Odalys Nanin is something of a powerhouse in the theater world. Not only does she write beautiful, moving plays featuring confident and intriguing women, but she directs, produces, and often stars in them to critical acclaim.
She says she learned about guts from a Bette Davis interview she saw in her youth. “You have to have the guts to have a voice, you have to have the guts to stand up for what you believe in, and you have to have the guts to write about things that are cutting-edge, or taboo, or too risqué for some people,” says Nanin. “It’s
part of my mission to have a voice for people who are afraid to speak.”
Nanin first acted in 1992, while a student at Rutgers University, which led her to a major in theater. She began writing in 1996 when she wrote a screenplay called Only One Suitcase which made it to semi-finals at the Sundance Film Festival. “That initiated my whole writing career because I felt that I had some sort of gift if they were willing to read my screenplay,” Nanin says. After this initial success, she went on to write her first play, Lovestruck in 1997. While producing the romantic comedy about a relationship between two women, she came out as a lesbian.
Most recently she has bought the Globe Theatre in West Hollywood to give her theater company, MACHA—Mujeres (Women) Advancing Culture, History, and Art a home. This fall the company is putting on another of Nanin’s original plays, Skin of Honey, about two young women in love in Cuba during the early ’60s, a time when gays and lesbians were persecuted, imprisoned, or killed in the street. “We all make choices in our lives, and sometimes we don’t choose love—unfortunately for us,” says Nanin. “Maybe I’m too much of a romantic.” –RD