We had the good fortune of connecting with Ariana Calderón and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ariana, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I was raised in a suburb of Los Angeles by Mexican-American parents. I believe that my culture has certainly impacted the art I make and how I facilitate collaborative art spaces. For example, I recently directed a show based on the book, “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros at Playwrights Horizons Theatre School. It’s a tender, gorgeously written story about a young Mexican-American girl growing up in Chigaco. As I was gathering my team and holding auditions, it felt necessary to create a space that centered Latine voices, and I’m proud to say that the entire cast & creative team was made up of Latine artists. Gathering is such a big part of my culture, and both my Mom and Dad taught my brother Jordan and I how to be good party hosts. That skill has definitely transferred over to my directing practice. As director I once chatted with (Nana Dakin) said, directing a play and hosting a party are extremely similar processes. When directing, I center the unique needs of the room, allowing plans to change if the energy of the group requires that, and I try to be mindful of when to allow things to unfold organically and when to modify the course of action. I’m also passionate about communal care, as I feel like that’s often overlooked in the actor-director dynamic. Aesthetically, my work is very inspired by colors and textures of traditional Mexican arcitecture and clothing. In my poetry, I find myself playing with this aesthetic on a more energetic level.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve already talked a bit about directing, but I primarily identify as a poet & performer. I have been acting since I was about 9 years old, and I actually started writing during lockdown in 2020 because I was not able to act in rooms with other people. I had so much pent up artistic energy, and I needed to express it somehow. I wrote a lot during that time, and even put on a Zoom show where I performed some of my poems. Fast forward a couple years, and now I can’t imagine my life without writing poetry. I would describe much of my writing as floating through a multitide of ideas and experiences, challenging the concept of linear time. I almost always write about my family or upbringing in some capacity, and get really excited by marrying the past, present, and future through a poem. Now that I’m back to a busier schedule of collaborating with others in-person again, I’ve found it very important to carve out time to write, regardless of if I’m feeling particularly inspired or not. I’m dedicating my summer to that, among my jobs at Ars Nova Theatre as well as an arts non-profit. I’m also excited about trying to get more of my work published in literary journals. I’m proud of the things I’ve written, and I want to share them with a larger audience, aside from the open mic nights I host in my apartment. I’m twenty-two right now, and I know my work will grow and change as I get older. I look forward to aging because I believe so much wisdom and beauty comes from it.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Okay, I’m so glad you asked because I have definitely thought about this a lot. I live in downtown Manhattan right now for college, and have been able to take some visiting friends and family around to my favorite spots. Let’s say they’re here on a Saturday. We’ll wake up and go on a little walk around the East Village and grab coffee at Porto Rico Importiong Co and breakfast at MUD Cafe. Then, we’ll probably pop into some of the thrift stores in the East Village and not buy anything because they’re overpriced. We’ll make our way down to SoHo, and visit the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, hands-down my favorite bookstore in the city. They sell used books, and from what I understand, most of their proceeds go to healthcare for folks with HIV/AIDS. Later in the afternoon, we’ll grab lunch at Bite, my favorite hole-in-the-wall sandwich shop and then read the books we bought from Housing Works in Washington Square Park. For dinner, we’ll get dumplings from King Dumpling in Chinatown, then make our way to Marie’s Crisis Cafe in the West Village for a night of scream-singing showtunes around a piano with other friendly theatre nerds of all ages. We’ll end the night with an obligitory trip to Joe’s Pizza on Carmine Street, an NYC classic.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am in my final year of my Drama BFA at NYU, and I absolutely would not be here without the emotional and financial support of my Mom and Dad. I am extremely privileged to get to do exactly what I want to do at this point in my life, and I hope to amplify underrepresented voices in my various communities through my art. In addition to my parents, I want to offer a special little shoutout to the cast & creative team of “Mango Street,” the wonderful community at Playwrights Horizons Theatre School, and my close friends.

Other: Read my latest published poem here! https://girlsrighttheworld.com/writing-issue-5/ariana-calderon/

Image Credits
Rudy Amezcua Gracie Alberti

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