When Kate del Castillo walks on stage in the way she spoke beginning July 8 at Minetta Lane Theatre, she’ll be all alone.
The play, presented by Audible, takes a meta look at what happens when dramaturgy affects performance. It's told through the eyes of an actor (played by del Castillo) reading a script written by her friend about the recent femicide in Juárez, Mexico.
"I needed a way to artistically explore what does it mean for me as a man to be a facilitator," said playwright Isaac Gomez at a press event held at Rosa Mexicano in NYC's Union Square District. "An actor coming into a space to read aloud a play written by her friend and experiencing what the play is doing for her, as the conduit to the story, is very much where this play lives. So in addition to being about the women [of Juárez], it's also about the actor herself."
The way she spoke is a companion piece to Gomez’s La Ruta, a dramatization of the horrifying period in Juárez when women were abducted and killed.
That work had an ensemble of six women, but the way she spoke is a solo show, allowing some of the testimony Gomez collected from survivors and affected family members to live in its raw form.
To help keep the intensity of the material at a distance, del Castillo focused on memorizing her lines.
After reading the script, she was overwhelmed. "I couldn't stop crying. Crying not only for them in the whole situation, but crying for being so ignorant," the Bad Boys for Life star said of the story.
"Femicide is happening everywhere," del Castillo added, explaining that this isn't just about the Juárez murders. "That's the thing. They're not just raping women, they're literally ripping them apart, and it's been forever."
She hopes the audience is moved to action after seeing the show. And live audiences won’t be the only ones who can experience the play—after its six-week run Off-Broadway, Audible will release the way she spoke as a digital audio recording.
"I often listen to it literally with my eyes closed as we're running it," said director Jo Bonney. "Often you're relying on body language and lighting effects, but this is going to be about Kate's voice and the sound design by Elisheba Ittoop."
Bonney added that the theme of trust running throughout the play permeated the creative process as well. Since Gomez and del Castillo have a personal connection to the material, the director did a lot of research to understand the story being presented.
And, when it comes time to listen on Audible, that trust has to be there between the audience and the performer. "It's like the old radio plays. It really demands that you're rigorous in terms of tone and intention and maybe that's also where the honesty comes in," Bonney says.
"Wow, I get to have my cake and eat it too?" Gomez said of his reaction to finding out the play would run Off-Broadway and be released on Audible.
For many of his family members, it’s hard to visit Chicago or New York City, so listening to it on Audible will be the very first time they get to experience Gomez’s work. "That means more to me than anything," the playwright added.
The way she speaks officially opens July 18 after previews start July 8 at Minetta Lane Theatre, and is scheduled to run through August 16.