Welcome to our interview series with the current rockin MFA playwrights, leading up to Seabury Quinn! This year the interview series will be a little different since different pairs of writers interviewed eachother! These pairs of writers were chosen by the head of the program to be “writing partners” and give each other feedback on each others plays throughout the spring semester.
This interview is questions for Cristina by first year writer Trip Venturella. Cristina Luzarraga is a second year playwright and wrote the funny, dystopian-ish play, “Millenialville” which will be presented Saturday, April 22nd at 4:00pm!! So go see THAT and also watch out for all of the other interviews with our other writers!
Trip Venturella: You use humor a lot in your plays, and you have a comedy background. What disturbing thing happened in your childhood to push you to adopt humor as a coping mechanism?
Cristina Luzarraga: I had the terrible misfortune of growing up with thick eyebrows in an era (late 90s/early 2000s) when pencil thin brows were de rigueur. There were some incidents of overzealous plucking from which my self-esteem never recovered. But it’s all for the best. If Cara Delevingne was around when I was twelve, I’d probably be a lawyer.
Trip: So your play for the festival, Millennialville, is set approximately 100 years from now. It’s about a bunch of people who work at a theme park devoted to our time period. As they learn the truth about “Millennial Times,” the scales fall from their eyes about the times that they live in. It’s a very cool concept. What got you excited to write this? What has been the most fun for you during the process writing this play?
Cristina: I was inspired by the short stories of George Saunders and my experiences at places like Medieval Times and Colonial Williamsburg. Saunders has written several terrific stories about theme parks dedicated to different eras (Pre-historic, Civil War, Middle Ages), and I got to thinking: what would be an interesting epoch to recreate? I decided on the American West and wrote a pilot for a show called Westworld. Maybe you’ve heard of it.
Anyway, after I was sued for copyright infringement, I decided there’s no time like the present, and stumbled upon a thought experiment: How might future generations portray today? If the world were to fall apart in the next decade or so (which doesn’t seem implausible), Millennialville might be our resulting legacy, a theme park about today that’s as accurate as Medieval Times is, which is to say, not very.
It’s been fun to think about our world from a point of historical distance. What are the defining characteristics of our place and time that will be perceived as backwards in the not so distant future? Musing on that question, I’ve come up with answers both silly and serious. For instance, it’s weird to me that our country still uses still toilet paper. (Bidets are better for so many reasons!) On a more important note, it’s weird if not depressing that in this era of a shrinking middle class, it has become increasingly difficult to strike a balance between doing meaningful work and raising a family. Millennialville focuses on the latter issue but still has plenty of toilet paper observations to keep things light.
Trip: Millennialville is post-apocalyptic, but it also has a lot to say about where we’re at right now as a people/nation/planet. Once the apocalypse comes and a future society is digging through our detritus, what about our time and place do you hope they take away from your play?
Cristina: If my play survives the apocalypse, I’d be shocked. But I hope future historians recognize that there were a lot of people out there who were very worried about the future. If climate change and unfettered capitalism turn out to be our undoing, it’s not like there weren’t millions of Cassandras. I wonder if the dinosaurs were worried about comets. Maybe they were, and the small-handed Trumps––err, I mean T-Rexes––were too busy preying on the weak to avert disaster.
Trip: One day you’re young, wild, and free. Then all of a sudden 30 years have passed, your kids are gone, and you realize you hate your spouse. Your job as a car dealer has hit the skids. Ya can’t… sorry, sorry, I’m just venting here. It’s been tough since Snookums, my cat, died. As you can see, I’m just an average guy. Why should I come and see your show?
Cristina: You should come see Millennialville because although this play can’t replace your cat, it can instill in you a newfound appreciation for penguins, which really are the cats of Antarctica. I caution saying more, but this is a play in which cute penguins play an outsized role. Also, Millennialville is both funny and profound (or at least trying to be) and really, what more could you want?
Now that Cristina is your spirit animal, go see her play!
Written by Cristina Luzarraga
directed by Daniel Winters
4:00 pm, Saturday April 22nd, Elizabeth Baker Theater, Kantner Hall
BLURB: It’s the year 2175, and life’s just dandy—or at least that’s the story’s at Millennialville, a historical museum dedicated to reenacting the life and times of the early 2000s. Thisbe and Oren work at Millennialvile. Thisbe and Oren are in love. Thisbe and Oren need to make a big decision: will one or both them go on Productolife? Also, did penguins have ears? For sake of their relationship, Thisbe really needs to know.
More about Cristina
Cristina Luzarraga was born and raised in Short Hills, New Jersey, save for a few teenage years spent in London, England. She graduated in 2011 from Princeton University with B.A. in Comparative Literature. Subsequently, she moved to Chicago where she studied sketch writing and improvisation at iO Theatre and The Second City Conservatory and performed stand-up comedy at Zanies and elsewhere. Her full-length play Due Unto Others was produced by Princeton’s Lewis Center for the Arts. Her short plays Hippo Woman and Baker’s Three were produced at Greenhouse Theater in Chicago.