Stages Repertory Theatre Presents SWIMMING WHILE DROWNING

Stages Repertory Theatre presents the regional premiere of Emilio Rodriguez's powerful new play Swimming While Drowning, October 3-21, 2018. A poetic coming-of-age story centered in a homeless LGBTQ shelter, the play originally premiered in 2017 at Milagro Theatre in Portland, OR, to rave reviews and was a finalist for Best Original Script at the 2017 Drammy Awards.

The deeply moving, funny and heartfelt drama explores the relationship between 15-year-old Angelo, who leaves home to avoid further disappointing his homophobic father, and his roommate at the shelter, the street-wise Mila. The tentative bond they develop inspires both to reach for understanding and self-acceptance.

"I was an outsider growing up for several reasons and for me, the homeless shelter is an authentic, actual experience but it is also a metaphor for feeling outside of the norm and feeling without a place-hence the idea of homelessness. Because I am a poet first, I try to think of my plays as a metaphor," author Emilio Rodriguez told 50 Playwrights Project.

Swimming While Drowning incorporates elements of poetry and spoken word, which are strong influences for Rodriguez. "I actually started out as a spoken word artist before I was a theatre major," he said in an interview with HowlRound. "I've always wanted to have a musical-esque quality to my work without becoming a lyricist. For me, spoken word gave the piece that feeling that it was a modern musical in which the poems took the place of songs."

The two-hander features two actors making their Stages debuts, Reginald Choyce and Isaiah Holloway. Alice Gatling, who most recently directed Stages' regional premiere of We are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South-West Africa, From the German Südwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915 at Stages, returns to direct.

"Swimming While Drowning is one of the most simple and beautiful stories we'll tell this year," Stages Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin said. "It covers a host of issues but at its core it is about how we develop our sense of self and how fragile the world can be for a teenager. It is also a play about resilience and the healing power of authentic friendship. Emilio finds remarkable poetry by crafting complicated, authentic, teen characters whose struggles are at once universal and very specific. The final moments of this play are as theatrical, magical and moving as any I have experienced in years. I can't wait to share this stunning play with our audiences."

A native of Riverside, CA, but currently living in Detroit, MI, Rodriguez's plays have been featured in various festivals including the inaugural Latinx Theatre Commons' Carnaval of New Plays, the Austin New Latino Playfest, the Great Plains Theatre Conference, and Activate Midwest, and have been performed at Milagro Theatre, Teatro del Pueblo, Queer Theatre Kalamazoo, and Theatre Nova. Prior to its first production at Milagro, Swimming While Drowning received a series of readings through organizations including the Latinx Theatre Commons Carnaval, Teatro de Pueblo, and the University of Houston.

A 2012 Williams Institute national study estimates that 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ, in part because these teens may face a lack of understanding and acceptance from their families or even be told to leave home. Houston's Montrose Center, a local LGBTQ support organization, has identified additional challenges to quantifying LGBTQ youth homelessness in the South, where bias and discrimination have been historically even more pronounced than on a national level. Homeless LGBTQ youth are at greater risk of being victims of violence, abuse and exploitation, becoming addicted to alcohol and/or drugs, or turning to prostitution or other illegal activities as a means of financial survival. They may also have difficulty finding shelters, federal programs and other housing that will accept them, especially those who are transgender [National Coalition for the Homeless].

Performance times are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 2:30pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 2:30pm

Regular tickets start at $25 with savings Wednesday - Friday plus Saturday matinees for groups of 6 or more, or Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees for groups of 10 or more. To purchase, call the Stages Box Office at 713.527.0123 or reserve online at

Founded in 1978, Stages has grown to become Houston's leading midsize theatre company, the city's sixth largest nonprofit performing arts producer overall, and the largest outside of the downtown theatre district. With deep roots in the Houston community, Stages is a greenhouse for new talent and innovative ideas, and a place for art, artists and audiences to thrive.

For more than 40 years, Stages' focus on producing a broad scope of plays and musicals in an intimate setting has generated critical acclaim and created a highly engaged, connected community of patrons and artists. Stages is one of the region's leading artistic employers, producing an average of 12 productions per year totaling more than 375 performances and welcoming 65,000+ visitors each season. Almost all of Stages' shows are rehearsed and constructed on-site in Houston, brought to life by an exceptional community of locally-based artists and craftspeople along with occasional guest directors, actors and designers from around the world.

For more than a decade Stages has made a strong investment in nurturing emerging artists and craftspeople who have now become field leaders and working professionals. Stages' learning opportunities include student matinees, performance and production internship programs for college students and conservatory-style training for middle and high school students.

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