Matthew Lopez became the first Latino playwright to win the Tony Award for Best Drama last Sunday, but the producer of “The Inheritance” was worried that the milestone would disappear if he didn’t pay attention to the historical moment while taking the stage.
Before the big night, Lopez surveyed several friends and fellow writers on what he should say if he won the top prize. Gloria Calderon Kellett, co-presenter of “One Day at a Time”, was one of the people who read her draft and asked her to accept the moment.
“When you are first you realize that you have a serious responsibility towards those who come after you,” he says. “He realized that this moment was bigger than him and beyond the celebration of his work. If we didn’t talk about it, we would miss it. ”
And Lopez had an important message for the crowd of theatrical brokers and producers. The Latin community is 19% of the population, and this should not be ignored.
“We are a vibrant community, reflecting culture, experience and, yes, a wide range of skin tones,” he said on stage as he accepted the award. “We have a lot of stories to tell. They are inside us, having trouble getting out. Let us tell you our story. “
Less than 48 hours after receiving Broadway’s highest honor, Lopez spoke Diversity His decision to keep his spotlight on breaking the barrier for Latinos, his work on rebuilding “The Bodyguard” and what will happen after “The Inheritance”, his broad look at the AIDS crisis that seems to be a dignified TV miniseries.
In your speech, you read a statement about making history as the first Latin playwright to win Tony for Best Drama. Why did you decide to note this fact?
I knew for a while that no Latin writer had ever won Tony for Best Drama. Nilo Cruz was nominated and Miguel Pineso was nominated, but in reality no one won it. It is never really discussed, certainly not in the press or in the theater media. When I was nominated a year ago, I knew I would win, I would be first. Within 10 months after the nomination and moving on to the award, I never saw anything in writing. Usually the first is widely expected, even if they do not expect to win. There must have been comments, and it wasn’t. And it has been tracked with my experience as a Latin writer. We are not often considered. We are often not part of the conversation as writers, as artists. As the prizes got closer, I realized that if I won, there was a chance that it might be unmarked, it might be unelected. I didn’t want that to happen. I decided that if I wanted to report it, I would have to say it myself.
I sat down on Friday and wrote those words down. It was important to me because if I could win, I would have a platform not for myself, but for the Latin community. It was not enough for me to accept the award. I needed to claim it. That’s important because when I was growing up, it took me a long time to come out as a writer. I haven’t seen many writers who had my last name. I’ve seen Tony since I was 5 years old, and I knew what they meant to me as a kid. I knew how much they valued me for owning my identity as a writer. One of the reasons I took so long to become an owner is that I had very few examples to look at. I knew I had the opportunity to open that door for others, just as writers like Miguel Pineso opened that door for me.
Why do you think the nature of creating your winning history will be indefinite?
Evidence of the theory relies on our experience with the New York Times. The words they used were that Lopez “described himself as the best Tony to win the best Tony” as if it were a statement of opinion rather than truth. We complained to the Times and their response was “we didn’t have time to verify the truth before pressing.” My point was to verify that you had 74 years. My play Tony was eligible for two years and Tony was nominated for 10 months, and you tell me that on the night of the Tony Awards, you were surprised that I was the first Latin writer to win the best play? That’s why I knew it wouldn’t be reported without it. It wasn’t even on their radar. To me, it was proof that I was right in that speech. It is an experience that many Latin people and artists experience. We are often neglected or ignored. We are often not part of the conversation and our achievements are diminished by the indifference of the media.
[Editor’s note: A spokesperson for the New York Times said in a statement: “We take firsts seriously and it’s our policy to fact-check them as rigorously as possible. On deadline and unable to confirm it immediately — as we had been able to with other milestones — we attributed the statement to Mr. López. Once we were more confident that it was accurate, we updated our coverage.”]
You used the word Latin and not Latin. Why do you like this word?
Latin is not a Spanish word. It does not work in Spanish. It is not pronounced in Spanish. It is pronounced in English. I fully support and believe in the need to adapt to Spanish for gender neutral use. That’s the right thing to do, and I’m so glad it’s in the conversation right now. I fully support it, but I also support an evolution of the language that works with the language and Latin is a Spanish word.
