Ariel Zetina is navigating through a busy Chicago intersection while trying to give an interview. You can hear the horns and screeches of exhausted brakes blaring through the phone. You pray the playwright makes it to the other side of the street. It must difficult to avoid potholes, buses, and provide thoughtful quotes about your own work.
That, however, is life, a messy collage of tasks, ideas, and actions that may or may not amount to anything. Thankfully for us one of Zetina’s ideas led to British Honduras Fantasy now running at the Trans Theatre Festival at the Brick Theater.
“The play started developing in June 2014,” says Zetina. “It was part of this group of eight playwrights (in Chicago). It was this collaborative workshop with these different playwrights doing different things.”
That group was called El Semillero, and was part of ALTA Chicago in residency at Victory Gardens Theater. Eight Latinx playwrights developed drafts of new plays over the course of a year.
“My goal was doing semi-autobiographical work with magic realism. It uses the sort of physical tropes of magical realism (i.e. the moon love, death) and is pulling American iconography into that world like the Starbucks label and suburbia.”
Later Zetina, who studied poetry and playwrighting at Northwestern, met up with fellow alum Tristan Powell, and together they applied to the Trans Theater Festival in Brooklyn, NY.
Now BHF will be featured among several other works at the Brick Theater through June 26th. British Honduras Fantasy follows a young trans girl, Frida, as she moves from Florida to Chicago. Meanwhile her mother (in another time and space) is immigrating from Belize. Zetina explains that British Honduras was the former name of Belize before it gained its independence from the British. But that is about all the information you will get about the play. You have to see it.
Zetina, who is also an electronica artist, was excited to be able to fuse poetry, writing and music in this piece.
“We live in a visual culture,” Zetina says, adding that lots of care was taken into the costumes, the set and the way the play looks. And there is also a musicality as well as the playwright explains. “I think part of what I like about the play is that the design allows for focus for the audience on how the play is working sonically.”
The most interesting thing about the play and about the festival in general, is the avoidance of generalizing the trans experience.
“We wanted a festival of trans people creating their own work,” say Maybe Burke who helped produce the festival along with MJ Kaufman, and a slew of creative staff at the Brick. “This is the first festival (at Brick) that doesn’t have a theme but an identity. It’s not about me being trans.”
“Honesty, I was looking for honest and authentic stories from a diverse group of people.”
Burkes own show Love Letters to Nobody, Or Insignificant Others will also be featured during the festival.
The Trans Theatre Festival mission was to just focus on great work. But there are questions to be asked of theater in the larger sense when it comes to trans representation.
“It’s still very radical in the theater world to have trans feminine people in the play, and a trans playwright and a trans director it’s very rare to have any trans people let alone trans feminine people,” Zetina says.
“I work in the electronic music world that’s filled with Trans women and many Trans people working,” Zetina says. “I think it’s a question to ask the theater, ‘why isn’t there more Trans women of color?”
Burke agrees with the sentiment: “If you’re trying to do stories about a community and you’re only focusing on pieces of that community then your not doing it right.”
British Honduras Fantasy has shows on Sunday June 19th and Friday June 24th at the Brick Theater. Click here to purchase tickets.