A Woman’s Armor is a new work by playwright and performing artist, Christin Eve Cato. It will premiere as part of the Utopian Performance Tour at the 2021 Pivot Arts Festival: Reimagining Utopia. Gina Wrolstad (2021 spring season Marketing Manager) sat down with Christin for a conversation about the inspiration for this work.

GW: You describe A Woman’s Armor as “an homage to the women in our history who have fought for equal rights and protection under the law.” What particular historical figures and/or events inspired the creation of this work?

CC: The struggles of ERA ratification and the capitalistic discourses regarding reproductive labor rights have been the impetus for creating A Woman’s Armor. The philosophies behind these movements are fundamental principles that are still not fully granted to women.

Because I am born from a lineage of women who passed away before being treated as full equals in this country, digging into the denial of these rights has been especially infuriating for me. I want to honor the women who remain unprotected from their abusive spouses, manipulative bosses, and discriminatory health institutions.

Another driving force has been the femicide happening in Puerto Rico and Mexico (though these countries are not the exception–there is widespread abuse in the USA as well). I specifically dedicate this piece to Andrea Ruiz Costas and Keishla Rodriguez.

When I imagine utopia, I envision a world where women are defended and armed. Utopia is a state in which women are equipped to protect their physical bodies, their constitutional rights, their work, their ideas, their liberty, and their pursuit for justice.

GW: Much of your work focuses on showcasing Latinx voices, Caribbean culture, and the Afrolatinx diaspora. How would you like to see these groups represented in theatre, film, and educational institutions?

CC: When it comes to representation, I’d like AfroLatinx & Caribbean communities to be showcased based on how we exist. While I believe strongly in the importance of identity, I have also become wary of identity politics. I’m more interested in telling stories that are both specific to our culture and universal in theme.

For me, the work should focus on normalizing AfroLatinx & Caribbean voices. This way, our stories become a part of the American narrative, rather than tropes or stereotypes added to fulfill a diversity checkbox. Our stories are often very complex, rich with information that could inspire all audiences. I prefer to use these platforms to authentically show, rather than spoon feed, who we are.

GW: Your work created for the COVID monologues series, Black Pain, is so striking and relevant to the themes of Reimagining Utopia. Can you expand on that process and how Marjuan Canady’s performance came to be?

Black Pain was a research-based process created from qualitative and quantitative data about COVID-19 provided by doctors and scientists in the medical field. As such, my task when writing Black Pain was to find the story in the research.

This piece was commissioned by Single Carrot Theater and Children’s Mercy Hospital; a project committed to creating theatre pieces that would disseminate this information in a more digestible way to the public. I worked on Black Pain with director Aladrian Crowder Wetzel (Two Strikes Theatre Collective) and actor/theatermaker Marjuan Canady. With their collaboration, I was able to fully flesh out the character of Naomi and discover the story that she needed to share.

What was particularly powerful about this collaborative process was how organically we all decided that this piece should ultimately be a call-to-action. Working with Marjuan humanised a process that at first glance seemed strictly about research and data.

GW: What is your dream performance venue?

CC: My dream performance venue is Lincoln Center!

GW: What are you listening to right now? (music, podcasts, audiobooks, etc.)

I’ve been listening to Chill Hop stations for ambient instrumentals, Tobe Nwigwe for some swag, and Nina Simone for some roots. I’m also reading my friend’s debut novel, Of Women and Salt, by Gabriela Garcia–I’m entranced with her poetry.

Thank you, Christin, for lending your voice! We are thrilled to experience the culmination of your process of A Woman’s Armor. This new work will be performed as part of the Utopian Performance Tour at staggered start times on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from May 21-June 6.

Tickets on sale now!

Header image: Danielle Ross, photo by Mei Ratz