Poetry, Authenticity, and Sustainability: An Exchange with Jackie Torres

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Tell us about your artsy self. 
I am a poet, a performer (I struggle with the label of "actor," although I do act), a writer, and a theater maker. All of my work tends to live somewhere at these intersections.

Tell us about your artistic journey. 
I started taking my art seriously from the first time I began performing in theater. I also wrote when I was a young teenager, mostly for myself, but found my voice suppressed by the conditions I was surrounded by and told myself I wasn't good at it. I gave it up for a long time. My love affair with theater, which also began when I was a very young teenager, got warped by the toxic culture surrounding the performing arts and after particularly traumatizing high school and college experiences, I very seriously considered giving up acting and theater altogether. Coming back to writing, ironically for a theater company that ended up being equally traumatizing, reminded me of the work I needed to be doing and allowed me to rediscover my voice, as well as collaborate with folks who were interested in saying and doing the same things. My community of artists and my family, both chosen and of blood, have sustained me through navigating and bucking against the white supremacist, cishetereopatriarchal institution of theater as it currently exists.

What role does healing have in your artistic practice? 
All of my work is about healing. My purest, earliest experiences of theater and spoken word were religious to me. I maintain that all experiences need to achieve that religious essence, which is why authenticity is always a priority, and why I would prefer something to be truthful rather than "good." Art has healed me, little by little, and my philosophy is that if I am honest about my struggles, it will resonate with someone else who will, in turn, be healed by it. 

What art of color are you excited about?
There are so many things I'm excited by! First person who comes to mind is Amber Iman (@afrodeity), an incredible black visual artist who I had the honor of meeting when she did a live painting at an event my collective curated. Spoken word poet Elizabeth Acevedo and her debut novel, The Poet X, gave me every ounce of life when I read it earlier this month. I do think there is a character in the novel who could have been written much better with some applied queer theory, but the novel fed my need for Afro Latinx representation and recreated many of my teenage experiences with an unmatched authenticity. It is an astonishing, gorgeous debut work. One of the BEST new plays I've seen in a long time is Is God Is, which is currently playing at Soho Rep in Manhattan. Aleshea Harris writes us into the world of two twin sisters tasked with enacting revenge against their father, who nearly two decades previously attempted to murder them and their mother (referred to as God). The sisters travel from the South to California to find and kill him; and along the way encounter a mosaic of characters including their father's new family. Laced with beautiful sardonic humor, the show tackles misogynoir, vengeance, and justice through a spaghetti western-style adventure. A violent, cathartic thrill ride and I lived for every minute. 

What are you looking forward to in the coming months, years, decades artistically?
I am very excited to continue my spoken word work, and get more involved in competing! I am also so excited to be one of the book writers for a new musical, The Legacy Project, which tackles black ancestry, identity, and future. I am also super excited to be working on a new play called Desarrollo by Juliany Taveras about Latinx queer babies, the Bronx, and memory.

What wishes, affirmations, and advice do you have for other creatives of color?
If something feels at odds with your artistic vision, trust that instinct. That's not to say you shouldn't exit your comfort zone; but rather, to develop a keen awareness of who is trying to subvert your vision and who is there to support it. School is not the only avenue towards creative work. In fact, formal training often lacks the lens to properly train black and brown bodies, as well as tell black and brown stories. The best training you could ever have is life experience. So live it, in whatever way that makes sense to you. Don't overextend yourself; don't do things that feel like you are being pushed to a breaking point. 

To keep up with Jackie’s radiance and rants, follow her on Instagram @jackieines or on Facebook!