2018-2019 Season

Luna Stage Production History. Celebrating 26 Seasons!

July 20 - July 28, 2019

Luna

A Bilingual Play in Spanish and English

Written by Ramón Esquivel
Directed by Chris Kuiken
Featuring StudioLuna's Performance Conservatory Teen Ensemble

Soledad sings and dances with the stars and moon every night. Her family is always on the move, so it's easier to talk to Luna, the moon, than to other kids. But Soledad has always wanted to have human friends, so one day she tries something new...

Inspired by stories of migrant kids.

Dates: July 20, 21, 27, and 28
Time: 11am
Running Time: 50 minutes
Tickets: $15
Discount Codes:
$10 with code LUNA10, purchase by July 15 (limit 4 per purchase)
$30 for Family Pack of 4 tickets with code LUNAFAM, purchase by July 15

This program was made possible by generous support from Orange Orphans Society.

Interview with Ramón Esquivel
July 10, 2019

1. Tell us about your first steps creating this piece: being commissioned by Central Washington University and collecting stories of migrant families and children.

The play was originally commissioned by Central Washington University's Theatre Arts department in 2010. (This was a good seven years before I started working at CWU myself.) I pitched the play as an idea: a story about a girl who is the daughter of migrant farm workers, and because she moves around so much, she becomes friends with the moon. The department loved the idea, especially because I was setting the story in the farmlands of eastern Washington State. That meant that I had to finish the first draft of the play in a few months. I spent about a week in residence at CWU in 2011, and we did a workshop reading at the university and at a nearby elementary school in Mattawa, WA. Many of the students in Mattawa had family members who worked in agriculture, and so the play had particular resonance with them. After the workshop got the script in good shape, the university produced the full play in 2012. I was fortunate to attend that first production as I was living two hours away in Seattle at the time.

2. Tell us about the people you talked to who inspired 'Luna'. Any young astronomers we should be looking out for?

A major influence on Luna is Teatro Campesino (Farmworkers Theatre). Founded in 1965 during the United Farm Workers strike in California, Teatro Campesino would bring theatre to worker camps in the middle of nowhere, hoping to spread the word about the labor union and the strike. So in creating Luna, I applied many of the styles and forms that Teatre Campesino used back then and continue to use today, especially clowning in the style of commedia dell'arte. And, just like Teatro Campesino's work, Luna is well-suited for touring outside of formal theatre spaces.

Another early influence was astronaut Bonnie Dunbar. Ms. Dunbar was born and raised in Sunnyside, WA, a small farming town in the Yakima Valley of Washington. She grew up to become a NASA astronaut, and eventually was director of The Museum of Flight and is currently a professor at Texas A&M University. Ms. Dunbar spoke at a school where I was teaching, and she shared a story of being a little girl in the farmlands of Washington State, looking up and trying to count all the stars in the sky. The image of a girl standing in a field looking up at the stars stuck with me.

3. What was it like first performing 'Luna'?

The first public performance of Luna was in a fourth grade classroom in Mattawa, WA. It was during the workshop at Central Washington University, which as a long-standing connection to this tiny agricultural town. To see how this play was working, we loaded up some simple props and a handful of costume pieces and drove forty-five minutes to Mattawa, which is right on the beautiful Columbia River. The fourth graders in this class were almost all Latinx kids, and we later found out that seeing this play in their classroom was everyone's first experience with live theatre! It inspires me to know that for those kids, Luna is their first experience with theatre.

Hearing these university students bring the characters to life for the first time was magical. Luna is an original story, not based off a book as is so common in Theatre for Young Audiences today. The characters sprung from my imagination, so it is exciting to hear actors bringing them to life for the first time. Now that Luna is being produced all over the country — all over the world, actually, as it had its premiere in Israel this last February — I have the joy of seeing different interpretations of the play through photographs and videos.

