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Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Recognizes Díaz for Play ‘A La Roro’

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By Jackson Scallen
Class of 2020

SPOKANE, Wash. – The Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival has awarded Gonzaga University senior Art Por Díaz the Artists Striving to End Poverty scholarship in recognition of the play he wrote titled, “A La Roro.” The scholarship allows Díaz to attend the Artist as Citizen Conference in June at the Juilliard School in New York City.

The conference celebrates, connects, and develops young leaders in the arts by providing them with a transformative artistic and educational experience in the heart of New York City. The scholarship provides for room and board at the Juilliard School for five nights and six days, all conference activities, plus tickets to performances around New York.

Díaz, a theatre arts major from Oakland, California, won the organization’s regional conference playwriting division in Denver, which earned him an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., April 16-22, where he was named a national finalist for the Gary Garrison National Ten-Minute Playwriting Award.

Díaz penned the piece for a playwriting class taught by Kathleen Jeffs, assistant professor of theatre arts. The play, which opened as a developmental show in October at Gonzaga’s Magnuson Theatre, features the story of a young, bicultural boy at bedtime navigating an internal world of Latino ghost stories and an external world of racism and anti-immigration. The story focuses on questions of identity by using both the American and Latin-American version of the boogeyman as characters.

The story reflects Díaz’s conflicts growing up as Mexican-American as well as his cousin’s experiences being referred to as an “alien” at school. In particular, the play addresses the challenge children face dealing with weighty political and social conflicts.

“A lot of hyphenated people are always struggling with this idea of not knowing where they’re represented, because you’re not too much of where your parents are (from), but you’re not enough to be an American by most definitions,” said Díaz, who began his theatrical career in high school as a slam poet.

Before transferring to Gonzaga, he studied English and communication at Chabot College in Hayward, California, where he wrote and produced several plays. He attended a theater festival at Central Washington University in winter 2015 as an actor and met Charlie Pepiton, GU assistant professor of theatre, who was teaching a workshop. Pepiton, who suggested Díaz transfer to Gonzaga, is proud of his accomplishments.

“I’m thrilled that Art has gotten such wide recognition for his playwriting. It’s very well deserved. He has a strong sense of who he is as a theatre-maker and what it is he wants to say,” Pepiton said. “In our theatre and dance department, we emphasize new works and theatre that engages with the important questions of our time. We ask, ‘Where is theatre going? Where might it go?’ Art’s play is a strong example of those priorities. I can’t wait to see what he does next.”

Díaz said he didn’t realize how much humor was in the play until it was performed in Denver, where it received a lot of laughs.

Díaz had planned to study communication in graduate school, but the success of his play has drawn interest from graduate theatre programs at multiple universities.

Sporting a baseball cap with the words “Born of an Immigrant,” Díaz said he feels blessed to have been born in the United States and for the opportunities that affords him – and he cherishes his Latino heritage.

“We’re all coming from somewhere,” he said.

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