Well, maybe not a bar . . . but two quasi-fictional scientists do interrupt a scene in “A Pest Control Affair” with their playfulness. In this blog post, I’ll introduce you via 1:1 interviews to Roxanne Schroeder-Arce who is playing a botanist and married (on stage) to Rupert Reyes, who is playing a melittologist which is an entomologist who specializes in bees. This dramedy is part of ScriptWorks’ 28th annual Frontera Fest at Hyde Park Theatre in Austin. Our play on February 2nd 2023 sold out in the first week; but, help me thank those who are putting on this festival as well as the actors who are making this story come to life on stage!
You can click on Roxanne or Rupert’s 1:1 interviews or scroll to read a truncated version of our Q&A (in order of when I interveiwed them):
- Rupert Reyes interview: https://youtu.be/GQnaT3qJa8g
- Roxanne Schroeder-Arce interview: https://youtu.be/BhzbznJ5uKo
RUPERT REYES as Dr. Manny Guzman
Rupert Reyes, in addition to being a native Austinite and UT Longhorn, is an actor yes but also a playwright, director, screenwriter, producer, and founder of Teatro Vivo. Rupert’s list of Hollywood film work is long as are all the awards he’s won over the years:
- Full bio and awards: https://howlround.com/commons/rupert-reyes
- IMDb films: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0721416/
- Rupert’s recent (storytelling) commercial for Toyota: https://www.ispot.tv/ad/2eCV/2023-toyota-tundra-beast-t1
And since “A Pest Control Affair” is a play that includes at least one insect, let’s start with that question:
Q. Favorite insect?
A. The cicada because it was born to make love and because of its music.
Note: the Africancicada, Brevisanabrevis, is the world’s loudest recorded insect, reaching 106.7 decibels when measured at a distance of 20 inches (50 cm) away. Source: Guinness World Records.
Q. Favorite movie / favorite play:
A. The screen adaptation of his play, Vecinos, into a feature film is one of the biggest highlights of Rupert’s film career (for him). In theatre, you get into very intense relationships with the ensemble (directors, designers, actors) for a very short period of time, and then it’s all over. The curtain comes down and it’s all over; the play doesn’t exist anymore whereas with a film, once you give it life, it’s there forever. Films are like books in that way. They do not cease to exist because they exist tangibly. In theatre, when a production is finished, the set is struck and sometimes thrown away with the good costumes going to Goodwill, so there’s not even a way to recreate it unless you start from scratch.
Q. If you had to choose between film and theatre, which one has your heart?
A. In front of the camera (film), because you get to share your work with a lot more people. Like theatre, film allows for the forming of relationships with your ensemble and it’s a faster process. Being behind the camera [as a director] was more difficult. I enjoy working on screenplays more now than on plays. It’s a very different process to write for the screen than to write for a play. With a screenplay, you’re almost writing the visuals and there’s very little dialogue whereas with a play, it’s just the opposite (very little visuals and lots of dialogue).
On stage directions: Rupert’s friend and accomplished playwright, Raul Garza, is great about putting descriptions and stage directions and scene setups and introduction into scenes. Rupert enjoys having these descriptions and directions and setups from the playwright. When he was in college, he had a professor who would request all stage directions and descriptions to be blacked out so the director could interpret the play strictly from its dialogue.
Advice to playwrights: You want someone [a director] who “gets” your script and understands as much about the play as possible (as you envisioned it on paper) because you’re not going to be there (usually) as a playwright while your play is being produced. If you don’t put it on paper, then people (actors / director) have a lot of freedom to do whatever they want with it. With more descriptions included, you can avoid your play going in the wrong direction or at least prevent improvisation. Final analysis: more stage direction/more information shared on the page to secure the vision, mood, tempo and rhythm intended by the playwright for particular scenes and for the play as a whole.
What about if the director/producer changes your script: Rupert enjoys seeing another interpretation of his scripts, although he does not like to see things added that are not there at all. But when [Director / Producer] can find something [in the script] that he had not imagined or that he had not thought about then that can sometimes be exciting.
Q. How would you prioritize your love of the arts?
A. Film actor then theatre acting and playwriting. He doesn’t like the business part of film or theatre which is why he doesn’t like producing. Writing plays, writing screenplays is what he’d love to be doing all the time. Directing is okay but it can also become too businesslike and not as much fun as the writing and acting.
On directing: The director is the audience’s eye and in theatre, your audience only gets to capture every moment one time. There’s no rewinding a script on stage at the end of a production. Everything is happening at one time: the set-up, timing, impact, tempo. One of Rupert’s pet peeves is blackouts. He tried to avoid them even when doing scene changes or transitions. He preferred for the audience to see the scene change and have that experience coupled with different lighting or music, something to make even scene changes interesting and entertaining since it was all part of the theatre experience and production for the audience.
Q. What impact has theatre had on you?
A. Rupert confesses that he is not as patient as he may appear to be. In doing theatre both as a director and as a producer, there is a certain peace or calm about himself that he did not realize he had. He discovered this when an actor was going to be late for a rehearsal or a piece of equipment needed for the production broke or when someone misses a cue on stage and how he handled all of that. Often, he was told that he was the most patient person in the world, but he says that that is “only in my theatre world.” Often, he was seen as not panicking, because he always had the feeling that he would be able to fix things to make a production work.
Sounds like we all need to try and be like Rupert!
