Teatro Vista is bringing a new production to life with the help of actor/writer Raul Castillo. Set in a trailer home, Between You, Me and The Lampshade tells the story of immigration, ghosts and drugscomplete with a healthy mix of family drama.
Castillo comes from a vast theater background including the Goodman Theater and Primary Stages. He is currently developing a script for the Museum of Man/La Jolla Playhouse Border Crossings project at Balboa Park in San Diego.
Film and television acting credits include HBO's Looking, My Best Day and Amexicano.
At the Chicago premiere Windy City sat down with Castillo to talk about life behind the Lampshade.
Windy City Times: How long did the writing of this show take?
Raul Castillo: I wrote the first two scenes in 2006, so [it was] quite a while back. I was in a very lonely and isolated place at that point in my career and life. After writing them I set them down for a couple of years. I thought it would be a one-act.
At LAByrinth Theater Company, based in New York, we have a summer intensive for plays. In 2010, I didn't have anything so I dusted off those two scenes. I took them to the intensive and brought them to this thing we call the Barn Series. I developed it over time. I added two new scenes, which [are] the scenes with Woody and Amparo, and the scene where Jesse comes back to get ready for her date. The "getting ready for a date" scene is really newmaybe like two months oldwhich is strange, because I can't imagine the play without those scenes now.
WCT: Do you base any of these characters on people you know? The play has a strong mother character.
Raul Castillo: I see myself in all of the characters in a way. My mom grew up on a ranch in northern Mexico where guns and that kind of thing went on. My mom is very tender but grew up around that culture. In Woody there is a difference in generations that I identify with but I try to tap into each character and identify with them.
WCT: I had seen Sandra Marquez at Steppenwolf in a show.
Raul Castillo: With Jimmy Smits in The Motherfu**er with the Hat. I didn't get to see it, but I had several friends in that play. John Ortiz is the artistic director of LAByrinth in New York. Stephen Adly Guirgis wrote that play. He is a dear friend and mentor for me a lot in my career.
WCT: Did you feel a need to direct Lampshade?
Raul Castillo: No. Where I am at in my process as a writer, I need someone to bounce ideas off of. Ricardo Gutierrez, the director, worked together [with me] in a play called Fish Men at the Goodman as actors. We did a reading together first and I thought he was perfect to bring this story to life.
WCT: So this show was workshopped for a while?
Raul Castillo: There was a number of readings at Atlantic Theater Company, LABirynth, Two River Theater in New Jersey, Puerto Rican Traveling Theater [and] Teatro Vista. It has been a process for sure.
WCT: How does it feel to finally see it come to life?
Raul Castillo: It is really incredible. Also this play doesn't need all of the technical support but it helps to have the makeup on Meme and to have the gunshots. There are a lot of technical elements that are fun to see come to life. I am so grateful to our crew for all of the artwork that they have done.
WCT: Did you take part in any of the casting?
Raul Castillo: I did. I wasn't in town for it but I saw the videotapes. That is the great thing about Chicagopeople are used to working in plays.
WCT: Talk a bit about the recent cancellation of HBO's Looking.
Raul Castillo: We got cancelled, which was a big disappointment. I felt like there was so much more material to mine for those characters. We had a real solid audience base. HBO had to end it for the reasons they felt were right but the fact that we get to go do a movie is exciting. I have no idea what the script will be like but I am glad we got to have a little bit of closure on it.
WCT: There was a lot of social media about the series ending.
Raul Castillo: That was a real testament to our fan base. It is disappointing but I am glad we get to go back and do the movie.
WCT: What are your future plans?
Raul Castillo: I am doing another writing project in San Diego in the Museum of Man called Border Crossings. That was my first-ever commission as a writer. It is an immersive theatrical piece. It deals with the topics of crossing the border. We initiated the project a year and a half ago. This is the first thing that was not written for the stage but is a site specific piece. It is very unique and new to me. I am not used to working in that kind of format but I have a good support system and director over there.
I have a couple of independent film projects that are coming around. I know I am shooting something in May that is very exciting. It's a film called In the Radiant City.
WCT: How do people keep up with your projects?
Raul Castillo: I'm on Instagram and put photos up of what I am doing. Fans from Looking like to know what I am up to and it's a real blessing that came from being part of that show. It is great to promote something like this through that social media.
WCT: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
Raul Castillo: I started as an actor as a teenager but I quickly got into writing. I discovered the writer Miguel Pinero, a Puerto Rican New York writer. Several Latino writers influenced me such as Luis Valdez and John Leguizamo. Seeing guys like that who are fearless with speaking about communities that were largely marginalized was something to see onstage. I was really inspired to tell stories about the world I come from. I'm from South Texas and grew up on the border. I felt like I wanted to tell stories that took place in the world that I was nurtured in.
Party with Between You, Me and the Lampshade at The Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., now through May 10. For more information, call 773-871-3000 or visit www.victorygardens.org .