Nancy García Loza and the National Museum of Mexican Art are one of the five winners of the 2022 Joyce Awards, which honor collaborations between artists of color and arts and community organizations throughout the Great Lakes region.
“The migration stories we hear frequently are about the arrival, and are often a story of struggle, but there’s a joyful story to tell here too – one that has had a big impact in how we define ourselves as belonging to more than one place. This project is about an experience that’s very personal, but it’s not just mine. It’s millions of Mexican immigrant families, and it’s about creating stories and spaces that the community can see themselves in.” – Nancy García Loza
Drawing on the playwright’s own family history, Nancy García Loza’s Pénjamo: A Pocha Road Trip Story explores bicultural identity, self-discovery, and the myths and realities of ancestral homelands. Challenging the monolithic narrative of Mexican migration to the United States, the play is set shortly after the passage of the 1986 Immigration Reform & Control Act, whose amnesty provisions allowed immigrant families to visit their countries of origin for the first time, just as they were starting to build a sense of belonging in the United States. Commissioned by the National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA), the play’s development process will include artist-led workshops for aspiring playwrights of color, as well as public events that will facilitate community dialogue around immigration experiences in Chicago. This public engagement will influence García Loza’s writing as she creates a production that aims to reflect on her own story while resonating with Mexican, Latinx, and other immigrant communities for a collective reflection on identity and belonging. The project will culminate in a live public reading of Pénjamo, presented at the museum.
Nancy García Loza (b. 1983) is a pocha playwright rooted in Chicago, Illinois and Jalisco, México. Her audio drama BRAVA: a folktale con música launched Make-Believe Association’s inaugural season (with mention from The New York Times), receiving nominations in several categories at the 2019 ALTA Awards and winning in the category of Outstanding Original Music in a Play for her song "Corrido de la Brava". She is a two-time alum of the national Fornés Playwriting Workshop. She has enjoyed residencies with: Goodman Playwrights Unit & Future Labs, The New Harmony Project, Oregon Shakespeare Festival Black Swan Lab, SPACE on Ryder Farm Institutional Residency, Chicago Dramatists, NNPN, and more. Her work has also been supported by: Paramount Theater (currently in development with Bull: a love story, world premiere 2022), Teatro Leyden (Wave, TYA world premiere 2021), Broken Nose Theatre, Steppenwolf LookOut Series, Something Marvelous, Chicago Theatre Marathon, Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble, Collaboraction, UIUC Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and more. She is the daughter of Mexican immigrants and the eldest daughter of seven children. She is the keeper of stories in her vast family. A self-taught playwright, she writes from instinct, plays by ear, and is urgently determined to bring the pocha experience, in all its complexity, rawness, and lyricism to American stages. This year, she received the national APAP ArtsForward award, together with the National Museum of Mexican Art, where she will develop her play Macha: a pocha sister story. She is currently under commission with Steppenwolf Theatre. She lives in Chicagolandia and writes in her kitchen. She is Mexican American, no hyphen.
The National Museum of Mexican Art (NMMA), located in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood, is one of the most prominent Latino cultural organizations in the country and the only nationally accredited museum dedicated to Mexican art and culture. Its Permanent Collection consists of more than 18,000 seminal pieces from ancient Mexico to the present. NMMA has showcased over 150 exhibitions and has presented hundreds of performing artists through individual events and its annual Sor Juana Festival. Additionally, NMMA provides arts education to 52,000 students each year and welcomes over 150,000 annual visitors from 60 countries.
Image: Artifact mosaic for Pénjamo: A Pocha Road Trip Story, a new play by Nancy García Loza. Chicagolandia to México, and back. Concept rendering courtesy of the artist.
Fellow 2022 awardees include: Michael Manson with Living Arts, Nabil Ince with the Harrison Center for the Arts, Aram Han Sifuentes with the HANA Center, and Pramila Vasudevan with Public Art Saint Paul.