Interview: Casa 0101 Theater Takes On the 99%

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It was only a matter of time for the Occupy movement to inspire the theatre community, and the fact that playwright and novelist Josefina López’s Casa 0101 is the first to ignite this new flame of protest is pretty dope. Occupy the Heart is a short play festival coming to the Boyle Heights artist nest that sheds light on the stories behind the 99%. I caught up with Occupy the Heart playwright and producer, Miguel Garcia, a 26-year-old El Monte-based Casa 0101 volunteer that produced the theater’s first-ever gay play festival, Brown & Out, last September.

How did you meet Josefina López?
I was as a student in her Dramatic Writing class in 2007. I had just graduated from Georgetown University and decided to move back to El Monte. I yearned for a space to grow as a writer and collaborate with other writers, artists, and performers. I found a community and second family at Casa 0101. To be able to have my writing come to life on stage, along with the works of so many other emerging new voices in theater, is absolutely a dream come true.

Whose stories will be told at this play festival?
We held a call for submissions in December and Occupy the Heart was created in less than two months. The project features nine playwrights whose work and unique voices are representative of the 99%. Casa 0101 is one of a few, if not the only, theater in Los Angeles creating play projects in such a short amount of time that give new and emerging playwrights the opportunity to touch on such poignant, relevant issues that affect us today, such as the Occupy movement.

How has the Occupy movement affected your life?
It reminded me that writing, art, and theater are critical tools that when combined, can create a powerful catalyst for social change. Changing the world requires motivation and movement, whether you are marching on the streets or sharing your story on stage, nothing changes if your mind, body, heart, and soul remains stagnant.

What’s the biggest issue affecting you today?
The lack of security in my full-time job and the consequential loss of health insurance as a result of lost employment. With such high rates of unemployment and people losing their homes, the least we could do is provide affordable access to health services so people, regardless of class, employment, or income-level, can have increased and/or equal access to a high quality of life.

What story do you bring to the Occupy the Heart festival?
I have two short plays. The first is called Unoccupied Spaces. It’s about a homeless man, who after becoming occupied himself in a local park by a group of Occupy LA protesters, meets a middle class married couple struggling to get their lives back on track financially and personally. When socioeconomic differences are removed and people’s hearts are fully open, they find that they can literally see themselves in each other. As a result, we are never alone. My second play is called I’m Hungry and it’s a collaborative work that combines a monologue by Patricia Zamorano with additional writing by me.

What can folks expect to walk away with after seeing Occupy the Heart?
The 10 short plays show characters struggling to feel whole. In each story, our characters discover that when they fully occupy and open their hearts to see themselves in another, they find that they are already whole and nothing can hurt them. We hope audiences will be inspired to strive for change, be whole, and with their hearts on fire, discover that they are capable of contributing something remarkable and positive to this world, closing the gap between the 99 and one percent.

Nice. Can’t wait to witness.

Occupy the Heart runs February 10 – 26; Fri. & Sat. @ 8 p.m., Sun. @ 5 p.m. Casa 0101, 2009 E. First St., Los Angeles, CA 90033, 213-263-7684