La Gringa LIVE Performance

Storytelling is the most powerful form of human communication and connection. It is a fundamental element of human culture where it plays a vital role in connecting with others, transmitting cultural values and traditions, and overall shaping our understanding of the world around us. I had the opportunity to attend the LIVE performance of La Gringa at Repertorio Español on May 7th. After viewing the play and reflecting and comparing my original thoughts before and after reading it, I learned that storytelling continues to be influential and powerful, especially in who and how it is being showcased.

            When I first heard about La Gringa, I had imagined a young girl from New York City who felt they were neither fully American nor Puerto Rican. When imagining her, I did not give her any other characteristic traits other than just the ‘typical’ first-generation child who struggles to connect with her family. When I started reading the play, I had this predetermined mindset of Maria, the main protagonist, so when I noticed how peppy she was throughout the play, I began to dislike her. I felt that Maria did not ‘correctly’ portray the ‘typical’ first-generation daughter, rather, she was far from it. To me, she came off as too peppy, dismissive, and in some cases, ignorant towards her family. For instance, during the scene where she is talking to Iris about possibly moving to Puerto Rico and leaving her old job for a new job in Puerto Rico, I felt that Maria only cared about herself at that moment; disregarding all of Iris’s emotions of not being able to find a job in Puerto Rico. In one aspect, I understand that Carmen Rivera wrote this scene as a way for Maria and Iris to find some commonality with each other. However, in the other aspect, the way I read it, I designed Maria as being ignorant on the issue of how few job opportunities are available in Puerto Rico, and if she were to move there, she would be creating more competition for Iris.

            However, when I saw this scene in the live performance, my entire perception of Maria changed. Instead of the ‘standard’ first-generation daughter, I envisioned Maria to be before reading the play or the peppy, ignorant, annoying character I read Maria to be after reading the play, the actress who portrayed Maria, made me realize that Maria was just someone who was desperately trying to find out how she can fit both standards of being Puertorriquena and American. She was also passionate and curious about her culture; her culture was not fully taught by her parents. Moreover, the actress who played Maria also made me realize that I had designed Maria’s character to be annoying because I was afraid to see that she was almost like a mirror image of me. I did not want to acknowledge that Maria was like any first-generation child, just not the textbook version that we are taught should look like in books or even media.

            Overall, the LIVE performance of La Gringa made me realize that storytelling can be impactful both negatively and positively. Constantly hearing and learning the generic version of how a first-generation child should be portrayed, caused me to only stick to that definition and be ignorant of how not all first-generation children are the same. Furthermore, this constant retelling of the definition also made me read and speak about Maria’s character so negatively, that I had fully convinced myself that the live version of Maria would be no better. Lastly, seeing a new version of Maria’s character be represented, showed me that if I had continued to tell the same, negative story of Maria, I would have never seen the connection that Carmen Rivera tried to highlight through her storytelling and original writing of La Gringa.

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