The Personal is Political: Carla’s Quince Engages the Latinx Vote Through An Immersive Online Experience

Interview by: Chenoa Baker

A video call shows four people - one in a dress and crown with a gold " Ms. Quince" banner behind her, another that has yellow "feliz cumpleanos" balloons behind her, a woman with gray hair and a pear necklace, and a fourth woman. Everyone is smiling, and 3 of them are holding candles
Carla (played by Camila Pérez Santiago) participates in the traditional Candle Ceremony with her mom Gabriela (played by Maria Peyramaure), her Tía Isabela (played by Ashley Alvarez) and her Abuela Gloria (played by Yadira De La Riva).

This is the first in a series of En Pointe interviews PLP has conducted in partnership with The Strange Foundation’s Election Infusions initiative, which is infusing home-stretch funds and momentum into critical election-focused work. Have you made a plan to vote? Find out how here.

Carla’s Quince combines Latinx coming-of-age traditions and voting advocacy to encourage young Latinx voters to participate in the 2020 election. Originally slated to be a live immersive theatrical performance, the project quickly evolved into an immersive digital experience in order to expand its reach in the ever-changing pandemic landscape.

Earlier this month, The Strange Foundation (TSF) awarded Carla’s Quince an Election Infusion Grant, intended to provide funds and momentum for groups working on creative, strategic election-focused projects. “This initiative felt especially impactful given that its target audience is younger unregistered Latinx voters,” commented TSF, “who could make a huge difference in this election and others moving forward.” For the first time, the Latinx vote is expected to represent the nation’s largest racial or ethnic minority in a US presidential election, accounting for approximately 13 percent of all eligible voters.

Carla’s Quince creates a participatory, action-oriented experience that speaks to Latinx individuals by addressing issues that directly affect their communities. In the first of our En Pointe Election series, Carla’s Quince director Estefania Fadul, associate director Galia Backal, and ensemble member and actress Maria Peyramaure discuss their two-year-long experience developing, adapting, and performing this one-of-a-kind immersive piece.

Chenoa: Can you discuss how the idea for Carla’s Quince came about?

Estefanía: First and foremost, I wanted to create a piece that mobilized voters and stripped away “politics” to focus on the issues, in order to have deeper conversations about the importance of voting within the Latinx community. Political conversation has become so polarized in the last several years and often doesn’t go beyond labels—people voting for the party they’d always voted for, or voting based on one issue, or not voting at all—to get to the real-life impacts of our vote. How does our vote actually shape policy and therefore affect our lives and those of our neighbors? I hoped that approaching this conversation through theatre might allow us to talk about these issues in a more human way and open up some new opportunities for people to consider the impact their vote has on their communities. 

The second impulse was more selfish. I craved an ensemble-based artistic process in which I could create a piece from scratch with a group of artists I love over an extended period of time. I’ve wanted to have an ensemble company for a while now, and this felt like the first step to test that idea. I feel lucky that I was able to bring on amazing collaborators like Galia, Maria, and so many others, and the piece is a reflection of the passion, experiences, talents, curiosities, and intentionality of this particular group of artists.

Maria: I particularly wanted to engage new and young Latinx voters. I’ve worked with Estefania in the past, so I knew I could trust her and her ideas. It’s definitely been a fantastic journey of creativity and possibility. 

Galia: I’ve also worked with Estefania before and completely trust her as a collaborator and an artist. I remember when she initially brought up the idea, and I was excited that I would get to be in a room with other Latinx artists. This was an opportunity to grow and collaborate together—that is something super unique about the piece. You can see where our histories and experiences as artists and as people have made their way into it.

Carla’s best friend Miguel (played by Sebastian Zuniga) holds up his voting pledge.

a young man wearing a tux holds up a handwritten sign that says "I will vote! (when I turn 18)" - he's smiling and pointing at the sign enthusiastically

Chenoa: What were some of your sources of inspiration?

