Elaine Avila

Elaine Avila

Elaine Avila’s writing is described as “bold, intelligent, forthright, spirited, compassionate, inviting, wide ranging” (Caridad Svich); “open, generous,” (Erik Ehn); and “stunningly effective, poetic and insightful.” (Kathleen Weiss). Suzan-Lori Parks describes her as "tremendously gifted, reliable and innovative...a great joy. Elaine Avila is a wonderful writer."

Her plays are...
Elaine Avila’s writing is described as “bold, intelligent, forthright, spirited, compassionate, inviting, wide ranging” (Caridad Svich); “open, generous,” (Erik Ehn); and “stunningly effective, poetic and insightful.” (Kathleen Weiss). Suzan-Lori Parks describes her as "tremendously gifted, reliable and innovative...a great joy. Elaine Avila is a wonderful writer."

Her plays are produced in Central America (Teatro Lagartija, National Theatre of Panamá); Canada, (Canadian Centre for Theatre Creation, Theatre SKAM, Puente Theatre, SNAFU Dance Theatre); New York City (Saudade Theatre, Ontological-Hysteric Theatre, Hybrid Theatre Works, Occupy the Empty Space); the U.S. (Tricklock, Theatre Simple); Lisbon, Portugal (Cafe A Brasileira, Kitimat); Pico, Azores (Portuguese Tomato) and London, England (Tracey Neuls).

Recent plays: Jane Austen, Action Figure; Kitimat; The Ballad of Ginger Goodwin; Quality: the Shoe Play, La Frontera/The Border, Lieutenant Nun, Change, Memorial, Burn Gloom.

Selected awards: Audience Favorite/Best Drama/Victoria Critic’s Circle for Best New Play, DISQUIET International Short Play Award (Lisbon), New Works for Young Women Award (Tulsa), Best Production/ Audience Favorite—Festival de los Cocos (Panamá City). She has taught in universities from British Columbia to Tasmania, China to Panamá.

Publications: NoPassport Press (Jane Austen Action Figure and other Plays, 2012 in 24 Gun Control Plays, 2013, in Monologues for Latino/a Actors,2015 in Innovation in Five Acts: Strategies for Theatre in Performance, 2015; upcoming Climate Change Theatre Action Plays; After Orlando), Canadian Theatre Review, Portuguese American Review, Café Onda, American Theater, Contemporary Theatre Review. She is an Associate at the Playwrights Theatre Centre, served as Playwright in Residence at Pomona College and Western Washington University, on faculty at Disquiet International Literary Program in Lisbon, as founder of the LEAP Playwriting Program at the Arts Club Theatre in Vancouver, and as the Endowed Chair/Head of the MFA Program in Dramatic Writing at the University of New Mexico.

On Elaine Avila’s plays:

"Thanks to people such as playwright Elaine Avila, the legacy of the workers’ rights activist won’t soon be forgotten.... The migrant coal worker from England who took a stand against deplorable working conditions and promoted the proliferation of trade unions will once again be a living, breathing human intent on telling his story."
--Cascadia Weekly

“Subversive, full of surprises.” —Edmonton Journal

“Kitimat” has all the elements of a great drama, including two sisters on either side of an argument and a town torn between a barrage of lobbying and advertising from a big corporation and a grassroots community response that becomes international. --National Observer

“Passionate, hyper-Canadian.” —National Post

"It’s an exploration of the blending of cultures at a time when one (Spain) was busy pillaging the other (pre-colonial America.) But even more provocative, it’s an exploration of gender and identity. Protagonist Catalina de Erauso, a real-life 17th Century Nun who became a larger than life conquistador, finds herself adrift between two words when she’s found out after over a decade in hiding."--The Marble Theatre Review

"A quick-trot non-linear 70-minute piece held together by the challenges of being a woman and an artist simultaneously...How to be adventurous and creative when you’re a woman...Light and fun."--The Edmonton Journal

“Touching, exciting ... People will be talking about it for years to come.” —Monday Magazine

