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A Love Letter To Latinas: Real Women Have Curves 12

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.

CV It was really exciting, I was fresh out of college. I had just moved to Dallas.

But you didn’t get the part.

CV No I didn’t. But that’s how it goes.

Now the role is being played by Tatiana Lucia Gant. And she is local, as you were. Was that important to you?

“Real Women Have Curves” runs through May 19. Details.
CV It was very important to me. At the time, the Theater Center was well known for casting very few local actors and importing a lot of talent. And I lost the role to someone from out of town. I think that part of it really did stay with me. So it was important to me this time around that most of the ladies, but especially Ana, should be a local actress.

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?

CV I could see a scenario in which that would be played for laughs. But it was very, very important to me that it be played for all the seriousness that that situation actually is. It’s going to be funny because there’s a joke at the end of it. But it is a real fear. I can’t imagine having to go through life having to hide.

I don’t think that’s funny.

And it’s not like the experience of that fear simply goes away when your situation changes.

CV No, no. I think it’s like a phantom limb.   When somebody cuts off a limb, and years later, you still feel that. Part of it is always there.

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.

CV Yeah, we have come a long way, but have we? I mean,the fact that we’re still having this conversation and the fact that we still use words like “brave,” quite frankly, to describe it, suggests to me that maybe we haven’t. What is brave about it? It’s your body. It’s who you are.

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.

CV Yes. To me, this play in 2019, is about culture positivity. Sometimes, as Latinos in this country, whether you are first generation, second generation, sixth generation, we’re still invisible, to a certain extent.

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.