Estefanía: The quinceañera itself was a huge inspiration for us. Originally, we didn’t know how to frame the conversation we wanted to have within a theatrical experience. We wanted it to feel like a party, something that people would be excited to participate in that was informative but not didactic. About a year ago, we came across an article about several fifteen-year-olds in Texas who had turned their quinces into voter registration drives for their families and friends, and we thought, that is so cool! This piece was always driven by the idea that mobilizing the vote could have a ripple effect; we hoped our audiences would not only be inspired to vote, but would then leave the show and talk to their friends and families about voting. So the quince idea fit well with that sense of community.

Galia: It was important that Carla’s Quince was nonpartisan—we took the politics out of it. The scary yet exciting step in creating these characters was learning about real people’s perspectives and how they reached that point. Many of us interviewed people that we knew, which was a huge turning point in understanding their political leanings.

Chenoa: Have you previously created projects with an explicitly political goal?

Estefanía: My work is inherently political. But work that invokes direct political action through the piece itself like this one—I’ve done absolutely nothing like this before. Ultimately, though, it goes past the political for me; it’s about self-examination of one’s values and stripping the political labels away to instead reflect on how the choices we make affect our communities. 

Maria: I helped devise a theater piece two years ago that explored the experiences of asylum seekers on the US-Mexico border, which toured schools and cultural centers in NYC through People’s Theater Project, a social justice theater company where I worked as a teaching artist. It was compelling, thought-provoking, and definitely opened up conversation in our communities, but I can’t say we fully created solutions or provided direct resources the way this piece does. We do theater to educate, enlighten, and learn about our own and other cultures, but not often with the purpose of actually making a difference and seeing change. 

Carla’s cousin Javier (played by Michael Leon) takes on the role of DJ for the party.

a dj wearing headphones is captured mid shout, with colorful disco lights bouncing off the wall behind him

Chenoa: Can you describe your creative process? 

Maria: At the beginning, Estefanía had clear questions she wanted to engage, and Galia led us all in diverse interactive brainstorming exercises. It was very creative and collaborative, but none of us knew what the end result would be. Coming into the project was like opening a new fruit you’ve never experienced, like a cherimoya or a rambutan. It’s got an interesting skin you’ve never seen; you peel it, taste it, and it’s like wow, this is exciting.

Galia: We were in tech for our in-person show when the pandemic hit, so we had to quickly rotate. We had worked for a year-and-a-half on an in-person immersive experience and worried that a virtual version wouldn’t work, but the shut-down ended up making the show stronger and more impactful. Originally, the plan was to tour in Florida and do a few shows in New York. Now we have been able to virtually tour Texas, Oregon, and Florida, touching so many Latinx communities. Finding a way to make theater virtual and accessible has always been a huge deal for us, and these circumstances allowed us to reach people who may never have participated had it not been for quarantine.

Estefanía: Another thing we realized when we went virtual is that, because this was always meant to be an immersive piece in which the audience would come into the production to feel a part of it, there was an opportunity to start that journey for the audience long before the show. Social media became the first chance for the audience to get to know these characters, through Carla’s voice and those of her family and closest friends. 

Carla (played by Camila Pérez Santiago) makes her grand entrance to the party with a choreographed dance alongside her family.

a girl in a dress and grown with a gold "Ms Quince" banner behind her makes a hand gesture like she's throwing dollar billows - small videos above her show hands clapping

Chenoa: Why is contextualizing this project within a quinceañera so important?

Estefanía: The majority of eligible Latinx voters are under the age of 34, so focusing on a coming-of-age event was relatable and fun for a younger age group. Also, this was a way to bring folks of different backgrounds together with some common threads. There are so many traditions, races, ethnicities, languages, and other identities that are encompassed within the umbrella term “Latinx,” that we wanted a container for the piece that would feel familiar and inviting to audiences, regardless of their background. Almost every Latin American country or culture has a version of a quinceañera. Even within the ensemble, we all come from different backgrounds—some of us were born here or abroad—but so many elements of the quince resonate with cultural elements that bring us all together. We love music, gathering around food, and having fun with family and friends. That is a generalization, of course, but culturally-speaking, music, food, and family do often bring us together. 