Plays

  • Fado: The Saddest Music of the World
    Fado is a reverse immigration story—can you un-do your assimilation?
    Luisa goes to Lisbon to study fado, the music of her people. Luisa’s mother, Rosida, comes along. Rosida disagrees with Luisa about all things Portuguese. During her lessons, Luisa discovers her mother’s favorite fado is fascist. Rosida looks up Rui, their mysterious, long lost cousin. Rui reveals he is a fado singer (a “fadista”) and...
    Fado is a reverse immigration story—can you un-do your assimilation?
    Luisa goes to Lisbon to study fado, the music of her people. Luisa’s mother, Rosida, comes along. Rosida disagrees with Luisa about all things Portuguese. During her lessons, Luisa discovers her mother’s favorite fado is fascist. Rosida looks up Rui, their mysterious, long lost cousin. Rui reveals he is a fado singer (a “fadista”) and a Drag Queen. This inspires Luisa, who begins to sing fados of resistance to the dictatorship. Luisa begins a love affair with Tristão, a sexy Portuguese writer; they explore the city. Luisa finds the courage to sing in a fado club, becoming a fadista.
  • Lieutenant Nun
    THE TRUE STRANGE STORY OF A 17th CENTURY NUN WHO BECAME AN INFAMOUS CONQUISTADOR

    “There is no name for what I am. You would have to make a new word.”

    It’s the 17th Century; the armies of Spain are slaughtering their way across the New World, and one renowned conquistador, Antonio de Erauso, is famed for his ferocity – until, on trial for murdering his own brother, facing execution...
    THE TRUE STRANGE STORY OF A 17th CENTURY NUN WHO BECAME AN INFAMOUS CONQUISTADOR

    “There is no name for what I am. You would have to make a new word.”

    It’s the 17th Century; the armies of Spain are slaughtering their way across the New World, and one renowned conquistador, Antonio de Erauso, is famed for his ferocity – until, on trial for murdering his own brother, facing execution, Antonio pleads for clemency – by revealing that he’s actually an escaped nun. Imprisoned and enchained, haunted by the ghosts of the slain, the Lieutenant Nun confesses the story that has been kept secret for so long….

    “New words must be freshly made, on the spot,
    for a creature you have never seen, a fruit you have never tasted. It’s the New World!”
  • Cafe A Brasileira
    Two cousins meet in a historic cafe in Lisbon, one is a immigrant trying to find her roots, the other, a sophisticated Lisboner. A comedy about connecting beyond stereotypes, and across oceans and generations.
  • Burn Gloom
    14 Writers, from Canton to Tasmania to Malawi to New York City, went out on December 31st, 1999 from 9pm -1am. Burn Gloom is the result of what they saw--the story of a Coca-Cola executive whose land rover breaks down on the way to Mount Kilimanjaro, a choreographer at an underground lesbian celebration in Singapore, a New York City police officer prepares for possible terrorist attacks, and Parisian Party...
    14 Writers, from Canton to Tasmania to Malawi to New York City, went out on December 31st, 1999 from 9pm -1am. Burn Gloom is the result of what they saw--the story of a Coca-Cola executive whose land rover breaks down on the way to Mount Kilimanjaro, a choreographer at an underground lesbian celebration in Singapore, a New York City police officer prepares for possible terrorist attacks, and Parisian Party goers end up in an environmental disaster. Where were you when the ball dropped?


    “The writing was delicious, the tension crackled, and you could smell the storm outside…one of the truest collaborations between musicians and performers that I’ve ever seen.” The Discorder, Vancouver, BC, Canada

  • Quality: the Shoe Play
    Quality: the Shoe Play
    Roxanne is the manager of Tremendulo boutique, one of the most exclusive shoe shops in the world. Pippa aspires to be her protégé—helped only by her uncanny gift to channel fantasies behind shoes (from gladiators to astronauts). A dark, comic struggle for power, Quality explores the relationship between commerce and art, the legacy women pass down to each other, and how the world...
    Quality: the Shoe Play
    Roxanne is the manager of Tremendulo boutique, one of the most exclusive shoe shops in the world. Pippa aspires to be her protégé—helped only by her uncanny gift to channel fantasies behind shoes (from gladiators to astronauts). A dark, comic struggle for power, Quality explores the relationship between commerce and art, the legacy women pass down to each other, and how the world is serving the very wealthy.