ROXANNE SCHROEDER-ARCE as Dr. Beverly Chase
Click here to watch the 1:1 interview with Roxanne: https://youtu.be/BhzbznJ5uKo
Roxanne Schroeder-Arce plays the fictional Dr. Beverly Chase, based on a real-life University of Texas at Austin botany professor. (That’s all I’ll share in order to protect privacy. However, I can tell you that the real botanist and melittologist will be in the audience on February 2nd!)
In addition to being an actor, a playwright, and a director, Roxanne is also an Associate Professor of Theatre and Dance at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) and the Associate Dean of UTeach Fine Arts, the College of Fine Art’s teacher prep program. You can read more detail on Roxanne’s amazing background here:
- Full bio: https://www.roxannearce.com/
- UT profile: https://theatredance.utexas.edu/people/schroeder-arce-roxanne
- Theatrical publications: https://www.dramaticpublishing.com/authors/profile/view/url/roxanne-schroeder-arce
Q. What is the best part of what you do [within the arts]?
A. She is a pedagogue, an artist, a playwright, a director, a performer, and an aspiring musician as well as an overall arts advocate and avid audience member — “a community-engaged professor.” Roxanne currently looks at how she can marry all aspects of her artistic self with also being a mom and family person. (Read below about her work with “Keys”, an artistic, family effort). She identifies the most as a playwright even though she started as a performer first before diving into directing, and within a collaborative space.
Q. As a White, non-Hispanic, how did you come to write (primarily) Latino-based content in your plays and in your work?
A. She grew up in Vermont and moved to Texas after going to school in Boston. As a teacher, Roxanne seeks to ask questions of her students so as to understand their “lived experiences,” especially since traditional education asks young people to assimilate to the culture of the teacher instead of the teacher conforming to the needs of the student. (A bonafide Aha! moment for this interviewer!)
When she lived in Laredo as a K-12 teacher, she learned Spanish from her students and started wondering what was missing from her education as far as Latinx/Hispanic/bilingual theatre. Roxanne started to work with her students and began writing with them as well. After Laredo, she came to UT Austin to study drama and theatre for youth and community while connecting with local favorites like Amparo Garcia-Crow, who was part of helping Roxanne to start a [theatrical] youth program. Shortly after entering Austin is when she wrote her first play, “Señora Tortuga” (Mrs. Turtle), and directed by other local favorite, Patti Neff currently Co-Director of Ground Floor Theatre in Austin. It was also around this time that Roxanne started to ask herself what brings her to the work, into the arts, into the content she chooses to share as a playwright.
In the past, Roxanne’s been asked why she cares about Mexican-American studies, the program she’s a part of at UT, and why she concerns herself with Latino-themed stories in her writing and directing work. For her, the answer was simple: When she lived in Laredo, there were few if any Latino-based plays available to view. They may have been written, but they were not accessible or for public consumption and she wanted to change that.
Today when she teaches, Roxanne finds that her biggest job is to illuminate/share/introduce these communities to others. One of the questions she asks of herself and encourages her students to ask, especially if they’re working across “identity markers” is:
- How are you benefiting from this work?
- How is the community benefitting?
- What are the potential harms and what are the potential gains?
Simultaneously, Roxanne encourages all artists not to be pigeon-holed into creating their work only for or only from within their community of origin.
Q. Favorite insect and/or which non-Homo sapien wildlife sparks a visceral reaction?
A. There is no insect that actually bothers Roxanne even if she finds it crawling on her. She does, however, have what she calls an unreasonable phobia of snacks. (Yes!)
Q. What attracted you to “A Pest Control Affair” and/or to the return to live theatre as an actor?
A. Roxanne is a big fan of Frontera Fest and believes we have to support new work, especially when it’s happening live. The return to the stage after being away for some years is exciting for her, and she found the “affair” part of the play to be clever and the idea of how we share space with partners. (This amateur playwright thanks you!)
Here is what’s on Roxanne’s horizons and what to look out for — two new plays:
- A musical with Jenn Hartmann Luck titled, “Keys” and it’s based on Roxanne’s real-life story of how she learned to read growing up (and as a first-generation college student. It’s also a commission from Magic Theatre company in San Antonio:
- A play with Maria Rocha (her adopted Mama) and whom she co-wrote the play, “Yana Wana’s Legend of the Bluebonnet”. Maria Rocha and Roxanne are co-writing another play, Pa- pakō which is Coahuiltecan for “the journey.” Maria and Roxanne are writing this play with Genevieve Schroeder Arce, Roxanne’s daughter, so a three-generation, collaborative effort! The play is about repatriation of indigenous remains.
- Roxanne is also directing for UT a touring show, The Smartest Girl in the World, by Miriam Gonzales.
Well, I know what to put on my MUST SEE list for 2023, and no I am not feeling like an underachiever just because Roxanne and Rupert are amazing!
And a small plug for Teatro Vivo and their new Austin Latinx New Play festival — https://teatrovivo.org/austin-latinx-new-play-festival/ — a collaboration with ScripWorks and where the plays will be read live at the Dougherty Arts Center in Austin from April 27th – 29th, 2023.
Big thanks once again to ABC Home and Commercial Services for their sponsorship of this play-from-the-heart during Austin’s Frontera Fest, the largest in all of the Southwest, produced by Scriptworks with Hyde Park Theatre as the playhouse. And please, consider a donation to Scriptworks and Hyde Park even if it’s only $5 because EVERY PENNY COUNTS when your arts budget has been slashed.