Thursday, December 13, 2012

5 Questions with Dania Ramos

The 2nd reading in our FORUM "Soundings" series is HIELO by Dania Ramos. This reading will begin at 7pm on December 15, 2012, and will be held at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Dreyfuss Theatre, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ. Click here for directions. Click here for a printable map of the campus (the Dreyfuss Theatre is located in Building 9).

In Cayey, Puerto Rico, Lucia finds her hours cut at the local big box store. So she decides to start her own business selling limber, a smooth ice treat. She finds herself encroaching on the territory of Antonio whose piraqua, a shaved ice treat, is a popular concession at the local park. We have in this romantic comedy the beginnings of an ice war that includes Lucia’s daughter, her budding entrepreneur friend, and a champion skateboarder spy.

Dania Ramos co-created Mi Casa Tu Casa, a bilingual holiday show produced by Luna Stage. She’s currently developing the stage adaptation of Pura Belpre’s children’s novel Firefly Summer. Dania was a participant of the 2011-2012 New Jersey Emerging Women’s Playwriting Project at PTNJ. She received a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Playwriting Fellowship in 2003. Dania’s a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and received an MA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University.

1. What inspired you to write HIELO?There’s a bit of family history that sparked the homegrown business storyline in Hielo. For years, my grandmother really did sell homemade limber ice from her house to save money for cigarettes. According to my father, she ended up having cash left over to put toward household bills. In the script, that account morphed into a battle of frozen treats, which took on a life of its own. Overall, I wanted to write a play set in present-day Puerto Rico that had certain cultural touchstones, but still felt universal through its characters and their journeys.

2. Can you tell us a little about your experience co-creating Mi Casa Tu Casa? How was it similar/different from the way you usually write?Jane Mandel and Mona Hennessy of Luna Stage came up with the concept for a bilingual holiday show—a mix of music and storytelling—which ultimately became Mi Casa Tu Casa. The other co-creators are Michael Aquino (my husband), Deivis Garcia, and Jane Mandel, who also directed the show.

It was a true collaborative effort throughout the entire development process of Mi Casa. Early on, we only had big chunks of the script—four tales, eight songs, a classic holiday poem, and personal memories written by cast members. We had to find the form in which these elements could be threaded together into a seamless performance piece. Half of the show is music but since the band and storytellers rehearsed separately in the beginning, the integration of music, storytelling, and transitions weren’t solidified until pretty late in the rehearsal period. Another unique aspect of the play is that only certain sections of the script are set while other portions change depending on who is performing in the production. In a sense, I feel less like the playwright of Mi Casa and more like a weaver of other people’s stories.

[Editor's Note: Luna Stage brought back Mi Casa, Tu Casa this year. The final performances are this weekend.]

3. You are working on a stage adaptation of Pura Belpre’s children’s novel Firefly Summer. How do you go about translating a book for the stage?
In developing the adaptation for Pura Belpre’s Firefly Summer, I’m focusing on capturing Belpre’s delightful voice and staying true to the main story arc of the novel, which takes place about a century ago on a small family farm in Puerto Rico. A main part of this process is transforming Belpre’s charming narration and description into dialogue and dramatic action that works for the stage. Since a novel is a longer form than a play, I’ve had to merge some plot points and create composite characters to make everything fit into a theatrical script of appropriate length.

. Your play involves a smooth and a shaved ice treat. Do you prefer ice treats over ice cream?

When it’s hot outside, I love eating flavored ice of any texture, especially if it’s made with real fruit…because then I can justify eating it daily. (It’s nutritious, right?) Ice cream I’ll enjoy every once in a while, usually at a fancy celebration or holiday.

. What can you tell us about the Young Adult Fantasy Novel you are working on?

There’s a teen girl warrior. There are venom-spewing gargoyles. It’s set in Puerto Rico.

♦ Playwrights Theatre will present these readings free of charge, with an optional donation of $10.

♦ A $25 dollar donation will get you a FORUM pass that covers all of the readings.

♦ A $250 donation will get you a rehearsal pass that allows access to all reading rehearsals.

♦ Reservations can be made online at or call (973) 514-1787 X10.

Click here to reserve your seat to see HIELO.

You can also find additional information on our website about the entire FORUM reading series.

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