16th Street Theater, in addition to hosting post-show talk backs for many performances, also sometimes has performances with preceding or following receptions where you can mingle with the actors and production team.
At a recent performance, Amy Munice of Picture this Post (PTP) had a chance to meet Ilse Zacharias (IZ), who plays Nayeli, the young heroine who is the main character in this odyssey like story. We learned she is from Brownsville, a border town, and feels deeply and personally about Into the Beautiful North.
Read our full review of Into the Beautiful North here, and Zacharias’ comments about the play below—
PTP: You mentioned growing up and always knowing “the wall” in Brownsville. Did it look like the imaginative set in this production? (Note: Set Design: Joanna Iwanicka)
IZ: “Our set was made to resemble the Tijuana-San Diego border fence, which is different from the one in Texas. From the pictures I’ve seen, our set is the perfect combination of realism with its shape and form, but adds some theatrical elements to accentuate the play’s ever moving scenes.”
PTP: How do you think your experience growing up as a Latina in a border town affects your take on this script?
IZ: “It’s all too real. The play, while very comedic and charming, has moments of complete honesty about the hardships some individuals experience on both sides of the border. Those moments are what drew me in and resonated with me.
“Growing up in a border town, stories of individuals that mirror the experiences that occur on stage are heard daily. It’s the norm and people stay silent.
“I’m grateful that their stories are finally being told and that I get to be a part of it.”
PTP: While it’s true that this anti-immigrant hysteria is not “new”, it also has been spiking in new ways recently. How do you feel about how this script handles communicating these realities to those of us who are comparatively removed from border realities?
IZ: “This script, and this particular production, transports the audience to the border. It immerses the audience in the culture and establishes a new norm. It makes the viewer fall in love with these familiar characters and then leads them to an unfamiliar journey, with unfamiliar circumstances, through a very familiar location. It shows the world through a different lens that perhaps one has never been exposed to and it does so with joy and laughter intermixed.”
PTP: When you go back to Brownsville for your friend’s wedding after the run, what else will you do while you are back home?
IZ: “I plan on eating my bodyweight in Mexican and TexMex food as soon as I get home.”
Photos courtesy of Ilse Zacharias, unless otherwise indicated.