Arts News

Creating ‘Aftershock’

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By Iris Salazar

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 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 businesswoman, another didn’t marry until she was in her mid-thirties, and one was mother to a child who 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 characters 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.

Iris Salazar’s first full-length play, AFTERSHOCK, premieres at Plan-B Theatre April 7-17 (streaming April 13-17). Visit planbtheatre.org/aftershock for details and tickets.

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