Tanya Saracho's 'Fade' Puts Mexican Americans at the Center
By Stephanie Harte
The two-person play will make its Chicago premiere at Victory Gardens Theater
Photo Credit: Victory Gardens Theater
While participating in a writers’ workshop at the Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, Tanya Saracho showed up each week with no work to show, but endless complaints about her new job as a TV writer. At the time Saracho deeply missed her safe haven amongst Chicago’s theatre scene and struggled to get used to a new city and industry that she felt thrown into.
Finally another member of the workshop said, “why don’t you just write about this job you hate so much?” The next week she came in with 16 pages of the script and soon enough Fade started to take form.
Fade, which opens at Victory Gardens Theater Nov. 4, is a two-person play that follows Lucia, a young Mexican-born novelist hired to write for a ruthless Hollywood TV series. During her long nights working in the studio, she becomes friends with Abel (Eddie Martinez), a Mexican American custodian. Abel shows Lucia empathy as she struggles to feel valued amongst a team of domineering white male co-workers. As their friendship grows, Abel begins to offer Lucia plot ideas, which eventually blend into her own stories.
“What started off in an autobiographical place soon became its own play,” Saracho said. “During the beginning of my TV career the only other Latinos I saw were the janitors at night. This was striking to me.”
Saracho’s impressive TV writing credits include How to Get Away with Murder, Looking, and Girls. Her new show Vida, a drama-comedy about two Mexican-American sisters in East Los Angeles, will premiere on Starz in 2018. Now that Saracho is sitting at the top of the ranks as showrunner and creator, she assembled an entire Latinx writers room in order to most accurately depict the characters.
Fade first premiered at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts last February and has since been produced at Cherry Lane Theatre Off Broadway and TheaterWorks Hartford in Connecticut. The upcoming Victory Gardens Fade is a co-production with Teatro Vista, a prominent Latinx theatre company in Chicago.
A striking consistency in Fade’s run so far is that Chicago actor Eddie Martinez has played Abel in every production. Saracho first reached out to Martinez about participating in a private reading at the Goodman when the script was a mere 36 pages. The two have known each other for years thanks to the small world feel of Chicago theatre.
“As soon as he read it I was like, ‘that’s my guy!,” Saracho exclaimed. “His essence, his ease, all of it was perfect. You hold onto these actors because they are exactly what you dreamed up.’”
Although Jerry Ruiz directed the previous productions of Fade, Teatro Vista Ensemble Member Sandra Marquez will be directing the upcoming Victory Gardens production. Saracho knew Marquez would be a great fit for the play after working with her in previous Teatro Vista productions.
“My favorite thing about the play is that it’s a story about two people who in the average American’s eyes are coming from the same place,” Marquez said. “Even though they both have Mexican ancestry, how this plays out in American culture is very different.”
Sari Sanchez will be playing the part of Lucia. During casting Marquez immediately noticed that she had the intelligence and natural charm needed for the character. Sanchez has also starred in Teatro Vista’s In the Time of the Butterflies and Tamer of Horses.
“For me, what I think of when we are rehearsing is how much more interesting and complicated these Mexican and Mexican American characters are than what is normally portrayed,” Marquez said. “We don’t often get to see such interesting and nuanced stories of people considered the ‘other,’ whatever this ‘other’ may be.”
Fade runs at Victory Gardens Theater at 2433 N. Lincoln Ave. Nov. 4 – Dec. 23. For tickets visit victorygardens.org or call 773-871-3000.