, which was very, very rich. So like, that was, you know, the fall of 2021. It was a great run. I learned a lot, you know, like, even from that workshop that I had in the fall of 2021. When I got into rehearsals, I was like I remember like walking around the rehearsal hall with my scripts in hand, and I would just stop and say to Megan, make And this makes no sense. I need to rewrite this. You know, Megan was like, I was trying to direct, you know. But, but she was very understanding being a playwright herself. Like, she was like, Oh my God, yes. And so that happened. That was the fall. And now obviously, we’re getting closer to the spring of 2022. And as you probably know, this girl called Omicron. happened in December. So our our in person tour for this spring got pivoted. Did you? Did you imagine that in 2022, we would still be pivoting?

Phil Rickaby
No, because when this whole thing started, you know, back in March of 2020, and I’ve thought about this a lot. I thought, two weeks, we’ve got this thing beat. Two years later, we’re still Yeah,

Santiago Guzmán
yeah, no, we’re still we’re still pivoting. But you know, like, I think that what happened was that I was like, thinking, you know, I think it’s important to take this story out one of the things and the reasons why I wanted to tour it in person, and it was so important, you know, for us who actually delayed twice. It was because I thought that, especially, you’d have access to a myriad of things online, where, of course, we get to see a little bit more diversity, especially in the past couple of years, you know, on Netflix, and HBO, and Hulu, and whatever. But when it comes to stories about our community, we don’t have access to that in the same way. So I really wanted to be in the room with these students and say, hey, look, there’s a queer brown person in your classroom. And he actually lives in Newfoundland and Labrador. This story actually happened here, you know, that was so important to me. Now, obviously, in a digital version of the show, it’s not entirely the same, even though we will still be doing like outreach and engagement with the students in a in a digital way. Because that, to me, it’s important. So for this iteration of the of the play, we turned really into film into water, our our devices, we I think that Megan did a beautiful job. So Megan also directed the film version, with a mentorship by Ruth Lawrence was also an amazing theatre person and film person. And so basically, what Megan did so beautifully, in my opinion, was to really turn those theatrical devices that worked for theatre into a film version of them, that were completely different to what people saw on stage. But now they weren’t for this play. So really, what people will see like this version about that is actually very different from what people saw on stage. And that is exciting to me, because then this play, will serve in a very different way. And the experience of people, you know, seeing this for the first time will be unique. And I think that’s very important to me.

Phil Rickaby
That’s great. That I think there’s so much there’s potential in digital productions. I also, you know, I feel like sometimes people think I shouldn’t do a digital because then people will already have seen it. And I think about all the times that I’ve gone to see my favourite band play the songs that they already know and how I think that that if we would stop thinking about digital as an impediment to live performance, but maybe an augment that, you know, people will still go see their people love to see their favourite comedian do the bits, they already know people like see the bands play the songs they know. So I feel like like, you know, digital is a way of opening up our our world. theatrically

Santiago Guzmán
it totally, it’s this thing about impact, which I find really exciting, because, you know, like, perhaps in person, I could have done 10 runs of this show. But now with a digital option. I can actually do you know, like, people can see it more. And I can also reach to people in Labrador that I have never been to Labrador. I mean, there’s this tour was to go to Labrador, but at least I can make sure that, you know, the weather won’t be a problem, because then the students will have access to this story. And yeah, so I agree with you.

Phil Rickaby
It’s great. Well, Santiago, thank you so much for talking with me today. This has been wonderful.

Santiago Guzmán
Oh my gosh, thank you very much for inviting me and, and just, you know, talk a little bit

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StageworthyPod

- 10 hours ago

@partonandpearl @Toronto_Fringe @partonandpearl would you be interested in a live stream talk about the shows you review sometime in week 2?
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StageworthyPod

- 14 hours ago

@philrickaby: Tomorrow is the start of theatre Christmas, also known as @Toronto_Fringe. Sadly, I'm in rehearsal mode for my own fringe show, so I won't be able to see as much as I want, but I'm seeing as much as I can. follow my coverage on the @stageworthypod insta and tiktok.
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- 19 hours ago

This week on Stageworthy, host @philrickaby talks to storyteller and serial entrepreneur, @VikkiVelenosi about her #FringeTO show: 2 Robs, 1 Cup: : What Happens When You’re Done Eating Shit? #TheaTO Listen now at https://t.co/Vx85xxavyd https://t.co/TeMg6wqn8S
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StageworthyPod

- 1 day ago

@itskyliethomps1 I'm doing my best to see as many shows as possible, but between day job and my own rehearsals I'm pretty limited. You're on my radar!
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