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Turn To Flesh Productions Teams Up With The Hispanic Federation And FUERZAfest For BACK TO YOU

Chris Rivera's Back to You explores the nature of love and survival through the lens of two queer teens in the Texas Valley

Turn To Flesh Productions Teams Up With The Hispanic Federation And FUERZAfest For BACK TO YOU

NYC-based Theater company Turn to Flesh Productions will start this season with Back to You, a collaboration with the Hispanic Federation and FUERZAfest.

Back to You follows Diego and Manny, two Mexican-American teens who have been lifelong friends in their small Texas Valley town. As they grow into young men, their bond deepens into something more than just friendship. Forced to grapple with their fear, shame, homophobia, and pressures of machismo culture, the pair grow up, grow closer, apart, and back again through the next 15 years.

"People keep asking me if this play is autobiographical," Rivera says. "Nothing that happens to the characters in the play has happened to me. So no, it is not autobiographical; but in a way, all my plays are emotionally autobiographical - funhouse mirrors looking at my life. These are certainly very personal subjects I have never talked about in my work before. I think growing up where I did, when I did, there was a lot of trauma having to hide who I was. Some of that was compounded by race and religion in my upbringing. After that, it can take many years to learn how to love yourself enough to be able to be good to someone else. That is ultimately what this show is about."

In 2016, the Hispanic Federation launched FUERZAfest, the first LGBTQ+ Latinx arts festival in the Northeast, which not only celebrates a vibrant community, but addresses critical issues impacting it. In light of the current sociopolitical climate, issues of transphobia, homophobia, and anti-gay violence resonate significantly amongst Latinx people, and FUERZAfest seeks to create positive change through art.

Rivera was cast as an actor in the first FUERZAfest. After this introduction to the organization, he submitted as a playwright the following years and was accepted three consecutive times. A revival of his first FUERZAfest play, Gender of Attraction, was brought to the Edinburgh Festival a few years later, and in 2020 - when the festival went online for the pandemic - Rivera was one of a select few artists across the globe whom the Hispanic Federation commissioned to create something on camera that felt like theater.

In spring 2020, while in lockdown in a Washington Heights, NYC apartment, Rivera had about a week to write, film, and edit a project. "I didn't want it to just feel like a cheap short film, so I thought about what conventions felt more like theater," he says. "At the time, Fleabag (originally a one-woman show and then a TV series) had just broken the rule of breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the camera so well. I thought, 'Alright I'll do something straight into camera.' The idea for Back to You was just a tiny seed, but then I wrote the monologue that became scene two. A boy whose brian is racing because he is sharing a bed with his crush/childhood best friend."

Rivera often inhabits a role in the first production of his plays, and was even named best supporting actor at FUERZAfest for his work in Our Own Odyssey. This will mark the first time he has played (at least in part) each role in his show. The role of Manny (the love-sick boy in the bed) will be inhabited by Rivera's long-time collaborator Joe Montoya. Rivera is slated to play Diego, Manny's best friend and the guarded young son of a single alcoholic father who has a few more wounds to heal.

The play is guaranteed to have life after this initial NYC production. A production at the Austin Rainbow Theatre is scheduled for January 2024. "Chris Rivera has accomplished the rare achievement of creating a story that is both intimate and profound. He takes us on a deeply personal journey of two relatable souls grappling with their identities and desires. Back to You is a timeless yet original love story that, at its core, is an exploration of what it means to be human," says Austin Rainbow Theatre Artistic Director Christopher Preslar.

Austin, Texas is often the first city many young LGBT teens move to when leaving the often oppressive small Texas town life the characters in the play experience. But Claire Gilligan Rogel, an audience member at the developmental reading of Back to You this past June, feels New York audiences will relate, as well. "Rivera takes a very particular story and reveals it to be relevant to the lives of everyone watching, no matter how different our experiences from those on stage," she says.

The production will be a limited run of three performances in New York, but hopes to announce more performances across the country soon.

Back to You by Chris Rivera

Performs 7:30 pm September 2, 3, and 4

Julia de Burgos Theater

1680 Lexington Ave

New York, NY 10029

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