    “Elaine Avila’s subversive little black comedy (is) full of surprises…opens a veritable Pandora’s shoe box…” Edmonton Journal, Edmonton, Canada

    “A passionate debate stopping traffic on upscale Marylebone Lane…(explores) fashion, status, sex, even revenge…an art installation in itself.” National Post, London, UK
  • At Water's Edge
    At Water’s Edge (full length, 90 minutes running time)
    Alice is Japanese –Canadian. Paulo is Portuguese-American. When Paulo’s start-up business suddenly does well, they hire Cecilia, one of the top architects in the world, to design their house. As all three struggle to create a visionary relationship to their future and the natural world, ghosts from their pasts awake…threatening their basic hopes—to...
    At Water’s Edge (full length, 90 minutes running time)
    Alice is Japanese –Canadian. Paulo is Portuguese-American. When Paulo’s start-up business suddenly does well, they hire Cecilia, one of the top architects in the world, to design their house. As all three struggle to create a visionary relationship to their future and the natural world, ghosts from their pasts awake…threatening their basic hopes—to make a home.

    Recipient, Alden B. Dow Fellowship

    “Everyone who has ever left home and moved in with someone knows the challenges. What I love about Avila's script is that she never takes the cheap and easy road…complex, nuanced characters… each forced into the reexamination of their core values.”—Vancouver Courier, Vancouver, BC, Canada
  • Jane Austen, Action Figure
    Jane Austen, Action Figure…. and other short plays
    (one-act, 70 minutes running time)
    Does it take superpowers to be a writer, a traveller, a parent, a lover….or Jane Austen? A collection of short plays, from comic to tragic, exploring key events in the lives of famous authors, a mother writing while raising a small child, orgasms throughout history, and a couple continually re-creating their...
    Jane Austen, Action Figure…. and other short plays
    (one-act, 70 minutes running time)
    Does it take superpowers to be a writer, a traveller, a parent, a lover….or Jane Austen? A collection of short plays, from comic to tragic, exploring key events in the lives of famous authors, a mother writing while raising a small child, orgasms throughout history, and a couple continually re-creating their love.

    “ A quick-trot non-linear 70-minute piece held together by the challenges of being a woman and an artist simultaneously…How to be adventurous and creative when you’re a woman….Light and fun….” The Edmonton Journal, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
  • The Ballad of Ginger Goodwin
    In 1917, Ginger Goodwin, a coal miner, led a strike. There was no eight-hour day, no compensation for getting injured on the job, and safety standards were so low that you could die at work.
    By 1918, Ginger Goodwin was hunted down and killed. Ever since, politicians and newspapers have been fighting to erase his powerful story.
    With a cast playing everyone from a radical socialist to an Italian...
    In 1917, Ginger Goodwin, a coal miner, led a strike. There was no eight-hour day, no compensation for getting injured on the job, and safety standards were so low that you could die at work.
    By 1918, Ginger Goodwin was hunted down and killed. Ever since, politicians and newspapers have been fighting to erase his powerful story.
    With a cast playing everyone from a radical socialist to an Italian laundress to a scientific industrialist, The Ballad of Ginger Goodwin is about the dreams of immigrants, coal and smelter workers in Canada and the Pacific Northwest, and the battle for worker’s rights.
    Featuring music of the period, including a new ballad by composer/activist Earle Peach.
    The play regards the events surrounding the death of Albert "Ginger" Goodwin, who, through a strike at a Canadian zinc smelter in Trail, B.C. Canada, brought the WWI British war machine to a halt.
  • Kitimat
    A Portuguese Family/A Small Community/Big Oil
    Kitimat, British Columbia, an industry town in glorious wilderness, finds itself the center of international controversy when the town is asked to vote ‘no’ or ‘yes’ on an upcoming oil pipeline project.
    Marta Viveiros, a City Councillor, has worked for years to bring lucrative projects to Kitimat, to give her son work, and the town a future. When...
    A Portuguese Family/A Small Community/Big Oil
    Kitimat, British Columbia, an industry town in glorious wilderness, finds itself the center of international controversy when the town is asked to vote ‘no’ or ‘yes’ on an upcoming oil pipeline project.
    Marta Viveiros, a City Councillor, has worked for years to bring lucrative projects to Kitimat, to give her son work, and the town a future. When Julia, her sister, begins connecting to the environment through hiking and whale watching, Julia starts to object to Marta’s plans. But if Julia opposes Marta publicly, she puts her husband’s, her nephew’s and her daughter’s jobs at risk.

    As Julia and Marta’s twenty-something children struggle to find a footing in the boom town, Julia remembers the different lives her parents led at the same age, when they first came to Kitimat All of the Viveiros sift through their family and their town’s past, to find a way to move into the future.

    As election day approaches, the residents of Kitimat struggle to decide between economic prosperity or protection of the natural world. Inspired by true events.