Thelma Virata de Castro is a Filipinx dramatist whose plays explore identity and belonging. The TAG Project was produced by Playwrights Project with support from an Artist’s Grant from the William Male Foundation and a Rising Arts Leaders San Diego (RALSD) Virgil Yalong Quick Grant. “Hand Under Hand” and “The Fire in Me” were produced at Southwestern College October 2021 in an evening entitled Kasama. Her interview-based work with Asian Story Theater (AST) investigates history and race within communities, with subjects ranging from the incarceration of Japanese Americans to contemporary mixed racial identity. In 2017 she acted as a playwright and Community Liaison for AST’s California Humanities project Halo-halo, which centered San Diego’s Filipinx stories. Additional California Humanities projects: “The Fire in Me” (Access, Inc., 2019) and Saving Stories (New Village Arts, 2021). With AST she won The San Diego Foundation’s 2018-2019 Creative Catalyst Fellowship for “The Fire in Me,” which examined domestic violence in San Diego’s Filipinx community. Access Inc. awarded her the Esperanza Award for extraordinary commitment to eradicating domestic violence in San Diego County. AARP sponsored readings of “Hand Under Hand,” a musical focused on AAPI caregivers (music and lyrics by Emily Rutherford). Her work was featured in The Old Globe Powers New Voices Festival (2020, 2021). Thelma received two Hedgebrook residencies (1999, 2016) and attended the A Room of Her Own Foundation retreat (2015). She founded San Diego Playwrights (2013) and serves the Dramatists Guild on the Regional Affairs Committee and as San Diego Co-Ambassador. She’s been a dramaturge (San Diego Rep, Playwrights Project) and teaching artist (Playwrights Project) and is on the Board of Directors for San Diego Writers, Ink. She attended the Kennedy Center Playwriting Intensive. The San Diego Union-Tribune included her in its list of Phenomenal San Diego Women: Creators and Performers (2020).
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MORE ABOUT ME
I am a female playwright of color over the age of fifty. Every time I create, it is a political act. I teach playwriting in prison, and many of my students have expressed the freedom that writing gives them. I write because I can, despite the racism of Primarily White Institutions. I am drawn to challenging issues, such as domestic violence, racism, and caregiving. They are puzzles in which I need to find meaning. I take them apart and ask questions. I always look for the hope. My humor builds connection. I incorporate nature to ground and heal. My work unites through compassion, empathy, and grace. I am a caregiver to the audience.
WHAT I'M WORKING ON
Penumbra is a full length based on a one-act. Three characters, inspired by nature, dwell at the mouth of the San Diego River and are caught in a triangle of power: Osprey (river hawk), Gullie (seagull), and Ric (electricity). They are humans who become River Gods, yet colonialism and environmental abuse bear down on them. Hope comes through magic as the characters feel the power of their individuality. They clash, yet there is beauty in their quests for love, security, excitement, and integrity.
Filipinx, Global Majority, BIPOC, Humor, Hope, Interview-based, Community, Humanities
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