The Stories of Us: My Interview with Playwright Jelisa Jay Robinson

Teatro Vivo's newest production focuses on the culture and identity of Afro-Latinidad, people of African descent who live in the Americas. Contributed by Teatro Vivo.

I have always surrounded myself with people that motivate and inspire me. When I met Jelisa Jay Robinson, I was in my fourth year of college. She was rushing o be a part of my sorority. Just from the few words I shared with her at that point, I knew that she has big dreams and that she was going to be able to accomplish them.

Within a few years, Jelisa has broken down barriers and persevered. Jelisa is more than my sorority sister; she really is one of my greatest writing inspirations. I wanted my readers to connect with and learn a little more about this amazing woman who will be taking the writing world by storm!! She also has a blog called Black Girl, Latin World, which is where a lot of my inspiration came from when i started my blog a year ago.

“Jelisa Jay Robinson is a passionate self-proclaimed “Morena American” playwright and writer from Houston, Texas. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in Theatre and Dance and Latin American Studies. During her time on campus, Jelisa wrote, performed and directed several plays including her first play Ice Cold Milk and an Oreo Cookie. Her play The Stories of Us, that tackles Afrolatinidad in Texas, was one of three plays chosen for the Austin Latino New Play Festival in 2015. It is currently slated for a full production with Teatro Vivo in April of 2016. Through her writing, Jelisa uplifts Black women and shines a light on Afrolatin@ narratives. She is a member of the LatiNegrxs Project, a multimedia space dedicated to highlighting Afrolatin@ media. Her writing has been featured on Ain’t I Latina?, Cafe Onda/HowlRound, and her award-winning blog Black Girl, Latin World. Jelisa is motivated by the desire to help the next generation of Black and Brown (and Black-Brown) artists feel empowered. That’s why she is a theatre teacher! When she is not writing, she can be found traveling, gushing over Bluey Robinson and Laz Alonzo, jamming to Los Rakas, and spending time with her family.”

The Stories of Us: My Interview with Playwright Jelisa Jay Robinson

Jelisa sat down with The Nueva Latina to discuss her love for writing and share more about her play “The Stories of Us.

TNL: How did you become a writer?

JJR: I became a writer by making a decision to become one. After I made the decision, I looked for opportunities to write. I sought out people who were successful writers and made them a part of my tribe. I stopped calling myself aspiring” and started identifying as a playwright.

TNL: Whose work would you recommend for emerging writers to study?

JJR: Study what interests you. Study what is boring to you. Study what makes your heart skip a beat. I recommend Junot Diaz, James Baldwin, and Jacqueline Lawton to name a few. Study more than writing. Be a student of life. Go to coffee shops and watch people. Substitute teach for a day. Walk along the beach. When you study life, you will be able to write more truthfully.

TNL: What play, musical, screenplay, etc. do you wish you had written and why?

JJR: Hamilton because well, it’s Hamilton.

TNL: If for some reason you were suddenly forbidden to write, what would you end up doing?

JJR: I’d get my phone and record the stories!!! Nothing will stop me. When you want to so something, you figure out a way to make it happen.

TNL: What is most helpful to you as you sit down to write a first draft?

JJR: Music. I sit down with music in my ear and gain inspiration. Usually music colors the world of my plays. I also use Youtube 15 minute count down videos to make sure that I stay on task. Writing in a journal helps me to get my thoughts down and step away from the computer.

TNL: Who are some current playwrights you follow and think should get more attention?

JJR: I follow my colleagues like Brian Osglesby, Krysta Gonzales, Easy Way Says and Isaac Gomez. I think they are already slaying in the playwriting filed and the fact that they keep putting out work pushes me to do the same. I think you have to surround yourself with others who are utterly brilliant so that you can grow.

TNL: What is your least favorite question about your work?

JJR: I haven’t been asked a “least favorite question” yet.

The Stories of Us: My Interview with Playwright Jelisa Jay Robinson

TNL: What do you want my readers to know about your play, The Stories of Us?

JJR: The Stories of Us is a collage of experiences within Afrolatinidad. What I have learned is that within any identity there are multiple identities. The Stories of Us displays that in a real, honest and sometimes comical sense. You have the story of the African American Spanish speaker, the Afromexican, the Blaxican and the AfroBrazilian.
What’s great about this piece is that it’s going on in Texas a place where afrolatinidad is not widely talked about. However, there are people out there doing the work!

TNL: Where and when did the play run?

JJR: The Stories of Us ran from April 28, 2016-May 8, 2016 at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center.

TNL: Do you plan on taking your play on tour in the future?

JJR: That is diffidently something that I want to do! I’d love for Stories to travel all over the word and reach people I don’t even know.

You can find Jelisa on Twitter or you can visit her website for more info about her and her upcoming projects!

Thanks Jelisa for the amazing interview and I CANNOT wait to see all the places you’ll go!!

The Nueva Latina