We had the good fortune of connecting with Thelma de Castro and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Thelma, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I identify as Filipinx. I am the child of Filipinx immigrants and was born in Oceanside, CA. My father was stationed at Camp Pendleton and my mother was a nurse. I grew up in Paradise Hills, in Southeast San Diego, with many other Filipinx and people of color. I was educated in the public school system and majored in English Literature in college. I am tied to the history and culture of both the Philippines and the United States. I’ve learned about Philippine culture and history through my family, Asian American Studies classes, and organizations such as Filipino American Educators Association of San Diego County, Filipino American National Historical Society, and Silayan Filipina. I’ve written plays about domestic violence, caregiving, and suicide prevention in the Filipinx community, but I feel free to write other stories for diverse audiences. In my writing I explore the effects of colonization and racism in our culture.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am not afraid to write about challenging subjects. Given that, I also use a lot of humor in my work. When an audience experiences a play, they are vulnerable. I try to help them in their journey by allowing space for them to breathe. Humor builds trust and clears a path to access heavy issues. I am somewhat of a collage artist in my plays. I use familiar characters or settings and imagine them in new ways. For example, in my play “Pussycats”, I examine parenthood and childhood sexual abuse from the perspective of men. I’ve been writing plays for a long time. I’ve learned not to let my happiness depend on a specific outcome. In 2013 I founded San Diego Playwrights, an all-volunteer network of dramatists working to get local playwrights produced. I’m currently a San Diego Dramatists Guild Ambassador with Aleta Barthell. Creating and sharing opportunities with my peers strengthens my own career. The voices of women and people of color need to be heard. I’m grateful for The San Diego Foundation’s Creative Catalyst Fellowship, California Humanities, and AARP for supporting my work. I’ve learned so much about the theatre profession from working in the positions of Community Programs Coordinator, Dramaturg, and Teaching Artist at Playwrights Project. My collaborations with Asian Story Theater have connected me with many communities and story sharing opportunities. Hedgebrook has given me time and space to write. San Diego Writers, Ink and Creative Alchemist Sarah Greenman have furthered my learning in rich, soulful ways. I’ve written for The Old Globe Arts Engagement’s The Living Room Play Workshop and Powers New Voices Festival.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’ve been spending a lot of time in Ocean Beach lately and an exciting area I’ve discovered is the mouth of the San Diego River. The estuary has a stimulating mix of wildlife (pelicans, osprey, herons, mullets) and people (beachgoers, skateboarders, birdwatchers, bikers). Other highlights on the coast are Cabrillo Monument and Torrey Pines State Beach. Downtown, we could ride the elevator to the top of the Central Library and then stop by Petco Park. Inland, Mission Trails Regional Park has a variety of hiking trails alongside the San Diego River. I love the boulders and vistas. After a hike, we could cool off with a milk tea with boba at La Moon Thai Eatery. We’d eat delicious Filipinx food at Villa Manilla, then get halo-halo at Snoice. I’d love to take friends to The Old Globe, La Jolla Playhouse, San Diego Rep, Diversionary, Moxie, OnStage Playhouse, New Village Arts, and many of the other wonderful theatres in our community.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’d like to honor my parents for the courage it took for them to come to the United States and establish their lives in a new country. My father, Emilio Virata, served in the United States Navy and continued his education when he retired. My mother, Genesa (now deceased), cared for babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit of Balboa Naval Hospital. My parents fostered and supported my curiosity and desire to learn. My husband, Audie de Castro, keeps our family involved with the community in his role as Honorary Consul of the Philippines, San Diego County. And no one can cook better Filipinx food than him.
Personal Photo: Elizabeth Davis Photo with microphone: Joy Ella DeGuzman All others: Courtesy of Thelma Virata de Castro