Conchi León is a renowned playwright, actorand director from Yucatán, México. She is the founder of the Sa’as Tún Theatre Company. Her artistic career has been marked by the development of texts and testimonial montages that rescue the memory, tradition and customs of the Mayan culture, with a special focus on women.
This year, her latest work Del Manantial del Corazón (The Spring of the Heart) opens the RUTAS International Multi Arts Festival. To learn more about León and her work, I had the privilege of asking her a few questions.
HM: For those unfamiliar with your work, can you share some of your early influences that inspire you to become a playwright?
Conchi León (CL): I think my mayor influence has been the Biodrama, to extract real stories, to find a way to synthesize them, to make them poetry and to turn them into theatre. That has always seduced me.
HM: Your works explore and adress very important topics like violence againsy women, ethnic discrimination, immigration, and many more. I am curious whether there was a catalyst that pushed you (so to speak) in focusing your works on these themes.
CL: Unfortunately, I had a very difficult childhood framed by my father’s physical violence against my mother. That’s why these themes resonate with me — I know what I’m talking about because I lived through those experiences. Realizing that domestic violence not only happened in my house, but in other households in my country and around the world, has given me the reason for speaking against it.
HM: At RUTAS, we will experience Del Manantial del Corazón. For this work, you focus on Mayan baptism rituals. How did you collaborate with the Mayan communities in putting this project together?
CL: Since I began my career as an actor, I have been very fortunate to work with indigenous communities and learn about their knowledge of medicinal herbs, about rites and myths that have survived, and that are part of their daily lives. For this particular rite [baptism], I had read about it but I was invited to attend a baptism. This became a vital part of this story. We have presented this piece to many of these communities. It is very important for me to exchange experiences with them.
HM: I am excited for Del Manantial del Corazón. In presenting this work abroad, what do you hope audiences take away from it?
CL: Wherever we present it, we find that the ritual in the piece gives the audience a loving feeling. It warms their hearts. I hope the audience has a good time and that they get a better understanding of the Mayan culture while also raising awareness of the themes of the play: violence against women, motherhood, and death. I hope the audience partakes into two rituals: the Mayan ritual and the theatrical one.
HM: Lastly, can you share what are you working on now… Or where will your works take you next perhaps?
CL: I’m rehearsing two plays that will be showing at the Cervantino Festival later on this month in Guanajuato. I’m very happy to have these premiere in one of the most representative festivals of my country.
Del Manantial del Corazón performances at RUTAS run from October 3rd to 7th at Aki Studio. For showtimes, tickests, and more information, please visit www.alunatheatre.ca.