Playwright Franky D. Gonzalez will be in residence to workshop his new play <I>Even Flowers Bloom in Hell, Sometimes</I>, March 20-21.Playwright Franky D. Gonzalez will be in residence at Illinois State University to workshop his new play, Even Flowers Bloom in Hell, Sometimes, which won the first annual Diverse Voices Playwriting Initiative.

The Initiative and residency are hosted by the Crossroads Project, an advocacy committee for diversity and inclusion in the School of Theatre and Dance. A staged reading of the play, directed by Dr. Kim Pereira, professor of acting, and performed by School of Theatre and Dance students, will take place Saturday, March 21, at 2 p.m. in 110 Center for the Visual Arts (CVA) on the Illinois State University campus. A conversation with the playwright, led by dramaturg and master’s in theatre studies candidate Cheyenne Flores, will immediately follow. This event is free and open to the public.

Even Flowers Bloom in Hell, Sometimes centers on the life of the Prisoner, a young man of color sentenced to 25 years in a correctional facility. He struggles with the monotony of life on the inside while dealing with estrangement from his family, mistreatment from the guards, and a profound sense of despair. Still, the Prisoner tries to imagine a world in which young black and brown men are not trapped in a cycle of mass incarceration, engaging in conversations about religion, philosophy, and theatre with his sage-like cellmate. Structured as a mixtape with interludes and hidden tracks, this poetic and meditative play captures what it feels like to pass time in confinement without a future to look forward to.

Gonzalez is a playwright and TV writer of Colombian descent splitting time between Dallas and Los Angeles. His work has appeared with The Lark, the Great Plains Theatre Conference, Bishop Arts Theatre Center, Repertorio Español, LAByrinth Theater Company, Dallas Theater Center, Austin Latinx New Play Festival, and many others. He has won the MetLife Nuestras Voces Latino Playwriting Award and the Short+Sweet Theatre Festival Manila Best Overall Production Prize. Gonzalez was selected for a MacDowell Fellowship and has written for the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why.

“If there is one thing I would like for audiences to take from this play,” notes Gonzalez, “it is to remember that incarceration does not equal a forfeiture of humanity.”

In the past, Crossroads has invited established playwrights to Illinois State to participate in MainStage productions of their work. Recently, Crossroads presented Ga-AD! by Ugandan playwright and director Adong Lucy Judith in 2018 and Harvest by Delhi-based author Manjula Padmanabhan’s in 2017. The Diverse Voices Playwriting Initiative was created to complement these programs by supporting playwrights of color as they develop new work. In addition to providing opportunities for artists from historically underserved groups, the initiative also creates an environment in which students and community members can interact directly with professional theatre artists.

In addition to the staged reading, Gonzalez will also visit classes and speak at a colloquium at noon on March 20 in the Center for Performing Arts. This event is also free and open to the public.