Profile: Josefina López Is the Star of Casa 0101

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Jose Fina Lopez photo by Azul Luna

What goes around comes around, and the spotlight has returned to Josefina López. Lopez wrote Real Women Have Curves, the 1990 play that became the 2002 movie that launched the career of a then-17-year-old America Ferrera. Real Women is now a musical, currently having its world premiere at Harvard’s American Repertory Theatre.

Lopez wrote the play between ages 18 and 21, based on her experiences working in her sister’s sewing factory. She has gone on to become a Los Angeles theater legend, founding and running the highly lauded Casa 0101 in 2000. The complex, in LA’s East Side Boyle Heights community, has a 99-seat theater with an art gallery and classroom space.

A native of San Luis Potosi, Mexico López and her family migrated to LA when she was five. She was undocumented for 13 years before she received Amnesty in 1987; she became a U.S. Citizen in 1995.  She holds an MFA in Screenwriting from UCLA’s School of Film/Television & Theater, as well as a Diplôme de Cuisine from Le Cordon Bleu, Paris, France.

In honor of the new production of Real Women Have Curves, we asked López about her experiences in the theater and beyond.

Why do you think your play Real Women Have Curves has such staying power?

The camaraderie of the women and the authenticity of the story dealing with intersectional feminism makes it a unique story, but being under-estimated and judged by our looks is a universal oppression. Ultimately the message that women are powerful when working together makes is a message worth repeating in different mediums and platforms.

Also, as women, we are fed up with being told our looks give us our value. My story is very much about the worth and value of women’s lives, and story’s contribution to society. It’s sad that this story has become even more relevant because women are still shamed for not being perfect.

How have you incorporated your identity as a Chicana into your playwriting, through works such as Real Women Have Curves, Detained in the Desert and Queen of the Rumba?

Yes, being a Chicana is the way I honor myself in stories by making myself a protagonist or showing a story from the point of a view of a woman, her values and how she measures her worth. I am an activist who writes, and being a Chicana is what motivates me to make my community visible and to celebrate my humanity.

What would you say have been your greatest achievements and challenges in almost 20 years of founding and running Casa 0101 in Boyle Heights?

Keeping the doors open has been the biggest challenge. We had to close during Covid, but we have always been determined to tell stories about our community for our community and making theater accessible and affordable for people in Boyle Heights. It is also challenging to produce theater now because it’s so expensive with AB 5 in place.

How is the LA theater world different now from when you started out? Where do you see it heading?

I’ve seen several white, male, Artistic Directors step down knowing they are not the right people to lead their theaters into the future, and I’m happy they recognize their blind spots have created a theater that became inaccessible to many. I am happy that we are finally asking “Who is being left out of the theater?” I am happy that the larger theaters now have Diversity and Inclusion Directors trying to bring equity and accessibility. I am happy that when I started my theater, we were leaders and now other theaters are catching up to our mission and ability to represent and serve our community. However, I see theater becoming less accessible because it’s become so expensive to produce theater in Los Angeles and little theaters are having a harder time producing plays with actors who they have to pay as employees. I also see more women becoming Directors and playwrights so the theater will finally have equity in gender.

You are one of only a small group of women who run theaters in LA. How do you think that has shaped your leadership of Casa 0101?

I became aware early on that we had to nurture women to just to tell their stories, but to direct and produce as well. I have put women at the forefront of our storytelling and as part of the process with a program I started called Chicanas, Cholas & Chisme that nurtures Latinas to become playwrights and leaders. I also have made sure that the Latino LGBTQ community is represented in our stories and in the creative process.

What role does spirituality and your interest in the paranormal play in your career?

Being Chicana means being connected to my indigenous heritage which means my connection to ancestors, spirits, divine guidance and nature. I honor my culture and identity by honoring the reality I live in filled with other realms and experiences that are non-western perspectives on life. I have had several paranormal experiences since I was a little girl and saw that my mother and grandmother also had a spiritual connection like I did. I honor this connection with my mother and grandmother and have taken up the role of Curandera/healer and keeper of the wisdom of my community. I am an Elder and share this spiritual wisdom in my stories. I want to share a lot of stories with spirituality organically embedded in them to give others permission to do the same so our stories can be elevated to address trauma and painful issues that need a spiritual perspective to introduce other possibilities for healing our community.

Besides Real Women Have Curves, what’s next, for you and Casa 0101?

I am writing a play about Supervisor Gloria Molina to open in May 2024 and am writing an animation film for Sony/Netflix titled The Cleaning Ladies. I am also trying to finish writing my autobiography, Real Women Have Courage.


Laura Foti Cohen

Laura Foti Cohen has been reviewing theatre prolifically for five years at the Larchmont Buzz, a local Hancock Park-area website and email newsletter. She’s a playwright herself; her plays have been produced by NEO Ensemble Theatre. She's a new member of Theatre West.

Laura Foti Cohen

Laura Foti Cohen has been reviewing theatre prolifically for five years at the Larchmont Buzz, a local Hancock Park-area website and email newsletter. She’s a playwright herself; her plays have been produced by NEO Ensemble Theatre. She's a new member of Theatre West.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.