In your speech, you also mentioned that Latin – 19% of the population. Are you creating a commercial argument for an artistic promotion as well as one more representation for the audience of playwrights?
One of the always frustrating things in theater and film and television is the idea that viewers won’t be there. The audience tradition wasn’t there because you didn’t look for them. The perfect example of this was “Crazy Rich Asians.” I think there was an attitude in Hollywood that “we didn’t see it coming.” All my Asian friends were, “We saw it coming. It’s almost awful time. “We have to insist, we have to work, we have to understand, and sometimes we have to get hundreds of millions of dollars under their noses to get their attention, like there were” Crazy Rich Asians “or” Black Panthers. “
You wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in 2020, where you talked about being criticized for being a white, Jewish hero in “The Inheritance.” Why do you think you were asked not to focus the drama on Latino characters?
The way we are sometimes treated in this business is amazing to me. Your last name is Lopez, why don’t you write about rice and beans? If you are not writing what you are writing or if you are not teaching me about the Latin experience in everything you write, then you are useless to us. We can’t put you in the box we made for you – come back to your box, why aren’t you in your box? It is the ultimate manifestation of white domination. You are good for us only if you teach us about your culture.
Although I have a heartbreak in my culture and my characters in “The Inheritance” go through a lot of heartbreak – love, loss, death, aspiration are all part of the Latin experience – I chose to write my protagonist Eric Glass as a young Jewish man because of Jewish expatriates in America. There was a lot about me that I wanted to investigate in the themes of “inheritance”. As a writer I have the right to write about whatever I want to test. No one ever asks a white writer why they like to write their stories. No one has ever stopped white writers from writing what they want. And yet when a writer of color chooses to choose a white Jewish character at the center of his play, he is criticized for it. He questioned it. This is a dual value. I write what fascinates me, I write what scares me. He refuses to tell me what I can write.
With ‘The Inheritance’ a younger generation of gay men has the responsibility of the previous generation that survived the AIDS crisis. One aspect of the drama is how much people have forgotten or decided to forget about that plague. We had just been living through another deadly disease for over a year. Has Kovid-1 Has changed the way it plays?
I’m very curious to see how the play resonates in LA next year when we get there. This experience is certainly a reminder of what a stimulus the play was, that these things never go away. History repeats itself and your only weapon against history is our knowledge of it. The play is about what we do to survive and how we reminisce about how we lost them. I think we all know how it is now.
You have been hired to write a remake of “The Bodyguard”. How are you approaching the project?
It’s a lot of fun. When Warner Bros. came to me about the idea, I quickly said I would but I wanted the protagonist to be Latin. They agreed. There was a lot of speculation about what I would bring to the remake and some people assumed it would contain gay stories. Instead of focusing on an established star like Whitney Houston, it’s about a young Latina actor who has just become famous. It’s about how his life has changed because he’s sensitive overnight. In the twenty-first century, that means he needs immediate protection. It was important for me to use this opportunity to show Latin faces on that screen and to tell their stories in a big way.
Are you going to turn “inheritance” into a ministry?
Because the play is based on pre-existing content [Editor’s note: the play is a loose adaptation of E.M. Forster’s “Howard’s End”], There are many people at the table. Interestingly, I am not the sole owner of “The Inheritance”. I legally share it with Forster Estate. “Howard’s End” is still under copyright in the United Kingdom, not in the United States. We had our premiere in London and we wanted to produce in other parts of the world, so we initially went to Forster Estate because we knew we needed their blessing. They have been great partners. [Director] Stephen Daldry and I are trying to figure out what we want to do with the play.
What was it like for you and your husband Brandon Clarke to attend the Tony Awards “Freestyle Love Supreme” twist?
Checking my husband’s name with Tony winning didn’t compare to them. That was the surprise of the night. Perhaps the whole 10-year journey of working at ‘The Inheritance’ was worth it to reach the 10-second moment.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.