Meet a NYFA Artist: Candido Tirado
Indio Melendez, Dominic Colon, Erniel R Silva in Tirado’s play Momma’s Boyz (2006, Repertorio Espanol)
NYFA speaks with 1994, 2000, and 2006 Playwriting Fellow Candido Tirado.
NYFA: Can you tell us what are you working on and/or what’s coming up for you?
CT: I’m working on various pieces right now. I got commissioned by Repertorio Espanol to write a Hip Hop musical in Spanish, which is titled La Cancion, “The Song.” My play Momma’s Boyz (NYFA winner) will be produced in Chicago later this year by Teatro Vista. I’m rewriting Fish Men (NYFA winner) for a workshop in Chicago. Also I’m collaborating on a musical about the Palladium nightclub circa 1953. We have some amazing people on this project including my wife, playwright, Carmen Rivera. We are planning to do a workshop in the fall.
NYFA: How do you begin writing a piece?
CT: I don’t particularly enjoy the act of writing. Transferring what I have in my head to paper is torture. Everything in me tells me not to do it. Perhaps it’s the fear that I won’t be able to attain the perfection in my mind, but to sit down to write I must get to the point of having a massive migraine. Yet, when I do I get lost in the work the process turns to a pleasurable one. Time flies as they say. However, the act of creating I enjoy very much. My massive migraine indicates that the idea I’ve been neglecting or running away from is ready to be put down on paper. Usually, I write after 12am. That’s the time when most of the brains in my neighborhood have been turned off for the night so it’s a lot easier to connect to the creative energy floating above our heads. Once I go into the cave of the story I don’t come out until I reach the other side. I like to jump around the story. I work on whatever image or idea is dominating when I sit down. I don’t really go from beginning to end. I’m all over the cave.
NYFA: How do you balance your work and your life?
CT: I don’t think I do a good balancing act between my life and my work. I think work dominates my life. My wife is always telling me to take time off – to go on vacation and so on. But I get bored easily so I can only take short vacations. I know people who write a play every two years. I’m usually working on 3 to 4 projects at the same time. I’m trying to be more disciplined about work so that I can have Candido time. I recently started going to a library for a few hours to do some writing, to make my home time my time. I’m still getting used to that since I like writing at night and he library closes at 6pm.
NYFA: Where did you grow up and how did it affect your writing?
CT: I grew up in the countryside in Puerto Rico. The town, La Grama, isn’t even on the map. Most of the men in the small town were seasonal laborers cutting sugar cane. We didn’t have much money, but we did have great storytellers. My grandfather, my grandmother, my uncles and neighbors would come together after dinner and tell stories. At that time there were only two families with televisions in the town. We were one. However nothing beat my grandfather’s stories. I sat on his lap and greedily listen to every single word. I learned to read before I started first grade and I loved reading fairy tales. I knew then I’d be a writer.
NYFA: How has The NYFA Fellowship impacted you?
CT: The first thing it does it gives validation. You’ve been selected by a group of your peers as being worthy of a fellowship. That’s not a small feat when there are over 700 submissions. I’ve won 4 times. I may be the only playwright to have won as many times. I’m proud of that fact. I know how difficult it is to win. I served as a panelist once and the group of panelists takes the job very seriously. Secondly, the money allows you to buy time to create. I’m a freelance teaching artist for 24 years. I work for 6 months so that I can have 6 months to write. I see it as buying time. With the fellowship I was able to buy that extra time. I have also traveled to places that I’m writing about or sometimes you can just pay an outstanding bill. The best thing about the fellowship no one tells you how to spend the money. My wish is that more money will become available so that more artists can have the opportunity to win a fellowship.
For more information on Candido Tirado, visit his website.