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Erlina Ortiz is one of the 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty honorees. Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News.
Erlina Ortiz is one of the 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty honorees. Graphic: Maybeth Peralta/AL DÍA News.

2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty Honoree: Erlina Ortiz

Erlina Ortiz, Co-Artistic Director & Resident Playwright at Power Street Theater, will be honored during the 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty.

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The third annual AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event serves to highlight and showcase some of the most diverse and impactful young professionals across the Philadelphia region. 

At this year's event, taking place Friday, Aug. 26, Erlina Ortiz will be one of the 40 honorees. 

Biography

Erlina Ortiz is a notable Dominican-American playwright, performer and theater maker whose heartfelt and humorous plays range from topics of gentrification, women’s rights and cultural preservation. All of those have been presented with her role with as Co-Artistic Director at Power Street Theater. 

Throughout her career, Ortiz's work has received a number of recognitions. In 2018, her play Las Mujeres received The Bonaly Award for Creation of Community Joy and in 2019, her play Morir Sonyando was nominated for six Barrymore Awards. In Fall 2021, she received her professional Philly premiere with Young Money at Azuka Theatre, which went on to receive the national ATCA/Steinberg New Play Award Citation. This year, her play La Egoista was selected for the Latinx Theatre Commons Comedy Carnaval. 

Ortiz has also taught playwriting with the University of the Arts, Power Street Theatre, and Blue Stoop PHL, and since 2021, began serving as secretary of the board for Theater Philadelphia. She is also a two-time recipient of the Leeway Art and Change Grant, and the 2021 Leeway Transformation Award. 

It is Ortiz’s belief that being an artist is a superpower, and she believes in using her powers for good.

As part of the lead-up to the AL DÍA 40 Under Forty event, AL DÍA asked each of the honorees a set of identical questions and collected their responses. 

Here are Erlina Ortiz's responses: 

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your professional career? 

A big challenge as an artist is working against the narrative that to be an artist it means you have to suffer. Either financially or emotionally. There are all these tropes of the starving artist or the tortured artist. It's easy to fall into that trap, especially since our society currently, depressingly, underfunds the arts by a wide margin. But making art and being an artist is not torturous and it is no more 'unstable' than someone who thinks their job is secure in an office before suddenly getting laid off. The other challenge is that I have a disability and in our capitalist culture we are taught to go go go, that if we really want to be successful we should be willing to sacrifice our bodies and minds in the process. I can't do that or I'll end up in the hospital, better yet, I don't want to do it. I want my life to have rest and ease and balance.

What are steps that can be taken to improve diversity, equity and inclusion in your industry? Why is it important to do so?

The steps are to value artists of color for their expertise and pay them what they deserve. It is to have these folks not just as tokens on stage but as the decision makers behind the scenes. It also means willing to dismantle the current white supremacist values that govern most of our work places - it means building something completely new even if we don't know exactly what it looks like yet. This is important because theatre and the arts are for all of us. It is not a shiny jewel to be purchased by the elite.

What does being a leader mean to you?

Being a leader means thinking ahead. It means having empathy for those you are leading and to know how to collaborate and communicate. It means all the behind the scenes work that no one sees. It means the care work that keeps our society going. It means willing to look at your mistakes, take critique, and do better. It means always being creative!

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself still co-running Power Street Theatre, my resident theatre company, with Gabriela Sanchez. I don't know how we would have grown or changed by then, but I see us continuing to bring art for social change to Philadelphia communities. I see us having more classes and community workshops, for our home to be a place where folks know they can always come to enjoy some art or create some themselves. I also see my personal career continuing to take off. I hope my plays are being produced across the country and I hope I continue to have opportunities to perform and direct.

The 2022 AL DÍA 40 Under Forty celebration will take place Friday, August 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the Vie by Cescaphe. To secure your seat for the special event, click here.

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