'Spin' Into A Seat For Play On LGBT Homelessness and Brown Boy Love

BY AJ TRAGER

ANN ARBOR - Emilio Rodriguez is a a playwright, actor, director and teaching artist who moved to Detroit after receiving his Drama degree from UC Irvine in southern California.

His new play "Spin," showcases the love of two young gay men of color experiencing homelessness. He told BTL the idea for the play developed over the course of many years after finding out there was a homeless shelter in LA that caters to young gay youth. The inspiration adapted and evolved as he started teaching theater to youth in Detroit. He wanted to write the kind of play that he hadn't seen yet - one with love between brown boys, he says, a story as complex as the experience of people of color in America.

Can you talk about masculinity, how you included the vulnerable parts of masculinity and why you found this to be an important plot point?

I think male intimacy is not discussed often in terms of men of color. I remember when a magazine cover came out with Michael B Jordan embracing Ryan Coogler and everyone freaked out. They aren't even in a relationship. They aren't even gay and everyone freaked out. The unfortunate reality is that men of color still have to hide their LGBT identities from their families, co-workers, and sometimes even their friends. In a sense, LGBT men of color are without a home in American society and thus the plot and setting can be considered a metaphor in itself.

What is the importance of the poetry readings? How do they continue and progress the plot/relationship between the characters?

The poems show the character progression of Angelo. He goes from shy boy without a purpose to a real poet who has found someone to write both for and about. The poems enable the audience to see how Mila has affected Angelo and really hammers home the idea that a true bond cannot be broken by distance.

How long were you working on it? What were your inspirations?

I began working on the play about two and a half years ago. It has changed so much with scenes cut, characters cut, poems added, moments created and realizations that I discovered. My inspirations vary from my experiences as a teacher with Detroit youth to the lack of people of color on stages in Michigan and also a lack of LGBT people of color on Michigan stages. I was also really inspired by the divide in the Latinx community over Gina Rodriguez's use of "improper Spanish" on twitter and the colorism that manifested in the Dominican Republic (when DR natives actively sought to get rid of Dominicans with Haitin origins.)

Any additional thoughts?
I have been asked a lot about Orlando. For marketing purposes, we didn't feel comfortable capitalizing on a tragedy. I think the show speaks for itself. When you see a Black gay man and a Black Latinx man onstage your mind is inevitably going to think about the list of Black and Latinx people who were killed in that tragedy. I think it's stronger that we haven't commented on it, because the audience is able to draw their own connections. And think, ultimately, Black and Latinx LGBT people die everyday because of acts of violence, hatred and unmitigated fear. To talk only about Orlando denies the reality that being an LGBT member of the Black and Latinx community is a daily challenge, that can only be overcome with reminding the world that "Love is love is love is love is love..."

'Spin' will run every Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. until July 10 at Theatre Nova inside Ann Arbor's Yellow Barn. Theatre Nova is located at 410 W. Huron St., Ann Arbor. Tickets are available at the door and are offered at "pay what you can."

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