Controlled Burn artist Johanna Keller Flores on the representation of queer people of color in theatre and telling personal stories from the heart.
So tell us what you’re doing for Controlled Burn?
On the 16th I will be reading/performing a piece with two other actors that I wrote and directed. It’s called “¡ojo!” It’s a very short play about a young Latinx woman learning to stand on her own and some of the emotions that come up with intersecting queerness with familia. I have multiple versions of this story written and this is the shortest one.
What motivates your work as an artist?
Telling personal stories from the heart that represent some of my identities, and helping to bring love to others who may share those identities. I am all about queer people of color being represented in theatre and that’s really why I started trying out playwrighting, to tell those stories I wanted so badly to be a part of as an actor. I didn’t see a lot (or any) of those opportunities and so I’m trying to write some of my own.
Can you talk a little bit about your background as an artist? What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production?
I am a new theatre artist in the Twin Cities, just moved back home from getting a degree in theatre arts in Michigan. I’ve studied acting, playwrighting, and directing and did some of all of it in college and am out here tryna put some of this education to work and connect with other artists. First time doing anything with 20% Theatre!
What social issues are important to you and the art you create?
Theatre created by people of color, about people of color, for people of color. It sounds so simple, but in practice it’s still so lacking for so many reasons. And then, of course, representation of queer Latinidad is beautiful and important to me and will always be a part of the work that I do. I’m a big believer in writing what you know, so I will likely continue to tell stories similar to mine as a multi-racial, queer, Latina that come from a place of love.
What other artists or performances have inspired you over the years?
I’m always thirsty for Latinx playwrights and theatre in general. The Children’s Theatre’s production of I Come From Arizona stayed on my mind for so long. I just read Miss You Like Hell by Quiara Alegria Hudes, and I have a huge soft spot for musicals and loved the mother-daughter relationship and the angsty music. Last year I also loved seeing a college production of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Marcus; or the Secret of Sweet—such an honest depiction of generations of Black queerness.
Are you working on any other projects or are there others you hope to work on?
I want to write and act more. Ready to write a full-length play to be proud of.
Aside from your artistic work, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?
I love fiction novels about queer people of color. Send your recommendations my way. And I love good food and summer.