Josefina Lopez wrote “Real Women Have Curves” almost 30 years ago. The story of five Latina women working in a small sewing factory in Los Angeles is set in 1987, when the Amnesty Act gave many undocumented immigrants, including Lopez, the opportunity to become legal residents. Now, the Dallas Theater Center is staging the play. In State of the Arts, Christie Vela, the director, talked to me about how the work still resonates today.
You auditioned for this play in the role of Ana, a young aspiring writer who works in her sister’s small sewing factory. That was way back in the ’90s, when the Dallas Theater Center was first putting this play on.
But you didn’t get the part.
Now the role is being played by Tatiana Lucia Gant. And she is local, as you were. Was that important to you?
The fear of an immigration raid on this small factory runs throughout the play. And one of the women is undocumented, the rest all have their green cards. Yet they sometimes forget and hide when they think an ICE agent is coming. There are a lot of ways you could play this. How did you approach it?
I don’t think that’s funny.
And it’s not like the experience of that fear simply goes away when your situation changes.
In one hilarious scene, all the women wind up in their underwear, comparing their bodies. And we have come such a long way in the area of body positivity. Yet it still felt radical and brave to see women of all ages and body sizes on stage like that.
Josefina Lopez [the playwright] is fond of saying your body, your stretch marks, it shows the journey of your life.
And you know, I’ve done shows where I had to take off my clothes. And when I was heavier, audience members would come up to me and say, “Oh, you are so brave.” I don’t know that it’s brave, it’s just my job.
Really at the end of the day, this play is a lot about just being seen.
And so I really wanted to kind of take back our culture and say, this is what we are. The women in this play, this is what you think we are, this is what you feel comfortable, feeling who we are. And then, the world breaks open at the end of the play, and you see who WE know we are. So, I wanted to make sure we put our mark as Latinos, definitively, on the show.