WHY: As soon as Verenice appears upon the stage you know you are in the presence of a truly special artist. Verenice has the rare ability to spin language into poetry, and the way she attacks the stage with her body steals your heart from start to finish of her beautiful solo show. I caught myself holding my breath as Verenice confessed personal truths of family obligations, and stories of facing generational traditions while chasing dreams filled my soul with gentle familiarity. The vulnerability of this young artist makes you feel as if you’re witnessing a sacred rite of passage. After the show, as I got in the car, I sat and sobbed and the only way I could express that overwhelming feeling in my gut was to ask myself, “Have you ever seen a Brown girl fly?” I have no doubt the sensation this show leaves in the body is the spirit of the Fringe. This is what the future looks like in the theatre when artists are uplifted and supported. Go see this beautiful Brown girl manifest her future on her own terms!
We know that when there is cultural and racial equality in theatre, it makes room for artists from all walks of life to contribute to the history of theatre. This past year has reinforced what we have been doing at LAFPI – putting women of all kinds first! It is vital that we make space and open doors wider for women from all cultural backgrounds if we are to have a bold, forward thinking American Theatre that reflects America.
ESTRAWBERY FIELDS FOREVER gets me hyped up and excited for the future of theatre. In this solo show by Verenice Zuniga, a 2021 Hollywood Fringe Diversity Scholarship Winner, we will follow the journey of La Graduada, a young Latina grappling with the difficult truths of a post-graduate life as a brown educated woman. Through her we see the American Dream unravel as she moves back home to financially support her family while also figuring out her own path forward. Via poetry, this piece explores immigrant family dynamics, the financial impact of higher education on first-generation students, and the psychological toll of the American Dream, an issue not often addressed directly. I have a gut feeling this will be a richly poignant and moving show that will highlight the voices of tomorrow. What a gift this will be to us.
Constance: How long have you been sitting with this work? Why Fringe? Why this year?
Verenice: I had this idea about five years ago and would always put it off until I felt “ready.” During the pandemic I found myself feeling really stuck creatively and doubting my journey as an artist. This piece allowed me to rediscover my passion for devising theater. After being stuck inside for a year I just wanted to dive into something fun and new. Like many, in this past year, I realized life is too short to doubt yourself. I’m very glad I took this leap!
Constance: What’s been your biggest challenge in terms of your development/creation process?
Verenice: The biggest challenge of this has been finding movement in the show. The show’s language is very poetic and we wanted to find a way to let the language shine but also create a visual language to elevate that poeticism.
Constance: What are you enjoying most as you create your show? What has been the most surprising discovery?
Verenice: I’m enjoying the discovery of my own writing. As I act through the show and work with Kathy Arevalo, my director, I’m finding new meaning to lines and characters. I think this has also been a huge growth journey for me as an actor and writer. There have been many moments where I’m stuck asking myself “What the heck did I even mean by this? How do I play this?” It really has allowed me to be on both sides of this play and appreciate how the writing evolves as we workshop it on its feet.
Constance: What do you hope audience members take away after experiencing your show?
Verenice: I hope audience members leave questioning their version of reality and the different levels of privileges that influence their present and future. I also hope they feel seen and hopefully in these 30 minutes we won’t feel so alone in our first-generation struggles.
Constance: The work will be given away soon – how does that feel?
Verenice: It’s nerve-racking but relieving at the same time. I’m definitely ready to share it with everyone and set the work free!