Esaú Mora: The Future of NZ Theatre

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Chicano (Mexican-American) actor Esaú Mora stars in Auckland Theatre Company’s first production of 2022, Grand Horizons. He talks to express about the play’s LGBT theme’s, how theatre needs to evolve and the oppression of minority groups in NZ.

There are some interviews we do where immediately you know the person you’re conversing with is here to play. Our interview with Esaú is conducted over email but he is still determined to set the scene!  

“Imagine me in bed. I don a Dickensian nightshirt beneath a peach coloured gossamer dressing-gown with ostrich-feather piping. The fabric cascades and pools around my slipper clad feet, upon a mound of fresh laundry I’ve failed to fold before the interview. My curly locks have overgrown their normal boundaries, but I did a deep condition and… It. Is. Sitting. Right. Throughout the interview, I run my fingers through imaginary 56cm hair extensions. At various points, many of the acrylic nails attached to my opera length gloves fall off. Unfazed, I pull out a small repair kit from my sleeve and reapply glue. I wave my hands, like petrified claws, to speed the drying process…” He types.

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Okay boo – we see you!

Esaú moved to Aoteroa in November of 2020 with his Kiwi partner Andrew.

“We were living in Harlem when everything was beginning to shut down and we could see the writing on the wall,” he tells us.

For Esaú, Aotearoa has lived up to his expectations. “The land is beautiful, the cheese, the wine, the food is great, the (theatre) industry has been nice, and a majority of the people have been lovely,” he says, though you can feel a ‘but’ is coming.

“I am disappointed with the cognitive dissonance I’ve encountered over the rise and exercise of white supremacy as it works in tandem with late-stage capitalism to continue the oppression of minority groups. In this country, I’ve been called a fag on the street, I’ve seen confederate flags, I’ve seen (predominantly white) Christian organizations rally for their right to prescribe conversion therapy. I know it’s not the majority of the population, but it’s a reminder that there is still work to be done. As progressive as this country is, or presents itself to be, it has to address the toxic spill of the American Republican vernacular into the political discourse.”

In February Esaú will take to the stage in the role of Tommy in Grand Horizons, a play by hot contemporary American playwright Bess Wohl – who skewers conservative ideals of the nuclear family.

“I chose to audition for Tommy because he is an absolute riot; deliberate and reckless. There is an absolute conscientious psycho/sexual fluidity to him that I find invigorating. He is the best and worst parts of a hook-up, equal parts revelatory and infuriating,” he explains.

In the Tony-nominated play, Tommy is the partner of Brian (Todd Emerson), the youngest son of Nancy and Bill, who after 50 years of marriage have calmly decided to call it quits.

Esaú hopes the play will give audiences, “a better understanding about the things we were indoctrinated to believe and the things we wish to unlearn – marriage, domesticity, the family unit.” He adds that he is, “a firm believer that theatre exists to motivate the masses, not to pacify the elite.”

In terms of our theatre scene, Esaú feels NZ is doing a fantastic job of facilitating some culturally diverse content, but would like to see more, “localized artisanal stories that answer the age-old question: why this theatre, why now?”

He concludes that post-Lockdown, “theatre has to return to its roots as a place for cultural exploration, artistic experimentation, and riotous revelry.”

In other words: “It has to be a fucking blast!”

Grand Horizons plays from 8 February to 5 March at Auckland’s Waterfront Theatre. For tickets and more information visit atc.co.nz

Article | Oliver Hall.

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