Kate del Castillo’s solo performance in Isaac Gomez’s the way she spoke earned the actor Drama League, Drama Desk and Lucille Lortel nominations, making her the first Mexican actor nominated for three prestigious theatre awards in a single season in New York.
Best known for her role on television’s La Reina del Sur and guest-starring roles in Weeds and Jane the Virgin, Castillo bowled audiences over with her depiction of women’s stories tied to the femicide atrocities in Juárez, Mexico. In the meta-narrative, an actor walks on stage and begins to read a script written by her friend about the recent femicide in Juárez, Mexico, and embodies 14 different characters affected by the atrocities.
Though it initially bowed at the Minetta Lane Theatre Off-Broadway presented by Audible, Castillo’s performance has been captured as an Audible original, currently available to download and experience. Here, Castillo speaks about her experience with the intensity of the show, and why the discomfort is worth it.
What was your first reaction to the script?
Kate del Castillo: I’ve always been sensitive about femicide, but when I read this text, in particular, it reminded me of how corrupt my country still is and truly how forgotten these women and these stories are.
Did you know about the femicides in Juarez?
Yes, I have always known about Las Muertas De Juárez, I just did not really know the full scope of these atrocities. Being Mexican, I grew up hearing many terrible stories, but it was the femicides that always caught my attention.
Did you immediately think, “This is a story I have to tell” or did you think, “How could I possibly tell this story?”
It is one I definitely felt like I had to tell. How could I say no to such an amazing opportunity to bring light to these stories and spread awareness about this issue?
I don’t know about you, but I can barely get myself to read about these atrocities, let alone go inside them…
Yes, I still feel affected. I don’t think anybody understands what a solo show means—the intense process you go through, alone. The loneliness and hurt gets deeper and deeper with the characters, every night. This is not a piece of fiction, unfortunately.
You play 14 different characters. How did you go about differentiating them in the solo stage version?
There was a lot of variation in the people featured in the way she spoke. Some of the characters were men, some were women, some were cynical, some hurt, some raged, and some mourned. After reading the script and working to develop all of these respective characters, I understood perfectly well not only what each of them wanted to say and why, but also why Isaac chose these particular stories to tell when they are amongst thousands.
How did you differentiate them for the recording when you cannot add in factors like body language or costumes?
That was really challenging, and I was a bit insecure about whether or not I would be able to pull it off. But when you have an amazing director, you have to just trust her directions. This was a very stripped-down play in the way Jo Bonney directed it—the changes in my voice and accent were really subtle. I had to really focus on the vocal work for the audio recording without having the visual clues.
What did you discover in each medium that you couldn’t have in the other?
On stage you can feel how you manipulate the audience, meaning I could tell when they were crying, breathing, smiling. Having the audience in the palm of your hand is one of the most beautiful things an actor can experience. Recording lacks the magic of feedback, energy thrown at the actors on stage. That’s why it is so challenging, but it has its own magic.
You are the first Mexican woman to have been nominated as an actor for Drama League, Drama Desk, and Lortel Awards. What do you think is the key next step to more parity when it comes to representation on stage?
As in every other key position: the narrative. I think Broadway as well as Hollywood has been ruled by white people, especially men. The way they see Mexicans is totally inaccurate. I will always be grateful to Audible, as they didn’t initially know who I was until the playwright Isaac Gomez proposed me for the show. They didn’t say no; they did their research, their homework, and offered me the job. Yes, it was a woman. So I think until the narrative changes, we will not have more leading smart, intelligent, Latino women on Broadway. We need to keep away from stereotypes and stop objectifying Latinas.
What do you say to audiences who may be reticent to “go there” and hear this story?
I think that the audience, as citizens of the world, want to hear amazing stories, regardless of genre, race, religion, etc. And real stories, so that we can learn and open our hearts and minds to know what’s going on in the world. This creates empathy and consciousness of our surroundings, and this I know will make us become better human beings.
Interested in learning more about the women of Juarez? Listen to the podcast Forgotten: Women of Juarez here.