Chenoa: Why did you draw attention to the Latinx vote this year?

Estefanía: Latinx voters are the second largest voting bloc in the US this year for the first time ever, so there’s immense political power within this demographic that people haven’t fully realized. We are also a very young voting bloc, meaning we will have long-term political influence that will only continue to grow. It’s so important to use our voices for the things we care about, not just in the presidential election, but local elections as well. 

Galia: We’ve learned a lot by talking to a variety of different people about their views on the last election. For example, after the last election, we swore in more women to Congress than ever, but most people didn’t know that. Local elections tend to get lost in the fray. We hope to succeed at getting people to do the research, realize their power, and identify who and what their representatives stand for.

Carla’s mom Gabriela (played by Maria Peyramaure) finds herself in a breakout room with Carla’s BFF Miguel (played by Sebastian Zuniga) where she finds out his family is going through an unexpected situation.

two videos next to each other show a woman with a concerned face, and a young man looking down at the floor, seemingly sad

Chenoa: Can you describe the impact of blending fiction with reality in achieving this project’s goals?

Maria: Even though the experiences we stage are fabricated, they reflect a reality for a lot of folks. The play sheds light on how issues impact the family members we created, but it’s based on our research of what is happening to real people in our communities. We want the audience to realize what impacts their neighbors, and that when we cast our vote, we are also casting a vote for those who cannot vote or those who don’t know how to best use their voice. Our Instagram is about Carla, her birthday party, and her desire to get people to vote. We included the characters just like people do with Instagram takeovers, balancing fun content with voting information. 

Estefanía: When people experience situations outside of themselves, it can make them see something they haven’t seen within their own lives. That’s something we’ve tried to get at with these stories. When you are confronted with seeing these scenarios play out in front of you, hopefully you develop empathy for the characters and what they’re going through, and that this helps you analyze how your own vote might impact their situations.

Chenoa: What do you want the project’s afterlife to be?

Estefanía: Carla’s Quince is more about civic engagement in general than just this election. Personally, I would still like to perform it live at some point and see how it could integrate into educational settings as a fun and surprising way to discuss voting and our responsibilities as citizens. 

Galia: The structure makes it easy to swap things in and out. For example, students could contribute their own scenes on other topics, or different perspectives on those same topics; we all have a different story to tell. Carla’s Quince can be an educational tool to learn about voting for students who’ve never registered before. We learned early on that we didn’t know everything about voting. I will never forget, when we were planning the show, we brought someone in to talk about the voting process, and we sat there for four hours asking a million questions. People can use the play to have those sorts of realizations for themselves. 

Chenoa: How can people engage with the project?

Estefanía: Although the performances are over for the time being, we are working to build on the momentum from the show in the run-up to the election by providing voting resources for our audiences and by hosting opportunities for audiences to become involved in getting out the vote, such as letter-writing parties to voters. We are also hoping to increase visibility around the importance of voting through our #VotoConCarla social media campaign, in which folks can post their voting pledge with their reason for voting and nominate others to do the same. The best way to stay up to date with these initiatives is to follow us on social media (Instagram @the_voting_project and Facebook @CarlasQuince) and sign up for our newsletter at

Featured Image: Carla (played by Camila Pérez Santiago) participates in the traditional Candle Ceremony with her mom Gabriela (played by Maria Peyramaure), her Tía Isabela (played by Ashley Alvarez) and her Abuela Gloria (played by Yadira De La Riva).

About the author:

Chenoa Baker, an arts writer and curator, infuses her work with Black Modern and contemporary art, musical cadences, geography, and spiritual reverie. She holds a BA in Cultural Studies from Chatham University that provides an interdisciplinary lens to explore decolonial curatorial practices, constructions of the “North” and “South,” and visual politics. Burnaway, Black Art in America, and Sugarcane Magazine feature her work. She can be reached at

Find Chenoa on Instagram and LinkedIn.

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