The Shop: A Decade of Celebrating Theatre With Playwright Anthony Aguilar

Deborah Spector, Librarian, Business & Economics Department,
Playwright Anthony Aguilar and his plays Little Red and El Verde

In July 2023, Center Theatre Group celebrated a significant milestone—the tenth anniversary of The Shop program. This program offers residents of Boyle Heights a valuable opportunity to engage with the art of theatre. Through a range of activities, including costume displays, community sewing circles, creative writing circles, and play readings, both community members and artists share and explore their own stories. This encourages Angelenos to express their creativity, build community, and learn more about theatre. These free programs at The Shop support Center Theatre Group's belief in the transformative power of theatre as a cultural force that can positively impact the lives of individuals and society at large.

The core of The Shop's mission involves partnering with local artists, including playwright Anthony Aguilar. As a playwright, Anthony is a passionate advocate for aspiring writers. His advice resonates with his journey, "Share your work. And don't be afraid to tell others that you are a writer. Find a community that can give you the support you need to develop your craft. Whether it comes from classes, writing groups, or a circle of friends, find the people who believe in you. Once you do, you will grow even more as a writer."

Anthony's plays serve as a power vehicle for exploring various topics ranging from immigration to communication. Growing up in a family of Mexican immigrants, he saw a hardworking and loving family that brought joy to his world. However, he also saw how politicians often scapegoated Latin American immigrants, unfairly portraying them as a major societal problem. As a playwright, Anthony is committed to rewriting this narrative. He casts immigrants as the heroes of their own stories, a perspective he believes is long overdue. His collection of plays features a Mexican immigrant factory worker turned superhero named El Verde, who Anthony says "fights for truth, justice, and the Mexican-American way!" Through this character, Anthony challenges preconceived narratives and showcases the complexity and joy within the Mexican-American community. He shares, "With my stories, I can show an audience how the Mexican immigrant community can be filled with characters that are not a burden to society, but instead ones that are complex and that can live in pure joy."

Currently, Anthony is adapting his superhero play El Verde into a comic book. Along with his collaborators, Alejandra Cisneros and Luke Lizalde, they have created a new adventure titled El Verde v Doctor Pilar. In this storyline, a new supervillain, Doctor Pilar, wreaks havoc in El Verde's town of Pueblo Heights. Doctor Pilar despises quinceañeras, and she has genetically engineered caterpillars to chew up all of the nonbiodegradable decorations and party favors, which means everything! A video adaptation is available on their El Verde Show YouTube page.

With support from Center Theatre Group, Anthony Aguilar, along with Alejandra Cisneros, have seen their play The Exoneration of El Maestro come to life. This production has been performed in Boyle Heights at the Benjamin Franklin Library, Malabar Library, and Robert Louis Stevenson libraries, bringing this impactful narrative to the heart of the community.

The Exoneration of El Maestro, in collaboration with Center Theatre Group, will be performed at the Los Angeles Libros Festival, a free bilingual book festival for the whole family celebrating stories and music from Latin America and the United States. L.A. Libros Fest will be streamed live on YouTube on Friday, September 29, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. The Festival will be in-person at Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, September 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Cover of the Little Red Musical book
Little Red: A Full-Length Musical
Aguilar, Anthony

Book cover of Latinx teens : U.S. popular culture on the page, stage, and screen
Latinx Teens: U.S. Popular Culture on the Page, Stage, and Screen
Boffone, Trevor

Book cover of Cuba inside out : revolution and contemporary theatre
Cuba Inside Out: Revolution and Contemporary Theatre
Prizant, Yael

Book cover of The Latino Theatre Initiative/Center Theatre Group papers, 1980-2005
The Latino Theatre Initiative/Center Theatre Group Papers, 1980-2005

Book cover of The politics of farce in contemporary Spanish American theatre
The Politics of Farce in Contemporary Spanish American Theatre
Meléndez, Priscilla

Book cover of Holy terrors : Latin American women perform
Holy Terrors: Latin American Women Perform

Book cover of Chicanas/Latinas in American theatre : a history of performance
Chicanas/Latinas in American Theatre: A History of Performance
Ramírez, Elizabeth C.

Book cover of Chicano drama : performance, society, and myth
Chicano Drama: Performance, Society, and Myth
Huerta, Jorge A.

Book cover of Out of the fringe : contemporary Latina/Latino theatre and performance
Out of the Fringe: Contemporary Latina/Latino Theatre and Performance