Photo: Matthias Uhlig / Design: A.D.S.

Photo: Matthias Uhlig / Design: A.D.S.

Christina Quintana

Life is an Application

Grant Year: 2017

ID #: QU-368430

Discipline: Performance Art

Describe the nature of the project.

My life. Making for the love of making. Affording my rent. Loving my partner. Maintaining excess space for being human (i.e. reading for pleasure, hanging out, attending cultural events, drinking margaritas, Netflix, etc).

Beyond the basics, the project is existence without losing hope, feeling simultaneously minuscule and vast on our blue dot Earth in the wide and winding cosmos.

What timeline do you imagine for your project?

How do you measure a life? Jonathan Larson’s “Seasons of Love” from his hit musical Rent comes to mind. How could it not? Though Larson speaks specifically about measuring a “year in the life,” I’d argue, same difference, really.

Not having to concern myself with scansion or rhyme, I would offer that life can be measured in external successes (i.e. involvement in a great project), big moves and big leaps, in years spent in a certain location, involved with a certain person or series of persons or lack thereof, a year of loss, a year of promotion, childbirth, a pet’s life—and yes, Mr. Larson, I would say in “seasons of love.”

I often reach back to that seminal handbook, Audition by Michael Shurtleff. This text was required reading when I was an undergraduate actor with big dreams. In it, Shurtleff describes that the strongest choice in any scene is love. He asks, “Where is the love?” My own chronology is braided by love because nearly every decision in my life thus far has been made for love, and I intend to move forward this way.

I imagine the timeline may proceed as follows:

2016-2020 The Last of the NYC Years

2021 Broadway

2020-2040 The Family Years

2037 Perpetual Postcard Project 50th Birthday Celebration

2037-2045 Midlife Brilliance (masterpieces forged)

2051 When I’m 64

2070-2080 Approximate Death

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Do you foresee any collaborators?

While the heart of the work is solitary, I believe nothing is truly written by one person, so in this sense, absolutely. I will require many wise and patient people to aid in my persistence to exist well. I imagine conversations, gatherings, meetings, productions, events, jobs, and numerous creative projects, which all will require engagement with a variety of individuals. Of course, there will also be the difficult run-ins, possible enemies, and challenging personalities—all equally valuable to the process.

Specific collaborators may include:

A partner sharing sushi rolls on the floor after a long day, a collaborator I scream at over the phone at 6:50am, colleagues venting over happy hour cocktails that turn into late-night cocktails, my annual NCAA Women’s Final Four companions, the part-time doorman smoking stogies outside of our apartment building, sophomores begrudgingly attending my Wednesday 8:30am class, a long-distance friend sending a poetic text or piece of mail, fellow marathoners running by my side, my dentist at my bi-annual cleaning, etc.

What are your short-term goals versus your long-term goals?

My short-term goals [1-4 months] (in no particular order):

  1. Hydrate (emphasis on migraine avoidance)
  2. Complete tax return
  3. Maintain writing schedule
  4. Avoid overbooking/overextending self
  5. Complete draft of new play
  6. Send query letters to book agents
  7. Get out of my phone and into the moment (be present)
  8. Contribute to retirement account
  9. Confirm next location for devised project
  10. Nap shamelessly when the option is available

My long-term goals (in no particular order):

  1. Write good words
  2. Help people
  3. Publish my novel
  4. Become fluent in Spanish
  5. Love deeply (everyone)
  6. Have a show (that I’m proud of & love) produced on Broadway
  7. Have a show (that I’m proud of & love) produced in London
  8. Own property (perhaps a house, perhaps an apartment, perhaps a theater, perhaps a coffee shop slash bookstore slash performance venue)
  9. Live a healthy balance between my writing life, making-money life, & personal life
  10. Travel often & wherever possible

How will the work benefit from this process? 

When I look back at my life—let’s imagine that I will have the opportunity to do so—I believe I will say that it was all worth it. I grew up first-generation American, as a child of two tough Cubans who often argue with me on the point of whether or not people are genuinely “good” or “evil.” Though these terms are very Catholic and problematic, I will always root for humankind.

As I near the end of my third decade on Earth, I still feel firmly planted in this ideal. While it may seem naïve or ridiculous to many, particularly in light of a past year stained with violence and phobias and “isms.” I have experienced too much of human kindness to believe that cruelty is the end-all be-all.

We live in a world where genocide and Beyoncé coexist. The two don’t cancel each other out, certainly, but there’s a lot to be hopeful about. I’d like to think that for every shot fired, for every slur, for every broken spirit, there is a hand reaching out, there is a kind-faced abuela, there is someone who cares.

Because of this, it is impossible for the work not to benefit from the process. Living is work, but it is also a process. Everyday I’m learning a little better how to be human—because like everyone else, as far as I know, I’ve never done this before. It’s all one great experiment.

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Is there anything else we should know?

The chance to fill in a blank space is deceiving. If I don’t fill in the space, the reader may feel I don’t care enough to fill in the space and that I should probably have added something brilliant or poignant there. If I do fill in the space—especially if I do not have anything brilliant or poignant to say—the words may seem redundant or unnecessary to said reader.

Scuroon laro yonee
Hestarp wegin nomarn
Quog suslo lewa

Does the above mean anything to you? What if it’s a brilliant new language that I’m on the cusp of developing? What if this is the start of the greatest poetry I will ever write? Maybe this is the beginning of my real masterpiece (to be completed circa 2037-45; see timeline above) and you are its first reader.

Either way, what else you should know is the following: I’m trying to figure this project out, like we all are. Everyday I wake up and start again. I read images and text voraciously (as we all do, as is unavoidable), type and scrawl, eat meals and half-meals, walk into rooms and out of them, speak to colleagues and strangers, and ask questions.

I always ask questions and do my best to offer small kindnesses to every individual I come across because, the truth is, this project we are all involved in is a difficult one, and how do I know who has lost her spouse, or job, or hope that day? I sometimes (often times) fail at these things, but failure is also a fundamental part of the project. I recognize that I am applying for failure as much as I am applying for success.

Lastly, you should know that I care too deeply. I am a deep feeler, like those Latin men I stem from and have, in many ways, become. This “caring deeply” is both a strength and a fault. Compassion is helpful, sensitivity can be annoying—but, here’s to everything in small doses.

Truth be told, how can you not care about something you are so thoroughly invested in, i.e. your life? In the words of Hillel the Elder, “If I am not myself, who will be for me?”

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Regarding a fee waiver:

I would like to request a fee waiver for this application as I am (a) not rich and (b) not getting richer in the foreseeable future. If you would like to see a copy of my tax return, I am more than happy to provide it, however, it may make you weep. Being that you work in the world of non-profit, I appreciate that you understand my situation and are likely weeping in solidarity.

If between now and the time of this application’s acceptance, I either (a) win the lottery (b) sell a television pilot, or (c) inherit a mysteriously large sum of money and/or property from an unknown estate, I will notify you straightaway.

Christina Quintana is a writer with Cuban and Louisiana roots. Her chapbook of poetry, The Heart Wants, was released from Finishing Line Press this year, and her writing has appeared in Nimrod Journal, Foglifter, Saw Palm, and Glass Poetry PressShe is the recipient of fellowships from Queer/Art, Lambda Literary, and Columbia University School of the Arts, where she received her MFA in Playwriting.