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Tony Meneses on writing EL BORRACHO

 EL BORRACHO written by playwright Tony Meneses comes to life on The Old Globe stage, after having been developed as a part of the Globes 2020 Powers New Voices Festival. Tony Meneses talks about creating this play, the excellent cast, and why he loves working with The Old Globe. EL BORRACHO is playing through March 20th at The Old Globe.

Playwright Tony Meneses
Playwright Tony Meneses

EL BORRACHO is a family dramedy set during a pivotal time. When Raul is sick, he moves back in with his ex-wife and their son to spend his final months with them. Playwright Tony Meneses says that this play, which is fairly biographical felt like a play that deserved to be explored.

“It‘s the story of my dad specifically, he passed away in 2006, and at that time my mom took him in for the last few weeks of his life. They were already divorced and had a very fraught relationship, but then they came together at the very end. I always thought that was a dramatically rich thing to explore one day, but because it was my Dad it took quite a while to the process of grief at the time.”

Inspiration is a funny thing, and Meneses who went through the Julliard Program credits playwright Marsha Norman who was co-director of the American Playwright’s Program at the time, for helping him realize this was a play he needed to write.

“One of her big philosophies is as writers at some point in our careers we have to write a play that really terrifies us and this play immediately came to mind. That is what this play was for me.

I was finally ready to put my version of the American family drama from a Latino point of view. Other playwrights have done this; Tennessee Williams did it in GLASS MENAGERIE, Arthur Miller, Eugene O’Neill have done it so it feels like there’s the precedent of writers who took a risk and exposed their families and it felt like if they can do it then I can do it too.”

Meneses says it’s important for everyone to know this play is pretty funny, so don’t be intimidated by the setting.

“This play is really funny, it’s a very personal and vulnerable story of mine but it is important to me that humor and levity are always present. Even when it happened to me in my own real life, as difficult as that period of time was, life still goes on and there are still pockets where you can find. This isn’t a heavy play at all, despite the subject matter there’s a lot of warmth and laughter that happen throughout.”

Zilah Mendoza as Alma, Matthew Martínez as David, and Jesse J. Perez as Raul in El Borracho, 2022. Photo by Jim Cox.
Zilah Mendoza as Alma, Matthew Martínez as David, and Jesse J. Perez as Raul in El Borracho, 2022. Photo by Jim Cox.

Featuring Jesse J. Perez, Zilah Mendoza, and Matthew Martínez Meneses says that this cast brings a lot of care and laughter to the stage with their portrayal in each performance.

“Jesse, I met at Julliard when he was teaching there. Jesse’s so good and I really wrote this play with him in mind so it worked out beautifully.

Matthew just walked in and he was so good, and there was an unspoken understanding that he was the person for this role, he’s a brilliant young actor.

Zeliha I’ve been a fan of from afar and as soon as the opportunity came up to play my mom for this show we all collectively landed on her and she’s been killing it. It’s an intimate show with only the three of them so there is a lot of care and support to do the lifting together.”

Coming back to work on this piece at The Old Globe has also been a wonderful experience that Meneses says feels like they’re invested in getting the best work done in the present and for the future.

“The greatest surprise of my career as a playwright is these institutions that find us and they one day call and said ‘We want to work with you. What do you have to work on and develop with us?’ The Old Globe and a few other theatres have really committed to me as a writer and created a relationship. In addition to this play, The Old Globe has commissioned me to write a new play, and it feels like they are really buying into my point of view, my voice, and me as a person and a writer. It feels like a friendship and they’ve been the loveliest to work with – you just feel like they care, they love making theatre, they love working artists, and they love playwrights and you feel very safe, and that it’s about getting the best work out there from you and the show itself.”

How to get tickets

EL BORRACHO is playing through March 20th at The Old Globe. Ticket and showtime information can be found at www.theoldglobe.org

All patrons who attend the EL BORRACHO will be required to either be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and present proof of vaccination or provide proof of the negative results of a COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of entering the theatre. Masks are required at all times while indoors. ​

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