San Diego Playwrights

Getting San Diego Playwrights Produced on San Diego Stages

Cygnet Theatre’s Playwrights in Process–An Interview with Thelma Virata de Castro

on October 3, 2014


Playwrights in Process: New Play Festival is Cygnet Theatre’s annual festival of readings of new plays presented in collaboration with Playwrights Project. The festival introduces San Diego playgoers to new works by local artists and also offers a series of workshops designed to introduce curious audiences to the art of playwriting. In addition, the three-day festival at the Old Town Theatre includes opportunities for informal forums to meet the playwrights. The festival is sponsored by Bill and Judy Garrett.

Thelma de Castro 004

Thelma Virata de Castro

Tell us about yourself and your writing process.

I was born and raised in San Diego. I grew up in Paradise Hills, which is the setting of my play Cookies for Prisoners. I’m married and have two sons. I run the home front (boy, this place is a mess) and I’m the founder of San Diego Playwrights. I belong to two writing groups.  My writing process revolves around feedback, deadlines and lack of sleep. To exercise, I go for walks in my neighborhood. I’ve found that ideas keep coming as I walk.

Tell us about your play. What was your inspiration?

Cookies for Prisoners is about Margie, a low rent Martha Stewart who is the caretaker of the neighborhood. She demonstrates care and concern for everyone, except her own son. There is an actual cookies for prisoners program that was my inspiration. People are asked to bake cookies for prisoners who participate in a Christian outreach program. As you bake the cookies, you’re supposed to pray for the prisoners in several steps–pray over the ingredients, pray as you mix, pray as you drop the cookies onto the cookie sheets. My idea for the play was to have characters bake cookies for prisoners, but to have the characters be as guilty as the prisoners themselves.

What do you hope to get out of the Playwrights in Process experience?

I want my play to be better! I want it to hold together as a full-length piece from beginning to end. Producer Derek Livingston, director D. Candis Paule and dramaturge Robert May have really challenged me with their observations and questions. I’ve had to discipline myself and make sure that the wackiness I love to write has a purpose. I’ve scaled back and even gotten rid of some of the issues in order to focus on the main theme. The actor feedback helped me clarify the characters. I’m hoping to balance all the craziness with emotional truths.

What is your next step? Any advice for other playwrights?

With Cookies for Prisoners I’m looking for further development and production opportunities. When San Diego Playwrights did a survey last year, the greatest resource playwrights had to offer was feedback. I laughed because feedback is free! It is not to be undervalued, though. I suggest to other playwrights to get their work OUT THERE. Join a writing group, or start one yourself. Submit to WordPlay Tuesdays at Diversionary Theatre and Scripteasers. Submit to Scripps Ranch Theatre’s Out on a Limb and New Play Cafe. Produce yourself in the San Diego International Fringe Festival. Keep growing and challenging yourself. And submit to Playwrights in Process! Thank you to Cygnet Theatre and Playwrights Project for this wonderful opportunity.

Thank you for talking with us Thelma! Good luck with Cookies for Prisoners and Playwrights in Process!

Read the Cygnet Theatre Playwright Insight interview here:

View complete information on workshops and plays:


2 responses to “Cygnet Theatre’s Playwrights in Process–An Interview with Thelma Virata de Castro

  1. scotty says:

    What an amazing woman and an inspiration for little girls, we need more positive role models like Mrs. de Castro.

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