The thought-provoking play “Real Women Have Curves” is the El Paso Playhouse’s latest effort to combine culture, talent and activism through art.
“This season at the Playhouse is our season of impact,” said Playhouse member Eurydice Saucedo. “This is activist theater. This is Chicano theater.”
The story gained worldwide recognition after it made its way to the silver screen with the 2002 film of the same name. It starred America Ferrera and garnered several Sundance Film Festival awards.
Playwright Josefina Lopez penned the stage production in 1987. It’s the story of her real-life journey to becoming a legal United States resident. The play centers on the lives of her character Ana and four other full-figured women in a Los Angeles sewing factory owned by Ana’s sister Estela.
“Ana is talking about women’s liberation and the American experience throughout the play,” said Saucedo, who directs the play and portrays the character of Pancha. “She wants to be a writer, and she learns through all these women’s experiences that it’s not so easy in the real world.”
Throughout the play, the women – particularly Ana, because she’s the only character who hasn’t been granted residency – are haunted by their not-too-distant memories of their struggles as undocumented immigrants.
Not only is the feeling relatable for Ana due to her circumstances, but for the woman who is portraying her as well. Actress Claudia Yoli, who works for Senator Jose Rodriguez, is a DREAMer – a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. President Donald Trump recently ended the DACA program.
“The parallels between Ana’s life and Claudia’s are significant,” Saucedo said. “In a particularly poignant part of the show, all the women hide because they think they hear la migra coming. Ana’s the only one who hasn’t acquired a green card, and she starts to cry in the middle of the scene. It’s become very personal for Claudia, and she’s really crying for the situation.”
The cultural significance of the play is multi-fold, as not only does it provide a platform to talk about immigration and the American Dream during a time of uncertainty for millions of undocumented immigrants, but it also shines a spotlight on the various ideas of beauty and what it means to be a woman.
“We see more voluptuous women in popular culture today,” Saucedo pointed out. “But in the play, there’s a woman who’s literally starving herself to get to a size two.”
Saucedo also said that the title refers to the non-linear nature of women’s stories, as well as their different shapes and sizes.