Actor Flo Bravo, who previously appeared in Plan-B’s world premiere of Camille Washington’s ODA MIGHT, returns to Plan-B as the central character in the world premiere of Matthew Ivan Bennett’s ART & CLASS, streaming as an audio play April 15-25.
It’s hard to be an outsider. In a state like Utah, it feels like there’s no shortage of opportunity to stand out for all the wrong reasons. Having a name that’s hard to pronounce, speaking a different language, darker skin, not being part of the dominant religion, having opinions that oppose the mainstream; it adds up. When I read ART & CLASS for the first time, that was what stood out to me.
I keep going back to that.
I’ve lived in the United States for almost 20 years but I still can’t get used to the way people seem allergic to having difficult conversations face-to-face. And yet, this quality I find so admirable is just another mark against her.
Lucía’s story is a relatable immigrant experience. She has a fantastic monologue near the end of the play that feels cathartic. In my experience, being an immigrant can feel like being an underdog (in many ways, it is). For many, that chip on one’s shoulder feeds a desire to achieve. I see that in Lucía. She earned a graduate degree, traveled, and is committed to her students. But none of it is enough to earn the respect of her employers or her community and she struggles to carve out space for herself in her own life. Unfortunately, nothing she does, no advanced degree or acrobatic code-switching or smiling through gritted teeth, makes a difference in the eyes of those who see her as “other.” Even her closest friend encourages her to compromise her values in the name of not ruffling any feathers.
The effort to censor some of the world’s most prized pieces of art goes a step too far. I have young kids and I can only hope they have teachers who provide opportunities to work through uncomfortable thoughts and see things in a new way. In my opinion, we do kids a disservice when we artificially shrink their world. I think Lucía sees this, which is why instead of defending herself or getting into a screaming match, she feels such deep sadness when Leland destroys the prints.
Although Lucía’s experience comes to a head in a way that feels sad and unfair, I think it gives her some clarity about the American ideals she’s been grappling with. This is something I can relate to in a personal way. I’m currently in the process of naturalization, which is something I had looked forward to for many years. After the 2016 election, I took time to deliberate. I had to deal with the feeling that this country I love may not love me back. I found myself looking around and wondering where my place was in light of the anti-immigrant/anti-Latinx sentiment. Ultimately, it forced me to confront uncomfortable truths about my own identity. I think there’s a lot for listeners to consider about education and the value of art when they consume this play. I don’t like that this play is based on a true story, but I’m glad Matt took such a disappointing event and turned it into a play that will hopefully start meaningful discussions across our state.
Click here for details on and Pay What You Can tickets to ART & CLASS, audio streaming April 15-25.