Charise Castro Smith's 'El Huracán' Takes Top Prize in Arizona Theatre Company 2017 National Latino Playwriting Awards

El Huracán, Charise Castro Smith's heartfelt story of capturing love and loss, is the winner of Arizona Theatre Company's 2017 National Latino Playwriting Award.

Smith, a Miami-based playwright whose previous works include Feathers and Teeth and The Hunchback of Seville, will receive the $1,000 top prize.

The 2017 runner-up is Benjamin Benne's q u e r e n c i a: an imagined autobiography about forbidden fruits. He will receive $500. Louis Varela Nevaer's Fidel was a finalist.

"El Huracán sensitively captures the love and loss of one's loved ones, while still living, and also the loss of oneself," said ATC Playwright in Residence Elaine Romero. "Our judges were impressed with the heart at the core of this text and the humanity and theatricality of its execution."

The story takes place in Miami, on the eve of Hurricane Andrew where three generations of women huddle together to weather the storm. Beset by late-stage Alzheimer's, Valeria, the family matriarch and a former magicienne, wanders between present-day family tensions the siren call of her memories. But, 30 years later, in the wake of a seemingly unforgivable mistake, the family is faced with the impossible necessity of reconciliation. Inspired by Shakespeare's The Tempest, El Huracán is a story about what we carry when we're forced to leave everything behind.

Smith, a playwright, television writer and actor, is currently under commission by South Coast Rep and Trinity Repertory Theatre. Television writing credits include The Exorcist (Fox) and The Death of Eva Sofia Valdez, an original drama pilot for ABC. Select acting credits include Antony and Cleopatra (Royal Shakespeare Company/Public Theater), An Enemy of the People (Baltimore Center Stage) and The Good Wife (CBS).

In q u e r e n c i a: an imagined autobiography about forbidden fruits, Milo's favorite fruit are bananas. Also, he just turned 13 and is grappling with his sexual identity. If that weren't complicated enough, his estranged aunt has just been released from jail and the gym class bully has picked him as the new target. Having never left his neighborhood in L.A., he dreams about what it would be like to escape. In the meantime, at least he has his neighbor, Zoe, who has sworn to be his BFF with a drop of blood. And, in their world, blood is supposed to be the strongest bond.

Benne's plays include a mortality-themed trilogy: Terra Incognita, at the very bottom of a body of water, and What Washed Ashore / Astray. His work has been produced and developed with The Lark's Playwrights' Week (NY), Pillsbury House Theatre (MN), Annex Theatre (WA), Forward Flux Productions (WA), Umbrella Project (WA), Parley (WA), and Seattle Repertory Theatre (WA), among others. He has been a finalist for the Princess Grace Award and O'Neill National Playwrights Conference.

Fidel, exiled to Mexico with his brother Raúl and Ernesto "Che" Guervara, plot to overthrow the government of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. What Fidel does not plan, however, is falling in love with Mexican school teacher, Lia Cámara. He must abandon her to wage revolution in Cuba. Months after consolidating power, however, he sends for her. Received as a dignitary, she tours Cuba, and decides to stay, throwing herself into establishing a rural school system to bring literacy and education to millions of Cuban peasants. In short order, however, she begins to have misgivings as the Revolution takes a dark, totalitarian turn. Torn between her love for Fidel, who has asked her to marry him and become the First Lady of Cuba, and her convictions, she decides to abruptly leave Cuba. Heartbroken, Fidel goes about his Revolution, lashing out with anger and terror against political opponents. But, across the decades, the former lovers remain very much in each other's minds - and hearts - with the last contact place in November 2015.

Previous winners of the National Latino Playwriting Award have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize, featured at the Humana Festival and at regional theaters across the country. The 2016 winner was Desi Moreno-Penson's Beige.

Recent winner The River Bride by Marisela Treviño Orta will be produced as part of ATC's 51st Season. Other past recipients include Matthew Paul Olmos, Kristoffer Diaz, Carlos Murillo, Luis Alfaro, Octavio Solis, Raul Garza and Karen ZacarÍas. Felix Pire's winning play The Origins of Happiness in Latin was previously produced by ATC.

The 2017 National Latino Playwriting Award is supported by an Art Works grant from the National Endowment of the Arts as part of the Voices of a New America company-wide initiative.

Submissions for the 2018 National Latino Playwriting Award are now open. Latino playwrights residing in the United States, its territories or Mexico are encouraged to submit scripts for the award. Each script will be read and evaluated by a culturally diverse panel of theatre artists; finalists will be judged by ATC artistic staff.

Submission Procedure

We respectfully ask that you adhere to the following application requirements:

Submit a single script via U.S. mail and email. Scripts must be postmarked by December 31, 2017.

Please include a title page on the script that includes the play's title, the author's name, and contact information (including a phone number, mailing address and email).

Include a cover letter of no more than one page, describing the play's developmental history, and how the play fits into the playwright's broader career trajectory.

Submit manuscripts to:

National Latino Playwriting Award

Arizona Theatre Company

343 S. Scott Ave. Tucson, AZ 85701


The award is open to all Latino playwrights currently residing in the United States, its territories, or Mexico.

Scripts may be in English, English and Spanish, or solely in Spanish. (Spanish-language and bilingual scripts must be accompanied by an English translation.)

Plays must be unpublished and professionally unproduced at the time of submission.

Full-length and one-act plays (minimum length: 50 pages) on any subject will be accepted.


The physical scripts become the property of Arizona Theatre Company and will not be returned. In this case, "property" means the physical property of the theatre, not the intellectual property or any rights to the play.

The winner will be notified by August 1, 2018.

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