Good afternoon, YouthMundees!
At YouthMundus, we aim to not only be a platform for music, film and global change, but for the artists and global changemakers who create them. Our Artist Spotlight series aims to create a space for discovery of new, budding global talent, while simultaneously offering you an exclusive glimpse into their creative process. In this week’s edition, we’re extremely ecstatic to feature Courtney Ravelo, an emerging playwright, actor, and theatremaker based out of New York!
Growing up in Union Beach, a one-square mile beach town in central New Jersey, emerging artist and playwright, Courtney Ravelo, felt the biggest con inherent in her small town upbringing was the lack of Latin, or people of color, she had to relate to; Courtney explains that the alienation “severely affected the way I create art.”
Even in the years she attended Ithaca College, Courtney was unhappy with the lack of other people of color. And though she had “a great childhood and college experience” they were not experiences safe from an abundance of racism and xenophobia perpetuated by her largely white community.
Incredibly, Courtney was able to channel her negativity into artistry: her play, “Euphoria”, a dystopian metaphor for the government’s recurring violence against people of color, recently debuted at NYSummerFest.
What inspires you and your creative process? My inspiration lately has come from politics. My play was sparked by the Flint Water Crisis, and the racism that comes with that entire situation. Then the 2016 election happened, and all hell broke loose. I suddenly had a lot of material that I didn’t even have to fabricate. This current administration has been detrimental to our success as a country and it’s heartbreaking. Nothing inspires me more to create art than writing against real life oppression.
What is the connection between your art and social justice? I believe all art should have a message. Living in a politicized body in a political mess of a time like we are in right now, I’ve felt like sometimes I have no choice but to write about social justice. I also feel as though all art is inherently political somehow, if the artist intends on it or not. Your experiences and worldview shape your art, so in my experience, writing in a lens of social justice is really just writing on behalf of the rights of me and my loved ones and everyone else like us who are marginalized in some way.
What inspired you to pursue playwriting and acting? What were the challenges you overcame in this?
Honestly? I just had an idea and started writing. I didn’t study playwriting, I didn’t set out to write a play specifically, it sort of just happened that way. I’ve always been writing, for as long as I can remember, and I write everything: poetry, memoir, fiction, you name it. So the playwriting is just something I’ve added to the list, and I very much enjoyed it. I plan on writing more. As for acting, I’ve also been pursuing that my entire life. I’m not sure what inspires me to do either other than the fact that theatre in general just naturally calls to me. I hope that doesn’t sound corny, but there was literally no other option for me as a person. It’s all I’ve ever wanted. I’m always a little confused by the statement “you picked a hard career” when I didn’t pick anything. Honestly, theatre is just my being. And while it is a difficult profession to pursue, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
As for challenges, I’ll say this: my good friend, a fellow playwright, once told me “No one is going to care about your baby as much as you.” That advice came so handy when in rehearsals for my play. I felt like the whole world was on my shoulders and I just had to bear through it. It was a lot of pressure, but the fact that I had an absolutely stellar cast made it one of the most overall memorable experiences of my life. I wouldn’t go back and change it for anything.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being an artist for you?
For me, the most rewarding part about being an artist is the potential to change someone’s mind. Even if it’s just one person with more understanding of an experience of someone who isn’t like them, or if I can breed empathy, that’s what makes it all worth it to me. That was my only goal when creating this play. I wanted people to be shaken out of their comfort zones and forced to confront what is really happening in this country in regards to racism and climate change.
Do you have any advice for future artists? For advice for future artists, I would say just do the damn thing. I was very apprehensive and that made me miss out on some opportunities that could’ve been amazing. Putting my play up, being a director and producer, among other things, took everything out of me, and I was constantly asking myself, is this worth it? And it wasn’t until the show actually went on that I realized how very privileged I am to have even had this experience, and that all that hard work was for something. Theatre can be grueling but it’s always rewarding in the end, you just have to stick through it. Just keep sending your plays in, keep sending your headshots and resumes in, keep going on auditions even though it can be discouraging. “Don’t give up” is an understatement. I’m not particularly a big fan of the “hustle” culture because I believe no one benefits from lack of rest, but I do believe failure shouldn’t get in the way of our trying for success, especially in such a subjective career.
Thank you for your continuous support and kindness.
Lots of love,
Interview by conducted & written by Veronica Velez