Last year playwright Rafael Antonio Renderos visited his family home in El Salvador, during that journey he reflected upon his life as a gay man and how different it could be if his parents hadn’t escaped the civil war. While exploring gay culture in that area, Rafael encountered an environment riddled with violence.
With World Pride just on the horizon for Toronto, it’s the perfect time for Rafael to debut Salvador at the Toronto Fringe, a production created after numerous interviews with homosexual individuals living in El Salvador. I took a moment to speak with Rafael about his show and the impact World Pride has on it. Keep reading for our conversation below.
1) Describe your show in seven words.
Two intimate, personal journeys exploring human psyche.
2) What sets your show apart from other Fringe shows?
It’s a great mixture of drama, humour and a pinch of glamour, this show provides audiences with a bit of insight into a marginalized community in a part of the world that, I think, unless you’re going there for some all-inclusive style fun, often gets forgotten about. We’ve also got this really amazing Spanish music that might encourage people to explore that genre some more. Going further down that track, it’s also an opportunity to see a story from a Latin-Canadian perspective – theatre is often dominated by stories told from a white perspective and we’d love to encourage more diversity.
3) What is the most interesting or surprising thing you have learned from in the process of developing your show?
The most interesting thing was just how much I took for granted the right to express my sexuality. I had become complacent and in a way, didn’t give my own community a lot of thought. I may not ever want to get married, but I have the option. I may not ever want to adopt children, but I have the option. If I’m dating someone, we’re walking down the street, I feel like kissing him, I really wouldn’t think twice. That’s not really the reality for the gay community in El Salvador. So the experience kind of woke me up again, reminded me how important it is to have a voice.
4) Your play shines light on the gay rights movement in Central America, how it currently stands and how the area’s cultural history has shaped it, with World Pride on the horizon here in Toronto, what weight does that event hold on Salvador?
World Pride is such an important event in that it reminds us we’re part of a larger community and we’re all struggling alongside one another. Our specific concerns might be different according to region, but the goal is the same: to legitimize our position in the world. The fact that the first time it’s being held in North America is in Toronto just underlines how varied and inclusive this city can be and how far we’ve come as a nation. The feeling of solidarity this event fosters is, to me, what’s most important. Hopefully World Pride will leave audiences primed to take in a story that encourages them to keep that buzz going.
5) The creation of this stemmed from a very personal journey, what struggles did you encounter along the way and how did you overcome them?
I had conducted a number of interviews, and everyone had a legitimately interesting story, and really fantastic insight to offer. So there was a struggle in trying to figure out what to include and what not to include. That was especially difficult in paring down the story of Joaquín Caceres, a story which ended up serving as Salvador‘s backbone. Joaquín is a human rights and AIDS activist who started Asociacíon Entre Amigos which is a place where gay men and women can go to educate themselves about their sexuality and their rights as citizens. He and his partner William Hernandez have come up against so much animosity while trying to make life for the LGBT community just a little better. Joaquín and I spoke for a full one hundred minutes and I only have ninety minutes in which to tell a story that also weaves in a version of my own experience. The fact that my Spanish isn’t so hot further complicated that process. And you don’t want to reduce a person’s life to a kind of greatest hits, but, what serves the overall story and what you’re trying to communicate to an audience? It’s tough, but sometimes your job as a writer is brutal and you’ve got to be cutthroat. I feel through using his (translated) words, I’ve still managed to communicate his vital essence.
Salvador plays at the Annex Theatre.
July 03 at 10:30 PM
July 05 at 08:45 PM
July 08 at 06:15 PM
July 10 at 05:15 PM
July 11 at 01:45 PM
July 12 at 09:15 PM
July 13 at 01:45 PM
Show length: 80 minutes
– $10 for adults at the door (cash only) or $12 in advance (Visa or MasterCard, service charge included)
– Available via www.fringetoronto.com, by telephone at 416-966-1062 (ext.1), or at the door.