Andrew Siañez-De La O ‘17 saw patriotism and Hispanic culture blend while growing up next to an immigration fort. His experiences in El Paso, Texas, inspired two of his plays that are debuting on opposite coasts.
Siañez-De La O finished Sangre Mía through a fellowship with Boston’s Company One Theatre and now works at Northeastern University. He is also working on Rain On Mars (Hecho a Mano) through a remote fellowship with Echo Theater Company in Los Angeles.
Determined to diversify the types of characters and narratives represented in theater, Siañez-De La O drew on his own experiences as a Latino-American from El Paso for his plays. His first play, Sangre Mía, is based on his memories of growing up along the Texas-Mexico border. Rain On Mars (Hecho a Mano), a work-in-progress, is a science-fiction play about two siblings traveling to Mars.
“Spanish finds its way [into] everything I write,” he said.
Sangre Mía tells the story of a soldier who returns from the Iraq War and becomes an immigration officer in El Paso. The main character, influenced by the career path of Siañez-De La O’s stepfather, wrestles with the political and racial implications of his new job.
Growing up near Mexico, Siañez-De La O remembers the military presence nearby in Fort Bliss, and the prevalence of American flags and immigration officers.
“El Paso, even though it’s a very Hispanic, Latinx city, is also a very patriotic city,” he said. “Something that had always been on my mind is this intersection of patriotism and Hispanic culture and the military.”
To document other Latinx narratives, Siañez-De La O said he extended beyond his personal story.
“A big part of the Latinx narrative is immigration, but there’s so much more to it,” he said. “The closer I can get to representing that entire spectrum—that’s my goal.”
Siañez-De La O said he developed his playwriting skills with the help of his Emerson playwriting professor Andrew Clarke.
Clarke workshopped Sangre Mía and nominated the play for the Betsy Carpenter Playwriting Award, which Siañez-De La O won. He said Siañez-De La O possesses a work ethic that enables him to understand theater in all its aspects, leading to his success in playwriting.
“Universality is, I think, his greatest strength,” Clarke said. “He draws you into his world and makes you see the connection between his world and yours.”
Even at Emerson, Siañez-De La O’s hometown influenced his work. He published a collection of short stories titled Lo Siento, Miguel through Emerson’s Wilde Press that centered around life in his neighborhood of El Paso, El Sala.
“I remember hearing back from so many people about how proud they are,” he said. “Just hearing people who don’t often get to say ‘I saw myself in something’ say that to me is really the drive for what I’m trying to do.”
Rain on Mars (Hecho a Mano) features two siblings that travel to Mars in order to escape the burdens of Earth. Siañez-De La O set the story in outer space because it allows his characters to exist outside of the racial and political struggles associated with their Latinx heritage.
“In science fiction, you’re able to explore a character for who they are without the constant veil of their identity,” Siañez-De La O said.
As Sianez-De La O eagerly awaits for theaters to pick up Sangre Mía, he also has plans for the future. He hopes to create a sitcom-like series depicting a Latinx family for theater.
“Not George Lopez specifically,” he said. “But that’s what I’m interested in, that sort of Hispanic-family sitcom.”
No matter what he produces, he said he will always remember his roots.
“The audience that I always try to keep in mind is the neighborhood,” he said. “The barrio I grew up in in El Paso, El Sala.”