Q-STAGE 2019 artist Keila Anali Saucedo on their new work Brujería for Beginners.
Where did the ideas for Brujería for Beginners come from?
My play Brujería for Beginners was first only a dream. As I was delving deeper into my own spiritual practices, so much was coming up for me. I was raised in a strict Mexican Catholic home. I was exposed to church services around two to three times a week. As you might know, Mexican people can make anything dramatic and exciting—even church! Catholicism meant less and less to me as I learned about the religion’s painful past, as I understood the mission for the Spanish. Unlike the attempted genocide of Native folks on this land, in Mexico the colonizers had a different dark mission: to create a new race that would be closer to them, that would relate more to the Spanish culture. So they took the language, the kinship structures, and the spirituality of the indigenous peoples of Mexico and replaced it with their own. This isn’t just history. It’s the reason my face looks the way it does, it’s in the land where my family is from, these are stories alive in me. The only thing I could think to do is make art about it and this is the art that came of it.
Why do you feel it is important to share this with the community?
I think I said it best in my application for this program: the work, which exists now in only vignettes, lullabies, and prayers, is about Mexican children of varying ages and the stories of their interactions with the holy, their magic, and their ancestors. For me, this work is so urgent. In an age where dehumanization is the norm for our people, an offering of healing and truth that is rooted in our forgotten indigeneity is paramount.
What is this performance about for you on a personal level?
It’s funny, I was recently in Chicago (my hometown) for the National Performance Network’s midyear meeting and I had the opportunity to visit Root Work Gallery. Here, I was sharing a bit about my piece and I called it an autobiography, which is not necessarily true. I am not any of the characters in this play. I think I’m every character. I see myself as proof of survival from all the atrocities that have happened on these lands. Perhaps because I hold myself in this way, stories pour out of me like water. Maybe this is a play about my ancestors or about my forgotten spirituality or about the way my parents raised me to understand the holy. Either way, it all comes back to telling the stories in an effort to heal.
Who are your collaborators for Q-STAGE? Tell us about them.
The artists involved in this project are lifechanging. Marcela Michelle, my dear friend and teacher, is directing. My friends Eric Gonzalez and Kieran Myles Andres Tverbakk are providing sound and set design, respectively. Then I have this luminary ensemble working including Lelis Brito, Stephanie Ruas, Johanna Keller Flores, Atquetzali Quiroz, y Xochi de la Luna. They are an intergenerational, bubbling burst of creativity and willingness to jump in. One of my most treasured communities. They are each Latinx-identified, many are also queer, and each have a beautiful light that they bring. I am overjoyed and humbled to have their hands in my work.
Talk about your background as an artist. What sort of artistic experience are you bringing to this production?
I am a graduate of a predominately white institution where I earned a degree in theatre arts through the lens of dramaturgy. I have extensive production experience as a stage manager, board operator, and have a special place in my heart for scene shops. My craft though is really in playwriting and ensemble creation. I led a playwriting troupe in college for all four years, and I continue this leadership in my role as a facilitator, teaching artist, and artist for hire!
What social issues are important to you and how do they inform the art you create?
I think that’s quite clear in the past answers what issues resonate with me. I don’t actually understand the question regarding my art because there is no informing-of-social-issues that’s in my art. My art is a social issue, my art works to illuminate stories of those who have been underserved. It is a process of joyous booty-shaking resistance to the dirty rotten system of Western theatre.
What artists or performances have inspired you over the years?
Suzan Lori Parks is a sharp teacher in each of her plays. The performances at Pangea World Theater, where I serve as an ensemble member, have taught me the way to decolonization through storytelling. And of course, the performances of NOCHE BOMBA and Demons in America, which were both a part of Q-STAGE last year.
Do you have any other projects in the works that you’d like to tell us about?
I am happy to announce that I am a co-producer for Mother Goose’s Bedtime Stories, a fantastical cabaret that celebrates the art of Black, Brown and Indigenous artists. Our next performance is on June 15 & 16 at 711 W Lake St, Suite 101.
When you’re not deep in Q-STAGE rehearsal and development, how do you spend your time? What are some of your hobbies or passions in life?
I am hard at work! I am horribly devoted to ‘the grind’ mentality, I am working on getting off of it before I burn out. A passion and ritual practice of mine is Don’t You Feel It Too? DYFIT is a mind-body practice of moving as your honest self in public with a pair of headphones. When I’m dancing, I dream of new plays, brighter futures, and my child self. I miss her so. I highly recommend joining me.
Describe your pre-performance ritual if you have one.
I sing Naranja Dulce and kiss one part of the theater. Also, I pray.
Keila’s piece Brujería for Beginners will premiere at Q-STAGE: New Works Series on May 16, 17 & 18th at Phoenix Theater.