1) Based on her interview with Huerta, what kind of challenges did Lopez face as an actor and writer? How did Lopez overcome those challenges?
Josefina Lopez started writing plays for the self-therapy, and her journal eventually became her psychologist. Having come to the U.S., she was experiencing a cultural shock. Two parts of her, the American and the Mexican self, were in a conflict. At high school, Lopez was told she would never get a leading role because of her overweight. Thus, she had to choose between either becoming a shadow of Jennifer Lopez or standing her ground and proving her talent. Lopez chose to be herself and started writing Real Women Have Curves, a play based on her life experience. In a few years, the writer faced a difficult task of adapting her play for a film production. However, she continued to try, searched for an inspiration among her relatives, and finally succeeded. In her play, the author challenged body stereotypes and the policies for undocumented people in the U.S. Writing for TV adaptation appeared to be quite devastating, as Lopez had to put a lot of her efforts with no feedback. Thus, the writer took two years off to relax and engage herself in other activities, such as floral design, poetry, etc.
2) Make a list of each of the characters in the play Real Woman Have Curves. What does each of the characters desire, and how do they define the “American Dream”?
The list of the characters of the play is the following:
- Ana is an open-minded educated teenager, Estela’s sister and Carmen’s daughter. She does not like her work at the factory and wants to study writing in New York University. Her “American Dream” is to become an independent woman who has the right to say “no” and take control of her destiny by herself.
- Estela is a young single woman, an owner of a tiny sewing factory in East Los Angeles. She works hard to deliver the orders on time, though she has to sell her ready-made dresses at a low price. As a woman, Estela wants to be taken seriously and considered a person regardless of her body weight. She dreams of becoming legal in the U.S. and founding her designer boutique.
- Carmen is a 48-year-old woman working at her daughter’s sewing factory, a submissive wife, and the mother of eight children. She wants to retire and take care of her grandchildren who are not even about to come. Besides, Ana’s influence gave Carmen an impetus to escape her husband’s annoying touches and become self-confident.
- Rosali is a beautiful single woman working at Estela’s factory. She keeps diet to fit the size 7. Her “American Dream” is to become slender and wear dresses similar to those they manufacture at the factory. At the beginning of the play, Rosali believes this dream is worth suffering till she falls into a faint out of starvation.
- Pancha is a married gossipy woman who works at the sewing factory as well. She is a hearty eater and obviously not the most laborious member in her team. Pancha dreams of her own children and wants Carmen to give her a baby if Carmen were pregnant.
3) What is Ana’s attitude toward her family? Does her view change, and does Ana’s idea(s) of family change by the end of the play?
At the very beginning, Ana acts rather arrogantly towards her mother and sister. She takes their work for granted, despises their lifestyle, and feels as a prisoner caught for cheap labor. The girl does not help her mother with housekeeping and even refuses to go to bakery for fresh bread. Being paid only $67 a week, Ana lends Estela a dollar for a lunch with reluctance, because she has no desire to spend her money on Estela’s needs. Her strongest wish is to liberate herself from the family slavery.
However, as Ana gets involved into the work, she discovers high labor-intensiveness of manufacturing a single dress. She takes pride in her sister who manages to have control over the entire business. Moreover, the girl learns to sacrifice some of her needs and wishes for the benefit of the team. For example, she stays at work overtime to finish the order under deadline pressure. Besides, step by step, Ana shows understanding towards her dutiful hard-working mother. She tolerates Carmen’s barbed criticism concerning sensitive issues such as overweight, humbleness, etc. Thus, Ana’s attitude toward her family changes, and the relatives become much closer to each other.
4) What does Ana teach her co-workers, if anything? What do her co-workers teach her?
At the beginning of the play, Ana considers herself smarter, more educated and liberated than her co-workers. She does not want to be at that place and has no desire to live like Estela, Pancha, or her mother. Pretending to be a so-called educated American woman, the girl tries to teach her co-workers self-confidence and liberation. At first, the women do not take Ana seriously. However, some of Ana’s reasonable remarks still carry conviction. As Ana takes off her blouse and pants because of the heat, she gives her co-workers a lesson of how to love oneself without being ashamed of one’s weight. All the women follow Ana’s example and see their bodies beautiful as they are. Thus, they do not hide themselves in ugly clothes anymore and start sewing larger dresses for themselves and other oversized women. Besides, Ana teaches her co-workers to say “no” if a man acts indecently.
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For their part, the co-workers show Ana the meaning of resistance and fighting for happiness. Ana gets to know how a lonely woman feels in the country where she is expected to be just a mother and a submissive wife. Such a wife must resignedly bear and bring up children. Ana learns not to disdain such women as Pancha or Carmen, but to feel sympathetic to them.