Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
KPBS Midday Edition

'Tortilla Curtain' Makes Its World Premiere At SD Rep

Photo by Darren Scott
Kinan Valdez and Mike Sears in San Diego Repertory Theatre’s production of "Tortilla Curtain," based on the novel by T.C. Boyle.
'Tortilla Curtain' at the Rep
GUESTS: Matthew Spangler, playwright of “Tortilla Curtain”. Sam Woodhouse, director of “Tortilla Curtain” and co-founder and artistic director of the San Diego Repertory Theatre.

American author T.C. Boyle wrote his critically acclaimed novel "The Tortilla Curtain" (Viking Press, 1995) partly in response to the passage of California State Proposition 187. The proposition, which passed in 1994, authorized the establishment of a state-run citizenship screening system to prevent illegal immigrants from using health care, public education and other social services. It was found unconstitutional in 1997.

Nearly two decades later, immigration continues to be a hot-button issue, particularly during election years. And now, Boyle’s novel has been adapted into a new play, which makes its world premiere at the San Diego Repertory Theatre this week.


The play, like the novel that inspired it, tells the story of a young Mexican couple who illegally enter the U.S.—by crossing the metaphorical "tortilla curtain"—and live in a canyon next to a well-to-do gated community in suburban Southern California. One of the residents there, Delany Mossbacher (played by Mike Sears), accidentally hits the husband (Kinan Valdez) with his car, which sets off a chain of events that impact both families. Most importantly, the play presents a range of varied and conflicting points of view on a controversial topic that is no stranger to political discourse but not often tackled on stage.

KPBS Midday Edition speaks with director Sam Woodhouse and playwright Matthew Spangler about the creative process involved in adapting a well-known novel for the theater.

Tortilla Curtain” opens Friday and runs through April 8 at the San Diego Repertory Theatre in downtown.

'Tortilla Curtain' at the San Diego Rep