Rachel Lynett, a playwright, producer, and teaching artist, has won Arizona Theatre Company’s (ATC) 2021 National Latinx Playwrights Award for Black Mexican. Set against current questions of inclusion and representation, Lynett’s play compels audiences to also ask: Who defines identity?
Lynett, the recipient of the 2021 Yale Drama Prize for the play Apologies to Lorraine Hansberry (You Too August Wilson), will receive $1,000 and a workshop of Black Mexican at Arizona Theatre Company. Lynett lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Black Mexican explores who gets to be a part of Latinidad. While Valery fights to prove Ximena isn’t Cuban, Alia has given up fighting that she is Latine. Meanwhile, as Zoe attempts to defend her wife, Ximena, she learns more and more about her own unconscious bias. As the women in Black Mexican discover the truth about their natal identities, they must confront their own internal biases that created an environment where a white woman could pass herself off as Cuban, but a Belizean would be shut down for identifying as Latine.
Arizona Theatre Company Resident Playwright Elaine Romero, reflecting on Lynett’s play, said, “In September 2020, Jessica A. Krug published an article on Medium that set the academic world afire. In ‘The Truth, and the Anti-Black Violence of My Lies,’ she revealed she had crafted her academic life and position at George Washington University around an assumed identity of being Afro-Latina. This fueled an existing conversation around anti-blackness the Latine theatre community was having with itself that had erupted around growing global conversations about race.
“Rachel Lynett’s passionate exploration of the true breadth of Latine identity, Black Mexican, places itself at the center of these urgent conversations, and came into the NLPA on the heels of this social change. False assumed identities might be easy to understand, but to rewire our country’s consciousness about what it means to be Afro-Latine requires a deep artistic exploration, such as Lynett’s. It stems from the truth of wanting to own one’s Latine roots in a world that does not have the imagination to see beyond black and white. It is my sincere hope that theatres will aggressively program Black Mexican for its relentless unveiling of so many truths and the corresponding conversations Lynett’s powerful play will ignite.”
Arizona Theatre Company associate artistic director Chanel Bragg observed, “It is a privilege and an honor to be on the selection committee to choose this year’s recipient of the National Latinx Playwrights Award. We received several notable submissions. However, Black Mexican was a clear stand out. One of our core values here at Arizona Theatre Company is the importance of conversation. Rachel Lynett’s thought-provoking piece examines the struggle of antiblackness within Latinidad. Black Mexican is not only topical to the moment, but pertinent to enforcing a much-needed dialogue in relation to antiblackness today.”
The National Latinx Playwrights Award was established in 1995. Of the past 26 recipients, only two have not yet gone on to productions across the U.S. and around the world. Romero noted that there are few other awards in the United States that capture the breadth and depth of the Latine experience those past winners have represented, and ATC’s long history of recognizing Latine voices is echoed in its embrace of new work that does not neatly comport to genre, form, or subject.
On Aug. 13, ATC’s weekly Facebook Live program, Hang & Focus Live, featured interviews with Lynett, Romero, and Eliana Pipes, the 2020 National Latinx Playwrights Award winner, whose play Dream Hou$e will receive its world premiere and productions this year at Long Wharf Theatre (CT), Alliance Theatre (GA), and Baltimore Center Stage (MD).
For highlights from the episode, visit https://vimeo.com/589597702/a14b3a484d
Learn more about Arizona Theatre Company at www.arizonatheatre.org.