4. What had been like seeing 'Luna' touring far from where it's roots lie?

That is very moving to see. This year alone, Luna will be produced in Tel Aviv (Israel), the Virgin Islands, El Paso, Chicago, and New Jersey. I love to hear how different productions localize the story. For example, when Luna was produced at Appalachian State University in North Carolina, they had the family work in the Christmas tree farms that are so common in Western Carolina. A production in California had the family picking grapes in a vineyard. The Israeli production had the family working in an olive grove. It feels good to know that people who don't even know me are choosing to do the play because they love the story. Wanting to make a friend is a universal need. Moving around is frightening or sad for many different kinds of people. A few families from military backgrounds have said that Soledad's movements remind them of constantly having to go where the military sends them.

5. What do you hope children and families will be able to take away from 'Luna'?

"Taking risks is hard to do, but taking risks builds courage too."

6. How has your Latino background influenced your writing? You mention in an interview with the Mountain Times in 2018 that your background's influence in your writing is somewhat difficult to articulate, has that changed for you?

Being Latino is such an ingrained part of who I am that I don't always realize at first what is being influenced by it. I was born in the USA, but my heritage is Mexican and Spanish and Yaqui Indian. Certainly my fascination with Teatro Campesino is inspired by my Mexican and Yaqui background; I see the United Farm Workers strike in the 1960s as the "Latino Chapter" of the American Civil Rights Movement of the era.

Magical realism is common in Latinx storytelling, and so it felt perfectly natural for me to write a Latinx child who spoke to the Moon like it was the most normal thing in the world. So my identity shapes my impulses and what interests me, but I never stop to think, "What should I choose to do as a Latino playwright?" That being said, I'm glad people make note of my identities because everyone needs to see people like me creating theatre. I hope I inspire others who share my identities to make their own theatre too.

7. Why are you drawn to writing for children's theatre?

When I started writing plays, I was thirty years old. I had been a middle school teacher for six years already, and so I was reading many stories that interested children and adolescents. So when I started writing plays, I wanted to write stories that my then-students would enjoy. My first playwriting teacher was Laurie Brooks, who writes some of my favorite plays for young audiences (The Wrestling Season, Selkie, Devon's Hurt, among others.) She says writing a play for young audiences is just as difficult and requires as much craft as writing for adults; in fact, it is MORE difficult because young audiences are more discerning. If something bores them, they will let you know!

Also, I really enjoy the theatre company of artists who write, direct, and act in theatre for young audiences. You have to have a wonderful sense of humor, optimism, imagination, and kindness to create theatre for young audiences. I like to be around people who have all those things.

8. Do you promote social change through your writing?

I hope so. Writing plays is my best avenue for affecting social change. My hope is that my plays give encouragement to those who are fighting the good fights, and give those who are neutral and indifferent reasons to ask more questions about why the world is the way that it is. Even thought Luna has lots of humor, there are some important social justice issues as well. After all, Soledad's family moves around so much because they are part of an economy that requires cheap and mobile labor. I don't have to grow my own food; I go to a grocery store to get it. But I only have that luxury because other people are doing the actual hard work of growing the food, and they have children too. How can we change the system so that families can stay in one place, and put down roots and make a home?

If I'm going to ask the audience to give their time to seeing one of my plays, I want to write something that will affect them, make them feel and think. Writing silly stories that are purely entertaining is a luxury that I do not have, and I don't want it anyway. There is too much to do to make the world a better place.

9. Luna was first written and performed in 2013. Do you think its cultural and political context has changed over the years, especially concerning our current political climate?

The cultural and political context in 2019 is the same as it was in 2013. What has changed is that the hateful attitudes towards the working poor and immigrants is being recorded and shared, published in national newspapers or broadcast on national television networks or online, and being justified as "opinion." But these hateful attitudes have been around for decades, as anyone who has faced them could tell you. The economic context is the same as it was in 2013. Migrant farm workers have been exploited for over a century. Most of the people who benefit from their labor, like me, don't really do much to change the nature of that exploitation.

10. What advice do you have for aspiring performers and writers?

I grew up rarely seeing people who looked like me on stage in theatre and on screen in film and television. Though I found stories that I liked, like Star Wars, I grew tired of trying to squeeze my own experiences and worldviews into those of others. I realize nobody else was going to tell the specific stories that I wanted to see, so I started to tell them myself. Bringing yourself, in all your flawed glory, is important. You never know who you are going to inspire by sharing your specific stories.

Luna