NEW YORK – Thankful for a highly successful career, Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, the star of “La Reina del Sur” (Queen of the South), says that now she has the necessary “maturity” to face “the biggest challenge” she could undertake: “giving a voice” to the victims of femicide in Ciudad Juarez in English on the New York stage.
The actress is presently immersing herself in rehearsals for “The Way She Spoke,” a work that will be staged at the Minetta Lane Theater on July 18 and in which she acts alone, changing character multiple times to reflect the people caught up in the drama in the Mexican border city and based on interviews conducted by dramatist Isaac Gomez.
Del Castillo told EFE that she feels she is “the luckiest woman in the world” because life has “compensated” her with many things, such as getting handed at this “phase” in her life a project that she summarizes like this: The greatest challenge of her career.
“I have the maturity, as a woman and an actress, to be able to ... give voice to these women whom we don’t remember, whom we haven’t forgotten. It’s something that grieves all Mexicans greatly. And not only Mexicans: femicide occurs everywhere,” she said.
Director Jo Bonney praised the “extraordinary” actress not only for her professional experience but also for her activism in favor of women’s rights and her understanding of the “circumstances” surrounding this scourge on her homeland, whereby she can “really get to know” the characters.
Del Castillo is portraying all these women, and the men, too. It’s very demanding and she has to transform herself vocally, said Bonney about a work that is being produced by the audiobooks online platform Audible and will later be released in an audio version.
Del Castillo said that it is crucial “to open your heart” and understand where the characters are in their lives, what they say and feel, and thus “to impart the message as it has to be imparted.”
“This is for the women of Juarez, not for Broadway or for me or for money, and I hope that I can carry out what I need to do,” she said.
Despite the fact that working in English is a challenge “20 times greater” than normal and she will be temporarily living in New York far from her home, Del Castillo said that she is delighted to be involved in the project, one for which she “will be grateful (to Gomez) all my life.”
The dramatist, who comes from El Paso, Texas, across the border from Ciudad Juarez, wanted Del Castillo for the part right from the start in “The Way She Spoke.”
He said that many people, mainly men, don’t know anything about “the disappeared women” and so he wanted to reveal the stories within the larger tragedy that “is occurring not only in Juarez, but all over the world” by interviewing women whose daughters or sisters have vanished, workers at the “maquiladora” assembly companies in Ciudad Juarez, former convicts, reporters and academicians.
At first, the response is to be horrified and then there’s a desire to do something, said the playwright, who added that he hopes “to awaken some kind of change” with the work, while the director acknowledged that the project is a “painful” one in which “you’re emotionally impacted” by what these women are facing but the most important thing is for you “not to remain unaffected.”
Del Castillo shares that opinion, viewing Americans as more open to hearing different accents and “to knowing what happens in their neighboring country.”
“They hear words in Spanish, they’re more interested ... It’s the perfect time to speak about issues that are happening now,” she said.
When asked if the theater will become a more regular platform on which she will tell stories, Del Castillo responded “Hijole!” (Oh, my gosh!), adding that she is divided on that matter because the stage “creates a need that the camera doesn’t create” and, despite the fact that she loves film, she feels that the stage “calls you, and once you set foot on it you can’t leave.”