A Weekend of ConeXión

I recently had the tremendous honor of participating in the 2018 Latinx Theatre Commons (LTC) Carnaval of New Latinx Work at DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

I was selected by the LTC, and counted in a cohort of some of the most exciting and respected practitioners in the industry today.  To say that I am honored, or humbled, does not even begin to express how much it meant for me to be in that space, and counted as a peer. 

I directed a play called Richard and Jane and Dick and Sally, written by Noah DIaz.

The classic “Dick & Jane” characters from the ubiquitous 1950s children’s books are grown-up and struggling to stay afloat in a home fractured by grief. Newly widowed Dick (now going by Richard) is raising his two children, Dick Jr. and Sally, who is deaf, while trying to manage a terminal illness that will inevitably leave them orphans. When he calls home his estranged sister, Jane, the family must reconcile and make peace with their shared and misunderstood histories before it’s time for him to go. A recipient of the Kennedy Center’s Jean Kennedy Smith Playwriting Award, Richard & Jane & Dick & Sally is a dramatic comedy about brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers, with sign language, talking dogs, picnic tables, and Snickers bars.

When the play was sent to me, I had a block of time between one thing and another, and stopped at Dante's Pizza for a beer, a slice, and a read, I did not expect to be so moved by the piece.  I definitely cried in my pizza, and grabbed a second beer. The play had all the elements I love, a strange, surreal, painful, magical flow, movement sequences that were several pages long, people who love one another who somehow cannot seem to see one another, and the frank and honest portrayal of women and POC. I immediately emailed Lisa Portes, the Carnaval Champion, and agreed to participate. 

I was paired with a fantastic design team, who I learned a lot from and who captured everything about the piece that inspired and moved me.  We only had two 1-hour meetings - and they came up with a fantastic, impressive, magical design that felt like it came straight out of a dream. The creative team included Mariana Sanchez (scenic design), Carolyn Mazuca (costume design), David R. Molina (sound design), Pablo Santiago (lighting design), and Dr. Liza Ann Acosta (dramaturgy).

The Carnaval itself was so much fun.  6 readings, multiple sessions and conversations, food, drinks, and the largest scale affinity space I have ever experienced in my professional life. You can see the spirit, charge, and power of the weekend captured in the opening ceremony, which was live streamed around the world. (Hi Mom and Dad!)

A conversation about SPARK

Written by Caridad Svich. Directed by Denise Yvette Serna.  January 20 - February 24, 2018 In the Pentagon Theatre at Collaboraction Studios (1579 N. Milwaukee Ave.)   GET TICKETS

Written by Caridad Svich.
Directed by Denise Yvette Serna. 
January 20 - February 24, 2018
In the Pentagon Theatre at Collaboraction Studios (1579 N. Milwaukee Ave.)


Rachel Bykowski:  What is your mission as a director?

Denise Yvette Serna: I aim to create compelling work that captivates and engages. I support artists in celebrating their shared experiences while reflecting on our diverse global community. Theatre is most meaningful when it holds space for intersectional dialogue, and advocates for positive social change. want folks to do the things they love and feel great about doing, and truly see one another.

RB: What attracted you to SPARK?

DYS: Often, when I have seen marginalized populations presented on stage we see the big moments in their lives. oming out, death, divorce, ig victories, finding love... That sort of stuff. And yet our lives consist of many more seemingly unspectacular moments. Mostly unspectacular moments. The little devastations and fleeting joys. SPARK gives these moments in the Glimord sisters' lives dignity and complexity.

RB:  What do you think Spark is about?

DYS: SPARK is partly about the ways devotion and sacrifice for the ones we care for can bruise our love for them. When extreme sacrifice is layered into the foundations of a relationship, resentment can creep up in love like vines, and become so entangled ith it you can't tell where the love ends and the resentment begins. I see this tendency often in female identified people and people of color I admire, and there isn't often social support to compensate them for the emotional labor they do for those around them. s the Glimord sisters attempt to articulate this phenomenon in their lives, I hope we, in turn, can start to speak about it in our own lives.

RB:  What is your favorite line in the play and why?

DYS: "We all get through what we get through, even if no one’s hangin’ any kind of flag for us." There are a lot of battles female identified people in this world face that go unseen, or worse, ignored. As we take the responsibility to tell one another’s’ stories, we’re hanging those victory flags for one another, and lifting one another up.

RB: Without giving too much away, what are you most excited to see in this production?


DYS: I'm excited for the laughter. For all this story has to say about coming to an understanding about things that have harmed you, there are certainly moments of joy. Laughter has been getting people through tough times and breaking down barriers between them for a long time. There are some lovely moments in the show where we get to laugh with the women on stage, to marvel with them at the world we are moving through - absurd and intimidating though it may be.