Don’t miss the Black Box Production of Beautiful Senoritas this weekend. This piece is a lovely display of Latin American women and it sure to light up the black box.
No one can say it better than the director though! Below is his statement about the show.
directed by graduate student Jimmy A. Noriega
Dolores Prida wrote Beautiful Señoritas in 1976 after attending an international theatre festival in Caracas, Venezuela. After noting that “not a single one of the plays took up issues then being aired by the feminist movement,” Prida returned to the U.S. determined to write a play about the Latina experience. Beautiful Señoritas was staged in New York City in 1977 at the DUO Theatre. Since then it has become an international hit and Prida a symbol and pioneer of U.S.-Latina theatre.
The process of selecting a script to direct is always a difficult task. When I directed Milcha Sanchez-Scott’s Dog Lady for the Schwartz Center’s Black Box Series in September 2006, I noted that I chose the play because it reflected many of the personalities and attitudes that I grew up with living on the Arizona-Mexico border. I also said that the play made an important commentary on many of the issues facing the U.S. Latino population today. Well, these issues have not changed and my reasons for directing Latino plays have not changed either. Beautiful Señoritas makes an important commentary on the stereotypes placed on Latina women, both inside and outside of the Latino community. The play speaks to traditional social expectations, the role of religion in everyday life, challenges facing immigrant communities, sex, labor, and poverty. Most importantly, of course, the play examines gender roles and stereotypes. It works to portray Latina women as strong, independent, and in control of their own destinies. Beautiful Señoritas does this and more, and it accomplishes all of it with a good mix of Latin humor and spice.
I have had the fortune of teaching Beautiful Señoritas in two of my courses at Cornell, and both times the students voted it one of their favorite scripts of the semester. Prida’s combination of humor and popular culture make it a play that people enjoy and want to discuss. Often in class discussions students would comment on the play’s continuing relevance to women today. Many of the women in class would also note, however, that some of the references made the play seem outdated and foreign, and that an update of the play would show that Latinas still face the same issues thirty years later. In directing this play, I chose to update a few of the references in the script, hoping that this would make it more accessible and more immediate. Playing around with the ever-popular Latin American beauty pageants, I also turned to the style of Sabado Gigante for inspiration. The television show is an eclectic mix of variety and game show, featuring guest stars, comic skits, and music (it is also coincidentally the oldest American TV program in Spanish still running today). If you are not familiar with the style, don’t worry… the cast and I have tried very hard to make its mass appeal work its way from the households of Latin America to the Schwartz Black Box. In this play, Latinas take center stage, and they do it with beauty, wit, and a desire to be understood.