Q&A: UO’s David Rodriguez prepares to present “Sonrisa del Coyote,” an original, award winning play this fall

The first play of the theater season comes directly from the creative mind of University of Oregon theater graduate David Rodriguez. “Sonrisa Del Coyote” is a bi-lingual one-act play that won the 2015 New Voices Playwriting Contest, and found its way to the Pocket Playhouse stage for fall. Before its opening at 5 p.m. on Oct. 22, we sat down with Rodriguez for a preview of the play.

Emerald: Will you tell me a little bit of the story behind your play?

David Rodriguez: I was kind of fascinated with the idea of magical-realism, so it’s about two siblings, Danny and Lupa, who are forced to leave their home in Mexico to travel across the border to America. Along the way they run into this trickster coyote legend who helps them to learn about their heritage and their identities and how family is the most important thing, and it doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters the family you make.

E: Is it a specific genre?

DR: It’s hard for me to define this as a genre because it’s layered. There are moments of comedy and moments of dark seriousness. It has kind of a storybook kids feel.

E: Why is the play bilingual?

DR: I think we’re getting to an age where we’re seeing a lot more bilingual plays and a lot more artistic expression from the latino community, because we’re starting to have a stronger voice. And it’s really nice to take pride in that, not in the point that we’re here and we’re dominant, but that we’re here and we’ve always been here.

E: What was it like to know your play won the competition?

DR: I wrote a couple plays back in high school… and took a playwriting class. After giving [my professor] a draft, he said “you should really consider submitting this,” and I did and I won the competition. It was just an ecstatic feeling. I wish I could bottle that and just have it every day when I feel like it’s going to be a little hard.

E: Where did your inspiration come from?

DR: I grew up, and I didn’t even know the word to identify myself as. My dad was from a small town near Cerano [Mexico] called Jacales, and my mom came up in southern California, and they met up here in Hood River. I’m the youngest of three, and my Dad actually suffered from a bad motorcycle accident a little before I was born. It put him in a coma for four months, and he was very lucky he walked away from it pretty okay. My sister was taught Spanish but he never got around to my brother and me, and so it was always this weird disconnect.

So I think this is a story about Danny finding his identity and roots but also it’s a little bit about me because every author instills themselves into the characters, and I definitely would identify that I’ve always kind of felt of two worlds. So it was just really good to open that side of myself to other people and have them be so receptive.

E: Can we expect to see more plays from you in the future?

Yes, I definitely plan on writing more. There’s a lot of really unfortunate situations that [immigrants] have to go through, because they’re not legal and they have to kind of be in hiding and I think that’s so unfortunate. I think it will definitely be a thing I want to revisit.

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