Las Borinqueñas written by Nelson Diaz-Marcano extended to May 5th - AmNews Curtain Raiser


Friday, April 26, 2024

Las Borinqueñas written by Nelson Diaz-Marcano extended to May 5th


Nelson Diaz-Marcano (Photo Jackie Abbott)

Las Borinqueñas written by Nelson Diaz-Marcano extended to 

May 5th 


Special To The AmNews

At the matinee performance of Las Borinqueñas, I witnessed the playwright Nelson Diaz-Marcano being ambushed by a white, male critic of advanced years. This man, who I perceived to be the very picture of entitlement and cultural insensitively was browbeating Marcano for not having the jokes in English. For a moment, I thought this racist rant was part of the plays performance. An extended and creative way to further underscore just what white, American men actually think about Puerto Ricans in a general sense. 

I was so shaken by what this man said, and by watching Marcano hold his tongue, as well as the struggle of the other Latinos, like myself, who witnessed the verbal assault, that I decided not to return for Act Two, fearing I couldn't trust myself to avoid getting into a verbal debate with said racist.

Las Borinqueñas (Ensemble Studio Theatre) is set in the 1950s in Puerto Rico and focuses on the lives of María, Fernanda, Yolanda, Rosa, and Chavela who are all just trying to thrive in a changing country with crushing societal rules for women. In the United States, a white, American doctor, Dr. Gregory Pincus decides to use Puerto Rican women as test subjects for a pill he thinks will prevent pregnancy. This is the story of the birth control pill and the women used to test its effectiveness. This play was commissioned by the Ensemble Studio Theater and the Sloan Foundation.

Playwright Nelson Diaz-Marcano is Puerto Rican, based in New York, and a community leader dedicated to building community. The married father of two currently serves as the Literary Director for the Latinx Playwright Circle where he has helped develop over 100 plays in the past three years. His plays have been developed by the Ensemble Studio Theatre, The Road Theatre Company, Pipeline Theatre Company, Clubbed Thumb, The Lark, Vision Latino Theater Company, The Orchard Project, The William Inge Theatre Festival, Classical Theatre of Harlem, and The Parsnip Ship among others. Recent credits include: World Classic (Bishop Theatre Arts Center), Y Tu Abuela, Where is She? Part 1 (CLATA), When the Earth Moves, We Dance (Clubbed Thumb, Teatro Vivo), The Diplomats (Random Acts Chicago), Paper Towels (INTAR), Misfit, America(Hunter Theatre Company), I Saw Jesus in Toa Baja (Conch Shell Productions), and Revolt! (Vision Latino Theatre Company).

The Latinx Playwrights Circle (LPC) is an artist-led development and production organization for Latinx(é) playwrights. Founded in 2018 by playwrights Guadalís Del Carmen and Oscar Cabrera with the mission to build a network of Latinx(é) and Caribbean playwrights nationwide to promote, develop, and elevate their work while making their plays accessible to theater makers looking to find the next generation of American Storytellers. Its programs include Sunday Service, Fresh Draft Series, Greater Good Commission and Festival, Intensive Mentorship Program, LPC Community Nights, LPC Summer Jam and Page-to-Stage, whose inaugural production was Sancocho by Christin Eve Cato. Las Borinqueñas will be our second Page-to-Stage production. In 2020, LPC received a residency at Kabayitos Theater, located in the Clemente Soto Velez Center where it produces a portion of their programming. In 2022, LPC was awarded a Creatives Rebuild New York Grant (CRNY) as well as the HOLA Award for Excellence in Theater. For more information on Latinx Playwright Circle and its many programs, please visit LPC embraces the ever-evolving landscape of Latinidad and the names used to describe this community, including Latiné, Latinx, Hispanic, and the next generation of names to come. Like language itself, this is an ever-evolving name.

Here is what playwright Nelson Diaz-Marcano had to share about writing Las Borinqueñas which is presented by Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST), The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Latinx Playwrights Circle, and Boundless Theatre Company.

AMSTERDAM NEWS: Nelson Diaz-Marcano, I was at a matinee performance of your new play Las Borinqueñas, and saw and heard an older white man reprimanding you for your creative choice to have most of the jokes in Spanish. I will tell you, that I was so angry by the racist words spewing from his mouth, I left during act one intermission.

NELSON DIAZ-MARCANO: I think I saw your face. 

AMN: You did. That was me. NDM: (Laughing) Well, the man was a critic and he also spoke French. AMN: French! Then he should know that certain things spoken in other languages, often, do not translate as well in English. 

NDM: He was telling me that I should have included subtitles so everyone could appreciate the jokes. More than half of New York City knows basic Spanish. 

AMN: Facts. Well, you were the very picture of cool composure. 

NDM: (Laughing) It took all of the ancestors' strength to keep me like that. 

AMN: HA! Thats why I left at intermission. My ancestors were telling me to let him have it. Your résumé is impressive. You are really in it to win. Love. That. 

NDM: I just turned 40 (March 2). In the past seven years, I have focused on Puerto Rican history. They have been trying to erase our history. So we do not forget who we are. I am the father of two, Puerto Rican boys, and they have less history available to them than I did. I want to make sure that they know what their history is and where their ancestors come from. And more importantly, WE can tell these stories. 

AMN: Excellent because I know from past and current experience working with Hollywood that they do not want Latino projects. That does not break my spirit. It does the opposite. It makes me drill in more. I am Afro Mexican and for many Americans (Black and White) have no idea that we even exist. 

NDM: I understand. I need people to understand that despite being a colony for 500 years we [Puerto Ricans] still have a clear identity of who we are. We still call ourselves Puerto Ricans. We do not call ourselves American. 

AMN: Why do you think that is? 

NDM: [Honestly] I think its because of the women. The diaspora. They keep the culture alive. We only assimilated into the language and then we made it our own; Spanglish. Theres a reason that this little, little, little island still stands proud. You can literally drive from point A to B, the whole island, in about three hours. 

AMN: Well, at one point, New York City especially uptown swung to the music of salsa. Today, not so much but I lived the Puerto Rican New York experience and frankly, I miss it. 

NDM: Well, Puerto Ricans come from Black [African] culture. 

AMN: Mother Africa is strong on that island. 

NDM: Exactly! Thats what makes it so special. We embrace it. 

AMN: Congratulations on Las Borinqueñas being extended to Sunday, May 5th.

Las Borinqueñas is running at Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST) which is located at 545 West 52nd Street (between 10th and 11th). For more information, visit

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