Playwright Iris Salazar

was born in Durango, Mexico and has been a member of the Theatre Artists of Color Writing Workshop at Plan-B Theatre since 2017. She holds a BFA in Theatre with an emphasis in Performing Arts Design from the University of Utah.

Iris's first play, "American Pride," premiered in March of 2019 as one of four short plays comprising Plan-B's …OF COLOR. AFTERSHOCK is her first full-length play.

The following appears in the April 2022 issue of QSaltLake Magazine

I decided at a very young age that I would never change my last name. Salazar is my mother’s maiden name and, when I write it out, when I say it, I see her and I am reminded of all she has been through as a mother, as a woman. She comes from a family of ten sisters and four brothers. She taught me the importance of speaking up for myself, standing up for those who couldn’t speak up for themselves, to value my strengths as a female. And my grandmother? I couldn’t even begin to write about her and give a complete description of all that she was in six hundred words.

“…when I retire and I find myself
sitting alone in my home,
I might regret that no one
will come to visit me,
because there was never anyone
that called me Mama
and there will never be someone
to call me Abuela.”

I was raised LDS and, although my dad is a non-practicing Catholic, he had no issue with me and my my siblings being raised in my mother’s religion. When I became a part of our church young women’s program, I was fortunate to have strong, independent women as my roles models. One of my teachers was a divorcee, another was a single business woman, another didn’t marry until she was in her mid-thirties, and one was mother to a child that was non-communicative, bound to a wheelchair, and would pass away. These teachers were like extensions of my own mother. Their examples made all the difference in how I viewed religion then and now. I was raised by this village of women who shaped the person I am today.

While writing AFTERSHOCK, I realized the only way I could avoid ending up with a cute, fluffy play was by sharing some of my own experiences through Teah, the central character. But I was very hesitant to do so. I didn’t want people speculating which are fact and which are fiction. I tend to be a private individual, so I’m feeling somewhat exposed. Even though it is only about fifty percent autobiographical, it’s fifty percent autobiographical!

“A friend once described me
as a beautiful, lonely creature.
He said he had never met someone
who could be surrounded by so many people
and yet look so alone.”

I don’t have an agenda in telling Teah’s story. I’m not out to preach religion, advocate celibacy, or make men look bad. I just want to tell a story about a middle-aged, single LDS, Mexican woman. On a dating show. In a pandemic. After an earthquake.

As a society, we are getting better at acknowledging people’s experiences but, all too often, we are critical of experiences that aren’t ours, especially if they involve seeking help from mental health professionals. If it hasn’t happened to us, we can be dismissive: “It’s all in their head!” or “I don’t need help.” Seeking help should be normalized.

“Was I not good enough for him?
What did I do wrong?
I went to church, I said my prayers,
and I am still a virgin.
I would be a good mom and great wife,
why doesn’t he want me?”

AFTERSHOCK may be about a straight, single Mexican woman on a dating show, but Teah is someone you know, can relate to, empathize with, and maybe even learn from.

The following appears in the April 2022 issue of Catalyst Magazine

I have been attending LDS Singles wards for twenty-four years. Once, while discussing my single status with my sister, we joked about me sitting at a corner across from the LDS Conference Center after a priesthood session. I would sit there alongside the protestors, holding a sign advertising myself as a mid-single LDS female seeking an eternal companion. We laughed and for a moment I thought, "Why not?" And then I thought, "That’s ridiculous." and I decided to write a play about a happily single LDS female instead.

“As a teenager I believed that being thought of
as beautiful 
in the eyes of some individuals
was not a good thing.
It was a curse
because sometimes people hurt you
after they told you that you were beautiful.”

The original version of my play was much lighter with a completely different title. I wanted to tell a funny rom-com-like story of open-minded, independent, single LDS women with all the positive energy I could put into it. I made sure there was nothing offensive, and no swearing. The characters were involved, charitable, and progressive but, when I was done writing, it didn’t sit well with me. It was lacking something and felt a little forced. When it was read in April 2019 in Plan-B’s Theatre Artists of Color Writing Workshop, my fellow playwrights gave me good feedback and constructive criticism. But one comment bothered me: “It’s cute, like Jane Austen cute.” I love Jane Austen and have a major crush on every Mr. Darcy I have ever seen, but I was not interested in writing something cute.

I realized that if I really wanted to write this, I needed to write something more honest and personal. A little discouraged, I sent the script aside.

Jump ahead two years: we’re in pandemic lockdown and recovering from an earthquake.

“All those things I saw him as
were all the wrong reasons to want to marry him.
None of it mattered if I didn’t feel love for him.”

The first year of the pandemic, social media was full of so many lonely posts, along with expressions of concern and fear. All those feelings combined with all things pandemic were obviously very difficult for many people and I noticed how it affected the single people I knew, particularly those struggling with mental health. Despite being single, I have been fortunate to live with family and not be alone during this time. I was, for the most part, minimally affected by everything going on. Aside from having to work from home and not being able to enjoy outings as usual, I found myself with time on my hands and decided it was time to revisit my script.

“It’s hard for some not to dwell on the thought
that maybe the life path they choose to take
may have cost them the opportunity
to find the relationship they yearn for.”

I still wanted to focus on a single, LDS female, but the cutesy script from before wasn’t going to do it for me (I never want my plays to be called cute!). So I started over. I wanted anyone seeing it or reading this play to find something to relate to, especially women. This meant bringing up some uncomfortable topics, from pap smears to sexual harassment to mental health, while still honoring my faith and my Mexican heritage.

It meant making Teah, my central character, vulnerable, which was difficult for me to do as a private person.

But had I not, it would be back where it was two years ago: just another “cute” play.

And AFTERSHOCK is anything but.