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Monday, October 22, 2018

Faculty & Staff

Profile Friday: Hispanic studies professor elevates Latinx playwrights


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Lecturer Trevor Boffone teaches Hispanic Studies and Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, but he’s found time for another passion: theater. Boffone interviews Latinx playwrights for his 50 Playwrights Project. | Jasmine Davis/The Cougar

If ever there was proof that you don’t need to choose between work and love of the arts, you can find it in Trevor Boffone.

As a lecturer in both the Hispanic Studies and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Departments, Boffone has found a way to also make theater an important part of what he does. While his paid work at UH does not necessarily dovetail with his dramaturgical endeavors, he has become a passionate advocate.

Helping other theater lovers

In February, he single-handedly launched an effort to project Latinx artists into the digital world, the 50 Playwrights Project. So far, Boffone has interviewed 37 playwrights.

“I want theater-makers to use the website to find new voices and to encourage theater companies to produce the work of these writers,” Boffone said. “I hope other projects like this emerge. And, honestly, I hope that one day projects like 50 Playwrights won’t be necessary.”

Each playwright is interviewed, presenting the online world with introductory information about the artists as well as providing links so people can find out more and get connected.

The project is intended to grow Latinx playwrights’ online presence, something Boffone said is essential for them to get recognition and work.

“The project addresses the need to take up digital space,” Boffone said. “If you are a playwright and have little to no digital footprint, then you virtually do not exist. Even something as simple as having a Wikipedia page is rare for Latinx playwrights. The 50 Playwrights Project fills those gaps.”

Boffone received his doctorate in Hispanic Studies and his graduate certificate in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies from UH. Before then, he went to Villanova University in Pennsylvania, where he received his M.A. in Hispanic Studies, and Loyola University New Orleans where he received his B.A. in Spanish.

Boffone has had an interest in theater since childhood. He acted throughout high school, but dropped his beloved activity when he started university.

“And I’m not even sure why,” Boffone said. “While pursuing my master’s, I became interested in Spanish and Latin American theater.”

While doing fieldwork on his dissertation about playwright Josefina Lopez, Boffone was reintroduced to his love for drama.

From there, he got involved in a project called the Latina/o Theatre Commons, another effort to make Latinx artists more visible. He now sits on several committees within the group.

The together act

Even though Boffone didn’t always participate in theater, he often knew how to satisfy his dramatic side. Photographer Timmy Mohr said Boffone always discovered ways to create and entertain.

“After Katrina, there was essentially nothing to do apart from gut houses because everything shut down at night,” said Mohr, Boffone’s childhood friend. “Once all the cleanup was done, you had to make your own entertainment. Trevor had a compact camcorder and we used to make videos. We had to create something out of nothing. That was about as artistic as our projects went.”

Today, Boffone mainly acts — not literally — as an organizer to support other artists.

“I mostly see myself as an arts advocate and curator or producer,” Boffone said. “While I feel like an artist and a creative type, I think my best work is organizing and bringing people together.”

His goals are ambitious. Boffone said he plans to interview all active Latinx playwrights, which he expects will take years of ongoing work.

Boffone doesn’t excel in his volunteer work supporting artists only. He also has a reputation of excellence among some academic colleagues.

“He’s always very interactive and responds well to students,” Andrew Joseph Pegoda, a part-time women’s, gender and sexuality studies professor, said. “I also know from hearing about his other classes that he constantly approaches teaching with great care for the students, a high degree of knowledge about the material, and is very creative in his approach.”

Besides wanting to create a positive change in the world, Boffone also wishes to connect his love of theater with students and audiences generally. He has found his means to, in his mind, do both while succeeding in academia.

“Students should know that Dr. Boffone will give them lots of opportunities to learn, grow, and express themselves,” Pegoda said. “As in any class, they should be prepared to work hard and think differently. He’ll have them in love with theater before they know it.”

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