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Interview: Raúl Castillo on AMERICAN (TELE)VISIONS Being 'Familiar' to Him

american (tele)visions runs at New York Theatre Workshop through October 16.

american (tele)visions

Raúl Castillo is currently playing Octavio in american (tele)visions at the New York Theatre Workshop, which he describes as one of the best plays he's ever read.

Written by Victor I. Cazares, american (tele)visions is an explosive collision between the American Dream and the American Nightmare-the story of an undocumented Mexican family.

Combining live performance, live camera feeds, and pre-recorded videos, the play also stars Clew, Ryan J. Haddad, Elia Monte-Brown, and Bianca "b" Norwood.

BroadwayWorld sat down with Castillo to discuss how american (tele)visions and its characters are "familiar" to him, what audiences can expect from his upcoming film The Inspector, and what he is looking for in future projects after thinking he was done with theatre.

What your initial impression of american (tele)visions was when you first read it?

I think my first thought when I finished reading was like, "Who wrote this? Who's responsible for this?" I went back to the front page and looked up Victor [I. Cazares'] name and Googled them immediately because I was so curious, having never heard of them, why this writer hadn't cross my path. I was really excited by the play. It's one of the best plays I've read in my life. One of my favorite plays ever. I thought I was kind done doing theater, to be honest, and american (tele)visions sort of revived that that urging to be on stage.

There are a lot of heavy themes tackled in the play. How did you approach the piece and this character?

We're really lucky as a company to have access to Victor. Victor was there from day one, they're still at the performances now. Between Victor and Rubén Polendo, our director, we had an incredible resource center. This man is very familiar to me. He felt like someone in my family. He felt very tangible. This whole family of characters, we don't normally see these people on stage and they are people that are very close to me. I was excited to get to bring him specifically to life.

american (tele)visions
Raúl Castillo and Clew in american (tele)visions

You're working alongside such a great cast. What is it like performing with them?

It's been an absolute love fest. A complete like joy to come to work every day with this cast and company at large. We formed a family. These were all actors that were new to me, as was the play. But I've fallen in love with the four of them. I couldn't have asked for a better company of actors to return to the theater with. They're very giving. They're very, like I said, joyful. We really formed this family bond together. I feel like I have friends for life with this group. They make my job very easy.

The production also incorporates live camera feeds and pre-recorded video into the play. What was it like added those into the mix?

Yeah, Theater Mitu is largely responsible for the aesthetic of the show and I couldn't think of a more genius collaboration between the Workshop and Theater Mitu. This play is written to incorporate televisions and cameras and microphones but the way Rubén Polendo, our director, and Theater Mitu brought their aesthetic and their methodology to this process was intrinsic to the work. I'm a big fan of like Miranda July. I saw Miranda July perform like years ago and I remember watching her perform live with screens onstage and microphones, this was like early 2000s I saw her work and I was blown away by it. I've always wanted to do something that was multimedia since I saw her work and I've never had the opportunity to do something as complicated and unique as this play. But's in the play and I think it merits it.

Rubén and this company, they're almost made for this play because Theater Mitu works in multimedia in this interdisciplinary way that I think was almost like this play, even though it wasn't, it feels like it was written specifically for Rubén and Theater Mitu.

What do you hope that audiences take away from the play after they see it?

I hope that they either see themselves onstage in ways that they haven't before and I hope that it speaks to the immigrant story. I'm first generation, I'm also from the border. Even though the play doesnt specifically take place on the border, it's sort of nebulous where it takes place, it takes place even though the doesn't specifically take place on the border sort of nebulous where it does take place, it could take place in Arkansas, could take place in El Paso, it could take place like today, yesterday, tomorrow. It lives on many different planes. But I do hope that they are exposed to the immigrant experience and what it is to be in this country and what it is to leave your homeland and sacrifice so much to give your kids a better life.

I also want to touch on your new movie, The Inspection, which comes out next month. What can audiences expect from this film?

It's interesting that I'm doing this play now as The Inspection is being birthed because there's a lot of themes that cross over. A24 screened the film for me a couple weeks ago and watching Gabrielle Union, who plays Jeremy Pope's character's mother, I was floored by her performance, living in this story of american (tele)visions where I'm playing a father to a young, queer boy who died and watching Gabby Union's performance was absolutely devastating. She does such great work, Jeremy Pope does incredible work.

Elegance Bratton, our director, drew from his own experience of being a young, homeless kid in New York and having to come to a crossroads in his life and lifting in the Marines because he sort of saw no way out and he needed real change and that journey, being a young person and being lost and needing real change in your life was very personal for me. When I read the story, I was very moved by it. I think Elegance has done a really wonderful job. Jeremy Pope is incredible in the lead, as Bokeem Woodbine, who is one of the drill instructors and like I said, Gabby, and the whole ensemble cast is incredible. But there's a lot of themes that run through that film that also mirror this play, which I find really profound.

Earlier in our conversation, you said that you thought that you might have been done with theater. Looking into the future, what would get you excited or what are you sort of looking for in upcoming projects?

I think I'm looking for institutions to take chances on, specifically, Latinx theatre-makers. I feel like we sort of get swept under the rug a bit and I've been disillusioned at times by the American theatre institutions that I want to see the institutions really go to bat for us. I want to see them take chances on new writers and new stories and stories that aren't such a sure bet. I think that Jim Nicola really went to bat for this play. Jim Nicola who stepping down from New York Theater Workshop. I want stories that from the fringe and I want institutions to vouch for us because I've been so let down in the past. It's 20 years since the New York Year workshop has produced play by a Latin playwright and I don't want it to be another 20 years before they do another one.

Watch the trailer for The Inspection here:

Photo: Stephanie Diana

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Reviews: AMERICAN (TELE)VISIONS Opens At New York Theatre Workshop Photo
New York Theatre Workshop and Theater Mitu  announced  the full cast and creative team for the World Premiere of american (tele)visions by NYTW Tow Playwright-in-Residence Victor I. Cazares (Pinching Pennies with Penny Marshall), directed by NYTW Usual Suspect Rubén Polendo ().

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