Interview with Candido Tirado
In conversation with dramaturg Dani Snyder-Young
DSY: What made you want to write this play?
CT: It was an experience I had. It was a hot night in New York and I went to get a soda from the store at about two o’clock in the morning. And I sat on a bench, just like in the play, and these two guys came over and asked me for money, because they didn’t have enough money to buy a beer. And I had seen the guys around. One of them—long hair, tattoos, no shirt—typical neighborhood guys. I gave them the money and then they came back and sat next to me. They wanted to share the beer with me. And then they started telling me about themselves. They weren’t blood brothers, but they were like brothers. They grew up together. One of them, actually his name was Apache, he had long hair, scars, tattoos. And the other was a pretty boy. The opposite of Apache. The story was that he had just gotten this great deal, like he had hit the lottery. This rich man wanted him to marry his daughter. And he was leaving. I was listening to this and all I could see was Apache was really sad. His best friend is leaving. I’m listening to them talk, I’m just looking at his eyes. And I said, “wow’, this guy is really sad. He’s really lost someone. And then the play came to me. I went home and started writing right away.
There are things in the play that connect to things that were happening in my life and my neighborhood at the time. It’s about friendship. It’s about gentrification. When do you fight for your land? And then the last piece of land. How do you fight for that part?
DSY: To you, what does this play say about friendship between men?
CT: Everybody thinks that love between two men is gay, but men love each other, even when they’re not family. They love each other. They fight for each other. These friendships are violent sometimes. So we see that. People are loyal for that friendship. People kill people for that friendship. The friends get hurt. In the city, I work in jails and a lot of the kids are in jail for getting revenge on people who hurt their friends. That’s love there.
DSY: This play is set in the 1980s. How has the world changed since this moment in which this play is set?
CT: Back in the 80s the seeds of the destruction of our world in which the play is set were planted. All these neighborhoods have been taken over through gentrification—the neighborhood I lived in too. The neighborhood was taken over violently by the police and owners and the landlords. But that was the beginning of it. But now we’ve come full circle where most of the neighborhoods have been taken over. And where money has won over community.
These characters in New York don’t exist in New York City anymore. They live upstate in the vast suburbs which is very violent and very impoverished. I’ve been upstate and I see the same people. The same as were in New York. But they’re not in New York anymore- they can’t afford to be there. This neighborhood here still has some of them. There’s a part of Humboldt Park that still hasn’t been taken over. But there’s a part that has. You still see people like this in Humboldt Park. So the seeds are still there, neighborhoods are still being taken over, a lot of neighborhoods have been taken over 50%, 70%. And you see it. So the struggle is still going on.
That’s what my play is about. Fighting for that piece of land. For that island. Which is a piece of land.
(Photo by Ivan Vega)