Growing up Alexandra Espinoza says she never thought she’d go into the theater. “As a kid I thought I’d go into politics or be a lawyer or work on human rights. It really ran the gamut. But I think theater has always been the place I’ve been able to work on all my passions.”
So says Espinoza, who admits she always did theater but had one big problem.
“We don’t live in a country where young Black children are told that they can do theater professionally so it was always just my hobby. And it took a long time to understand that I could make that my life,” she said
But once she did, Espinoza started acting, doing a lot of it in her high school in Baltimore. She then decided that writing for the theater would be a better fit for her. With that in mind she headed to Harvard to receive a bachelor’s in history, and then to Villanova for a master’s in theater.
Today, Espinoza wears many hats. She’s a playwright, performer, director, dramaturg and more. As a playwright, she is a 2020 finalist for the I Am Soul residency at the National Black Theatre, and a member of Azuka Theater’s New Pages Writing Group. Additionally, her work has been developed nationally at the Great Plains Theatre Conference and Seven Devils Playwrights Conference.
A committed teaching artist and activist, Espinoza is a Barrymore-nominated actor who has performed with many local theater companies, and has directed plays as well.
On Monday, June 29 at 7 p.m., Espinoza and director Nikki Brake-Sillá will have a virtual reading of Espinoza’s latest work titled “Homeridae.”
The story is set on a college campus where an adjunct lecturer and a freshman student join together on a journey neither will soon forget. The two are African Americans in a very white academic department at a very white school. Sharing a love of Homer’s “The Odyssey,” they soon discover that Homer himself came from Africa, setting off a chain of events that changes both their lives.
“This is my first full-length play,” Espinoza explains. “I got the idea from being a Black person in academia and being around other Black people and seeing what their experiences were. I also began reflecting the role that higher education plays in the way we realize the dreams we have for ourselves and the way that higher education can get in the way of those dreams.”
And while Espinoza says she thinks there’s definitely a message to her play, she insists she could not possibly tell you what that is. ”My answer to what is the play’s message is whatever an audience is experiencing during the play. They have to figure it out for themselves. I don’t think it is the responsibility of the person that generates the play, to define what the message is. I’m going to bring my skill and talent to expressing my truth, and the audience needs to show up with some of their own.”
Some of the challenges Espinoza has had to face in pursuing her art is what she calls “systemic inequality in the plays that get made in this country. I started writing this play in 2017 and would like to see it produced. I think that’s a little too much lag time. I worry for a lot of working artists that if they don’t have access to full productions their plays might miss their moment. But I definitely think my work is a work that’s intended for the stage and I definitely want that for it.”
She admits she doesn’t write for film, and insists Broadway has a long way to go before it’s ready to showcase her work.
“I would like greater access to what it takes to produce theater, and whoever is ready to do that is someone I’d be willing to partner with,” Espinoza says.