My journey as a playwright began at age 14, when I wrote my first religious theme skit for a church program:
My last Spanish-language play presented in Puerto Rico was
Cover illustration for Death of a Mercenary, created by John Rivera-Resto, 1997.
But the years following those happy days in the 70s had taken a darker turn. My youthful illusions and dreams built on innocent and idylic notions had been hammered away. So when the fall of 1993 found me doing a college internship in Washington D.C., I fell into a period of deep introspection and self-reflection, which gave rise to a disconcerting anxiety that compelled me to write. The result was "Death of a Mercenary" -my fist English-language play.
During my internship, I was lodged at
If anyone tells you that the White House and Capital Hill are run by interns in their twenties, believe it. They were the cream of the crop of our nation's colleges and universities on their way to being groomed for leadership positions back home. This was what the interns in the Washington Center Program did -except me. I chose to work with other arts organizations, which saved me from having to get up at the crack of dawn to catch "the rapid" (transit system), wear a suit and tie, or having to work my ass off for some congressional office. But I still managed to enjoy the privileges other interns enjoyed and experienced some of the many ins-and-outs of Washington life.
It would be a safe bet to say that I was and felt a little different to everyone else. Since I had returned to college after a ten-year break, I was much older than everyone else. Also, I didn't socialize much (drinking was not my thing), and once my daily agenda was over, I had plenty of time to myself. I read, did a couple of portraits (see
I do not intend to explain what happened. I will not elaborate as to the origin of the story. I have nothing else to talk about on the subject, except that Death of a mercenary was a work of fiction with a lot of truth in it. I completed writing the manuscript in its final form in 1995, though it was not until 1997 that I registered the work after doing final revisions and adding supplementary material. I wrote in English because, after 1977, I lived in an English-speaking world so all my mental references, termilogies and memories were in this language.
I only showed the play to a few friends. I never wrote it with the intention of having it produced. I wrote it to clear my head and move on with my life. But professional pride kept nagging at me. I am a good judge of my artistic skills. I felt the play was good. Even very good. But I became curious about what others might think of it. At the time, I was associated with
I found a registry of theaters from around the nation that produced new plays, printed about a dozen copies of the manuscript, and dropped them in the mail. In time I got replies from about half of them. For the most part, the notes were encouraging. Almost all stated it was not the type of play they produced, but that they enjoyed the reading very much. One even expressed sorrow that the play was too big for them, and another advice me to turn it into a screenplay. Again, I had no illusions of having it produced, because as it had already been noted, the subject was not everyone's cup of tea or it was too big a production for the stage. I just wanted to know how other's felt about it.
Then, on a windy and cool fall evening, to my complete surprise, I received a very nice handwritten letter by
The truth is that I had completely forgotten about it as many months had past. This was my idea of going big and so I sent a copy to the competition just for the hell of it. In the promo material they promised to read every single play submitted and send back a critique. But I never expected Professor Thomson, a renown expert and author on Shakespeare and Brecht to be the one reading it! To say I was pleased would be an understatement. When you take time to consider that this competition was (and still is) international, with up to a thousand entries, making eighth place is pretty darn good. This was all the validation I needed.
In his letter, Professor Thomson even took the time to write some encouraging words of advise, adding that it was the type of work you take to Hollywood. This awakened some of those early illusions I once had while living in Puerto Rico. It became the beginning of another story for another day. In the same way I took a giant leap in my artistic adventure by creating a 2,275 square foot mural as my first painting, writing Death of a Mercenary proved also to be a giant leap in confidence as a writer. I sent a reply to Professor Thomson thanking him for his letter, and then put the manuscript away until I decided to post it in Muralmaster.org.
So here it is, posted below in PDF form, my first English-language play: