Meet Vanessa Garcia, Homegrown Master Playwright

📸 Photography by Chris HeadShots

Greetings, Vanessa. Tell us about who are you and what keeps you busy.

I’m a writer and a mom of two wild beauties, married to a gentle soul I was lucky enough to meet named Ignacio. I’m also the co-founder of an entertainment production company, which I run with Victoria Collado, called Abre Camino Collective.

My life’s mission is to tell stories and change the world through them — the stories that haven’t been told are the ones that make change. Specifically, I’m a playwright, novelist, screenwriter, novelist, and journalist. This year is amazing in that I have three to four world premiere plays going up around the U.S. I also write for TV — have written for Sesame Street, Emmy-nominated shows like Monster Meditation; Caillou; a French show called Behind the Beats.

Lots of other things… lots of other things, always. Basically: radical storytelling!

What neighborhood(s) are you reppin’?

Coral Gables and Coconut Grove are the places I live and work through the most, also the places I roam and play through the most.

What brings you most alive about the 305?

The thing I love most about the 305 is what’s home-grown down here. I say this with all the double meanings!

For the past year and a half, I’ve been leading a group of up-and-coming superstar Miami writers through City Theatre’s Homegrown Playwright Development Program. These writers were selected through an application process and this June their short plays will be produced as part of City Theatre’s Summer Shorts program! These writers represent everything I love about Miami. Their authenticity and drive and desire and originality and vibrancy are the hustle and joy that Miami is — they are the voices of tomorrow and I couldn’t be prouder to know them. You are going to want to know their names!

What’s your favorite Miami memory?

When I was a kid, I used to spend a lot of time at my grandparents’ house and my grandfather and I would walk down the block together to go to Eckerd’s (old school CVS for those too young to know what the heck I’m talking about). Right on the corner across from the Eckerd’s there was a churro stand. I can still remember those warm, sweet doughy, crunchy churros and the way they would melt in my mouth. Literally.

We’d buy those and then we’d buy things to draw and write and color with at Eckerd’s, and when we got home my grandmother would be sneaking a cigarette with the neighbor who was an old Argentine woman we called “La Vieja Leonor.” That woman smoked a cigarette the way other people dance. Those were the normal, everyday things that sit in my memory the way only a Miami childhood could. Spanish was the language spoken, SuperQ was on the radio. We sang when we spoke. It was a gritty kind of bliss.

If you could eat only one meal from a local restaurant for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Listen, from Ariete to Cote, to Stubborn Seed, to L’Atelier, to Los Felix, there’s no lack of delicious Michelin-starred food in Miami. Like for real, it’s superior. God, my mouth is watering.

But, if you’re saying every day, what you’re kind of saying is, where does the comfort sit, the home? I used to love to go to Scotty’s Landing, that place felt like home, and we all know it wasn’t about the food. I mean it was just bar fare.

Smith & Wollensky on the Beach still has that waterside happiness to it for me, and obviously the better food version of that, and I know I can have a really good glass of wine and their veggie platter (I know, it’s a steakhouse, but I’m veggie, deal with it). And then there’s just Cuban joy food at Sergio’s on Coral Way around 32nd, I’m a total regular there. And anything Eileen Andrade makes, I’m there.

Outside of the obvious stop above, share your other top three destinations for where you’d go on your perfect Miami day.

Ok, so let’s say that it’s a Friday or a Saturday. I would go on a long bike ride with the kids and hubs — down Old Cutler Road and end somewhere like Deering Estate. Along the way we’d stop for some smoothies and fruit and coffee and ice cream at Wayside Market. We’d end the day heading to Key West for the rest of the weekend. I love Key West so much. But if we can’t go to Key West, I’d chill at El Vecino and smoke a cigar. Yeah… that’s a good night.

What’s a project you’re working on (big or small) and how can our readers help you with it?

Everyone should check out Summer Shorts: Homegrown Edition at the Arsht Center this month! I’ve been privy to just how talented these writers are, and the rest of Miami should come see it for themselves. Summer Shorts runs from June 8 to 25 and features all short plays (under 10 minutes each!), so even if you don’t consider yourself a “theater person,” you’ll be able to enjoy the work of these amazing Miami writers and actors.

I also have another show coming to Miami later in the year, in November, that I co-wrote with Richard Blanco, Obama’s inaugural poet and Miami’s own poet laureate. It’s coming to the Actor’s Playhouse in November and it’s called Sweet Goats & Blueberry Señoritas. There’s so much more happening, but those are two very Miami moments that people can come out to.

What are your favorite local social media accounts and why?

I love @fatgirlhedonist — dude, she’s got the best food posts and she’s all about showing us the most delicious Miami, which I love. Another super Miami funny lady is @madres.en.cuarentena, who started out during quarantine, but she’s great at showing a very Miami, Latin mom life. She makes us laugh with relatability. And, finally @marioramilcomedy — his old Cubans and his Miami-Mds are so on point, I’m smiling just thinking about it. Fire.

If you could give any one piece of advice to locals, what would it be?

Never talk bad about Miami. You live in paradise, fool.

How does Miami help you do what you do or influence your work?

I’ve always felt like Miami is a microcosm of the U.S. The rest of the world is just catching up!

No, but seriously, what I mean is we’ve been over 50% Hispanic for a while now, which means, we are a diverse group of people that are moving, shaking, eating, arguing, and coming together for a long time. This is the root of all my stories. The roots go deep and cross the ocean to Cuba and Spain and other places, but the big grandma tree, she sits here and she inspires everything I do.

If there was one thing you could change, address, etc. about Miami, what would it be?

I wish we would support and embrace process more. Miami is a showy city — we like results. We like the bikini body and the big shiny show, but sometimes the beauty is in the process and the grit and the raw wonder of something being birthed, whether it be a new show or a new talent or a new idea — SUPPORT! Show support early and don’t talk sh*t! Always talk well about your family, even if you don’t know what your crazy tía is doing quite yet. Support early — be there in the process days, not just when the mango tree is bearing fruit. You know what I mean? Wow, that was a lot of Miami mixed metaphor, wasn’t it?! Ja!

What are you looking forward to in 2023?

Oh my god, so much! First of all, summer! Summer is just around the corner starting with Summer Shorts, as I’ve said above, but also my kids will have more free time and we’re gonna play tennis, and go in the pool, and we’re gonna take road trips and the fam will follow me to Texas for another world premiere of a play I wrote with Miami’s own, Jake Cline, called Jenna & The Whale. And… and… and… this is the year of “and!”

That’s a wrap on this week’s Locals to Know, sponsored by City Theatre’s Summer Shorts. Know someone who ought to be featured or would like to be featured yourself? Reach out by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject line “TNT Locals to Know 2023.” If chosen, you might just see yourself or a friend in a future newsletter.