BWW Interview: Playwright Marisela Trevino Orta and WOLF AT THE DOOR at NJ Rep

BWW Interview:  Playwright Marisela Trevino Orta and WOLF AT THE DOOR at NJ Rep

New Jersey Repertory Company (NJ Rep) is proud to present the National New Play Network rolling world premiere of Marisela Treviño Orta's Wolf at the Door from October 18 to November 18. Inspired by Latino folklore, the play draws upon legend and mythology to tell an archetypal and magical story that navigates dangerous waters. It is about survival and the struggle to find the strength to achieve personal freedom by vanquishing a wolf in sheep's clothing. had the pleasure of interviewing Marisela about her career and the upcoming show at NJ Rep.

Marisela Treviño Orta is working on her grim Latinx fairytale cycle-plays which include The River Bride (2013 National Latino Playwriting Award Co-Winner, 2016 Oregon Shakespeare Festival world premiere), Wolf at the Door (2016 Kilroys List), and Alcira. Her other plays include: American Triage (2012 Repertorio Español Nuestras Voces Finalist); Ghost Limb (2017 Brava Theatre world premiere); Heart Shaped Nebula (2012 O'Neill National Playwrights Conference Semi-Finalist, 2015 Shotgun Players world premiere); Braided Sorrow (2006 Chicano/Latino Literary Prize in Drama, 2008 world premiere at Su Teatro in Denver, CO, 2009 Pen Center USA Literary Award in Drama); and Woman on Fire (2016 Camino Real Productions world premiere).

We'd love to know about your early interest in writing.

My parents were educators-they encouraged reading in our household and I remember reading a lot as a child. I think my interest in writing stems from that love of reading.

We had an Apple IIGS desktop when I was a kid. On it I wrote short stories and was studiously working on my "novel"-it's somewhere in storage at my parents' home. In high school my writing shifted from fiction to poetry and I wrote a lot of bad, angst-y poems-which I think is a phase for all poets. We mimic really bad tropes, but while doing so we learn how to write and then how to break form and find our own voice. I was a poet for many years. My first MFA was in poetry at the University of San Francisco and that's where I found my way to theatre.

Who are a few of the people who have inspired or supported your career?

I found my way to playwriting quite haphazardly and if it hadn't been for a few key supporters, I might not have continued down this path. My first play was accepted into the Bay Area Playwrights Festival which is produced annually by the Playwrights Foundation. I felt immediately embraced by the Playwrights Foundation and its Artistic Director Amy Mueller. Their support early on made me rethink how I viewed myself as a writer. At first I would tell people I was a poet who had written a play. Then a poet and playwright. And now I tell people I'm a playwright who came from poetry. Other advocates I have to mention are playwright Christine Evans, theatremaker Travis Bedard, and playwright Octavio Solis.

I took a playwriting class with Christine while writing my first play. She was the one who encouraged me to submit my play to the Bay Area Playwrights Festival.

Travis Bedard is one of those individuals who connects others and is a champion of new artists in our field. Travis is also the person who convinced me to get on Twitter which had a profound effect on my career-I got my first big LORT production through Twitter.

Finally, fellow Texan and playwright Octavio Solis has been a wonderful and supportive unofficial mentor. There were so many early opportunities that came my way because Octavio recommended me to others in the field. I can't thank him enough.

Tell us a little about your "Latinx Fairy tale Cycle."

Wolf at the Door is actually the play that kicked off this cycle, even though it's the second play to be finished. I had originally set out to write a myth. I love Greek mythology and include quite a bit of it in my other plays. While I set out to write my own myth, I didn't feel like it was operating the way a myth does.

Then while re-watching Jim Henson's The Storyteller-a series that included people and puppets retelling the stories collected by The Brothers Grimm-I had a revelation. I was writing a fairy tale. With this new framework, the play made sense to me and I had familiar symbols and tropes from the Western fairy tale canon that I could use to inform the play.

I think of the plays in this cycle as cultural hybrids-like me. The plays find inspiration from Latin American mythology and are informed by Western fairy tales.

There are currently three plays in the cycle-poets like the rhythm of three's. There's The River Bride which had its premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival,Wolf at the Door which is having its moment now with this National New Play Network rolling world premiere, and there's Alcira which I am still working on.

Do you have any advice for aspiring playwrights?

This isn't my advice, I read this on the website of playwright Adam Szymkowicz and I found it incredibly helpful. "It can take ten years before you see any movement [in your career]." Hearing that was very freeing. You don't have to feel like a failure because it's been three years and you haven't had a major production. Use those first ten years to develop your craft, to build a network of peers and collaborators, and I think you'll find that by the end of those ten years you'll see traction-you'll suddenly find yourself working more and more.

What inspired "Wolf at the Door?"

I had a nightmare. I retold it to my coworkers, explaining that in the dream I was being chased by a pack of wolves. They followed me into my house and I was in my bedroom holding the door closed-it wouldn't lock-and watching as wolf teeth were piercing the wood around the door handle. Then I woke up. When I said the phrase, "there was a wolf at the door," a coworker stopped me and said, "That would make a great name for a play." I don't usually work that way, titles usually come to me later. But that's how this play started.

How do you like working with NJ Rep?

New Jersey Repertory Company has been very welcoming. It's always great when you hear someone from the theatre say, "We want you to be happy."

The theatre has been very supportive throughout our process and I feel they are most definitely taking care of us-me, my cast, and my director.

And I love that they are major champion of new work-it's all they produce. I'd absolutely work with them again.

What would you like audiences to know about the show?

While it's a fairy tale, it is definitely not for children.

This is a dark and troubling narrative. Think of the original stories collected by The Brothers Grimm-those tales were often violent because they were for children navigating a dangerous world. Well, this play and the other plays in this cycle are for adults navigating their emotional lives.

For the future?

Well, this is the season of the wolf. After this production at New Jersey Rep, Wolf at the Door will go to Kitchen Dog Theater in Dallas, then Milagro in Portland, and finally finish the National New Play Network rolling world premiere at Halcyon Theatre in Chicago.

As for me, I'm working on two new plays. This season I'm a member of The Goodman Theatre's Playwrights Unit, so I'll be working on my new play Decemberas part of that residency. It's a love story that spans twenty years told in three scenes.

And as part of the incoming class of Core Writers at the Playwrights' Center, next summer I will workshop my adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit. It's going to be an epic six-hour play. I've already written half of it and it's longer than anything I've ever written before. I'm excited to finish it and hear it out loud.

Anything else, absolutely anything you want BWW NJ readers to know!

I think your questions covered everything. Thanks!

Follow Marisela on Twitter: @MariselaTOrta

BWW Interview:  Playwright Marisela Trevino Orta and WOLF AT THE DOOR at NJ Rep

Tickets, Subscriptions for NJ Rep are currently available. The theatre is located at located at 179 Broadway in Long Branch. Wolf at the Door runs from October 18 to November 18, 2018. Previews are Thursday and Friday, October 18 and 19 at 8:00 PM, and Saturday, October 20 at 3:00 PM. A special talk-back with the playwright and director will be held after the first preview, Thursday, Oct 18. Opening night with reception is Saturday, October 20 at 8:00 PM. Regular performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 PM; Saturdays at 3:00 PM and 8:00 PM; Sundays at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $50 (opening night with reception, $60; premium seating + $5). All tickets may be subject to a service charge. Annual subscriptions are $225 per person. For additional information call 732-229-3166 or visit

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Marisela Treviño Orta

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