Marisela Orta

Please explain what you do for living.

I'm a playwright. I found my way to theatre a little over 10 years ago. Before that I was a poet. Currently I'm studying at the Iowa Playwrights Workshop--one of the top MFAs in playwriting programs. So I write plays. Almost always my plays feature Latinx characters.

How important in your identity is being Latino?

I became aware of my cultural identity from a very young age. I grew up in Texas and am third generation Mexican American. My first language is English. As a child I remember feeling inadequate because I didn't know Spanish. So I began considering my cultural identity at a very young age. As a theatre artist I am very dedicated to seeing Latinx stories on American stages. I'm part of the Latinx Theatre Commons' national steering committee--an advocacy group that works to promote the work of Latinx theatre artists and redefine the Latinx narrative on American stages so that it fully captures the depth and complexity of our cultural community.

Is there something that you particularly value of your nationality or being Latino?

I love the sense of family that Latinx create with each other. It feels like what we learn in our own families we want to apply to our friends--our friends become family.

Have you been treated differently because of being Latino (in the workplace, in public settings…etc.)?

I received my undergraduate degree at a small private liberal arts university in Texas. It was a culture shock that the student population was overwhelmingly white--it was a new experience for me to be part of such a small group of students of color. You could be in a class of 20 and be the only person of color. My fellow students and I would discuss how we felt this incredible pressure when we spoke in class on issues of race--as if we were suddenly viewed as a spokesperson for our cultural community. Hearing from current undergraduates I get the sense that this experience still happens both in the classroom and outside it.