"VIVA LA EVOLUCION!" WILL PLAY FRINGENYC 8/13-29
Diana Yanez stars in the one woman comedy, "Viva la Evolución!" as she takes us through her journey from Castro to Disco and growing up queer in Miami. Marjorie Duffield directs "Viva la Evolución!" which will play at the Vandam Playhouse as part of this summer's Fringe NYC.
With a few classic Caribbean cocktails and an arsenal of outrageous, well-woven tales, Yanez traverses her childhood and her sexual awakening with riotous accuracy. The play won the First Annual Drama Queens competition in Los Angeles (2009) and is about to be featured in the 2010 Berkshire Fringe festival (August 5-9). This is its New York City premiere. Preceding the FringeNYC production, the show will be seen at Williams College Summer Theatre Lab, Williamstown, MA on August 1 and at the Berkshire Fringe Festival in Great Barrington, MA Aug 5-9.
Yanez' parents fled Castro, arriving in the Miami area with just the clothes on their backs. Typical of this generation, they are passionate Catholic republicans. They learned English from soap operas, finished their educations, got great jobs and had two healthy kids. Having a gay daughter is not something they relish talking about (the original publicity for this show was subtitled, "Don't tell my mother about my one-woman show"). Why they would up with a gay son as well is a question only God can answer. Diana's coming of age was bittersweet, a process she epigrammatically describes as making "mojitos out of the limones" of her life, and this narrative, then, is the play. Along the journey, there are plenty of characters she saucily portrays with her mimetic gifts, notably her mother and other Cuban women of her generation. There are also men including her father, some dear gay friends from her fag-hag period, her best gay friend (who died of AIDS) and yes, her brother, who now works as a physical therapist in Ft. Lauderdale. She has called the piece "a comedy of love and misunderstandings" and "an American comedy of Cuban proportions," which refers to a recurring theme in the play that Cubans tend to be larger than life.
Yanez' path to accepting herself as a lesbian was bumpy, as the play explains. So was her path to her performing career. She'd done comedy since high school, but her practical parents made her study business in college. In a bold step, Diana left college and accepted a scholarship to study fine art photography in Germany. After her first year, she stayed a second year to study film. There she met Sydney Pollack and his influence reawakened her performing yearnings. Moving to Los Angeles, she worked a stint as a print producer for advertising and fashion, collaborating with star photographers like Herb Ritts and Peggy Sirota. (Being fluent in three languages--German, English and Spanish--didn't hurt.) She was even an agent for Ford Models for two years. This took her up to age 30, when she realized she wasn't being true to herself. She studied acting with Eric Morris and drifted into Improv with various companies. Her performing career took off from there. Now, her commercials reel includes spots for Sprint PCS (with Richard Simmons); Hormel Chili and Blockbuster, all of them funny. In episodic TV, she has appeared on NBC's "Passions" (in recurring roles), CBS' "Criminal Minds" and "The Shield." On the 2007 True Colors Tour, she shared the stage with living legends Cyndi Lauper, Debbie Harry, and Rosie O'Donnell. She is also featured in numerous internet (viral) videos such as "Spanish for Your Nanny," "Let Me Borrow That Top" (with Kelly) and "My Puss" (with Margaret Cho).
Yanez emerged as a performer largely under the influence of Margaret Cho. Yanez was part of a comedy group, The Gay Mafia, from which Cho snatched the duo "Lisp & MC Havana" (Kurt Hall & Diana Yanez), who then opened for Cho during her two year pre-tour of "Beautiful." On the tour, Cho and Yanez improvised conversations between their mothers. After that, they collaborated in a number of other ways: Yanez appeared in Cho's "The Sensuous Woman" as a founding cast member and Cho directed Yanez in a made-for-You Tube video, "Zapatos" (which means shoes in Spanish).
Now Yanez tours with three comedy groups, The Gay Mafia, Queer on Their Feet and Vitch. "Viva la Evolución!" dates back to a standup gig in Provincetown in 2008, which led to her being featured in a book, "Out on the Edge: America's Rebel Comics." The gig was also partly an audition for "The Drama Queens Competition," which she won with something she wrote on a mere two weeks' notice. Her impersonation of her mother found its way in, as did some of the other characters now seen in "Viva la Evolución!" The competition's prize was a booking at La Macha Theater in Los Angeles for one night to do her one-woman show. So she had to prepare an hour show in three months. That's where director Marjorie Duffield stepped in.
Duffield is a New York based writer and director. She admits to being a big fan of Marga Gomez and Carmelita Tropicana, and she found something about Diana's performance and this show to be truly sui generis. With the collaboration of Duffield, who is primarily a writer, Yanez was able to expand her concept to an hour show, which took stage in September 2009 as a work-in-progress at the La Macha Theater, directed by Duffield.
"Viva la Evolución!" took form as a life's story and the work of a storyteller, not a joke writer. Still, the humor is laugh-out-loud most of the time. The piece is rich in character work and dialects, as when Yanez imitates Cuban men in competitive conversations, declaring, "Los Dolphins? I know abow Los Dolphins!? Listen to me becaws I am telling joo - Los Dolphins dees jeer - Ai! Dey are gonna kick ass! Kick ass, Amigo!" There is plenty of family history, even recipes (her great grandmother's special mojito recipe straight from Havana) and an admirable dose of physical humor: in the many dance breaks, her hips and butt have a life of their own.
Director Marjorie Duffield is a New York based librettist, playwright and director. Her writing credits include "Ice Island: the Wait for Shackleton (The Melting Pot Theatre Company), "Sit-In at the Five and Dime" with composer Janice Lowe (New Harmony Project, Barrington Stage, Voice & Vision), "In a Lake of Fire" with composer Greg Pliska (Williams Theatre - winner of the Moss Hart Award and Finalist for the Richard Rodgers Awards), "Lucky Hans" (White Bird Productions -- music by Danny Ashkenasi), and "Cyber-Alice" (Lincoln Center Directors Lab at HERE, with music by Sunmee Cho). She has directed Kris Moon's "Bizstractions" at The Duplex. She is a graduate of Williams College and the NYU's Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program, where she was a Jacob Javits Fellow. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild and was a recipient of the Dramatist Guild's Jonathan Larson Memorial Musical Theatre Fellowship. She works as the Upper School Theatre Director at The Calhoun School in Manhattan.
Set design is by Marc Aubin, who is best known as Alice Farley's ten-year co-collaborator, designer and stilt dancer in her company, Looking Glass Productions. He came to NYC 1982 to work for the Production Company Le Clique and has maintained a professional career as a costume designer and performer. He works as a teacher and theater technical director for The Calhoun School, where he met and began collaborating with Marjorie Duffield.
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