In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Legacy of Maria Irene FornesA Collection of Impressions and Exercises
  • Caridad Svich (bio)

Writing is only another way of giving, a courtesy, if you will, and a form of love.

Muriel Rukeyser, The Life of Poetry

I trained with Maria Irene Fornes at the INTAR Hispanic Playwrights-in-Residence Laboratory in New York City from 1988 to 1992 during which time I also served as her Lab assistant. In 1995, Fornes directed my play Any Place But Here, which had been written while I was in the INTAR Lab under her mentorship, at Theatre for the New City. In 2000 I edited with UK scholar Maria M. Delgado Conducting a Life: Reflections on the Theatre of Maria Irene Fornes. As playwright, translator, and teacher, the four consecutive years during which I trained with Irene have impacted my work in every way. Although my undergraduate and graduate school training in theatre at the University of North Carolina–Charlotte and the University of California–San Diego respectively gave me a strong foundation and emboldened me as a young artist, it was the work at the INTAR Lab, where I later returned as a TCG/Pew National Theatre Artist-in-Residence in 2003, that truly gave me the audacity to investigate theatrical form and to explore the U.S. Latino/a writing voice. As a practitioner-scholar and editor, a great deal of my work has been devoted to enabling the publication of and documenting the work of the “in-between” generation of U.S. Latino/a playwrights who trained with Fornes in New York City and in California at the Padua Hills Playwrights Conference.

Students and emerging playwrights often ask me, “What was it like to work with Maria Irene Fornes?” They usually ask me this question with awe and wonder in their eyes and a little bit of envy, because they know that the opportunity to work directly with Irene is no longer possible for them. Many of us in that middle generation of U.S. Latino/a playwrights have in fact taken on the job of passing on the methodology that she developed at the INTAR Lab and other organizations. Our job is humble and old-fashioned. We took down notes first-hand in the writing room, notes that we kept and have retold through our own dramatic visions in classrooms and workshops to the next generation(s) of American playwrights. As years pass the retelling becomes more complex because we are not only responding to our own memories and their transcription but also to how Fornes’s work has been received [End Page 1] over the years. As less of her extraordinary work is produced (unfortunately) on U.S. and world stages, the task becomes greater in passing on the legacy, for it becomes an instance of sharing a way of working in the room.

This short collection of memories and writing exercises from some of Fornes’s distinguished former students (Brooke Berman, Migdalia Cruz, Julie Hebert, Anne Garcia- Romero, Jennifer Maisel, Oliver Mayer, Han Ong, Lisa Schlesinger, Alisa Solomon, Alina Troyano) over the years is a cross-section of not only time and geography but also length of apprenticeship under La Maestra, as we all affectionately called her. Among those featured in this special section of PAJ, Migdalia Cruz and I are the playwrights who worked with her for the longest, most concentrated period of time. Both of us were her assistants at different intervals in the Lab’s history, which meant not only setting up the room for work every session but also writing down all the exercises every day for years. This act of transcription was to be the foundation for a book on playwriting Fornes was one day going to write entitled The Anatomy of Inspiration. Both of us were also part of the last year that she ran the Lab at INTAR (1992), a year when she decided she only wanted to work with writers whom she had previously trained. Among the writers that last year were Nilo Cruz, Lorraine Llamas, Lorenzo Mans, and Ela Troyano.

It is nearly impossible to document with exactitude a sequence of exercises at the Lab, because...