I explore challenging issues with honesty and compassion. I employ humor as an opportunity to breathe and build trust. I center the stories of women and people of color. In my interview-based work, I practice deep listening and respect for each person’s experiences. I’m interested in resilience and a spirituality of belonging with nature. As a teaching artist, I share my creative practice with marginalized people. I build community with writers and other creatives. My life is vitally connected to my art. I always look for the hope.
Thelma Virata de Castro is a Filipinx dramatist whose plays explore identity and belonging. Penumbra was commissioned by The Old Globe Theatre in 2022. The TAG Project was produced by Playwrights Project in August 2021 with support from an Artist’s Grant from the William Male Foundation and a Rising Arts Leaders San Diego (RALSD) Virgil Yalong Quick Grant. “Hand Under Hand” and “The Fire in Me” were performed at Southwestern College October 2021 in a production entitled Kasama. Her interview-based work with Asian Story Theater (AST) investigated history and race within specific communities, with subjects ranging from the incarceration of Japanese Americans to contemporary mixed racial identity. In 2017 she acted as a playwright and Community Liaison for AST’s California Humanities project Halo-halo, which centered San Diego’s Filipinx stories. Additional California Humanities projects include “The Fire in Me” (Access, Inc., 2019) and Saving Stories (New Village Arts, 2021). With AST she won The San Diego Foundation’s 2018-2019 Creative Catalyst Fellowship for “The Fire in Me,” which examined domestic violence in San Diego’s Filipinx community. Access Inc. awarded her the Esperanza Award for extraordinary commitment to eradicating domestic violence in San Diego County. AARP sponsored readings of “Hand Under Hand,” a musical focused on Asian American caregivers (music and lyrics by Emily Rutherford). Her work was featured in The Old Globe Powers New Voices Festival (2020, 2021). Thelma received two Hedgebrook residencies (1999, 2016) and attended the A Room of Her Own Foundation retreat (2015). She founded San Diego Playwrights (2013) and serves the Dramatists Guild on the Regional Affairs Committee and as San Diego Co-Ambassador. She’s spoken to university and community college classes, and on panels at the Dramatists Guild conference (2015), Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference (2016), Dramtists Guild Education Week (2021) and others. She’s been a contest judge for Playwrights Project and the San Diego Writing Festival’s KidsWrite! writing contest. She’s been a dramaturge (San Diego Rep, Playwrights Project) and teaching artist (Playwrights Project Out of the Yard program) and is on the Board of Directors for San Diego Writers, Ink. She attended the Kennedy Center Summer 2021 Playwriting Intensive. The San Diego Union-Tribune included her in its list of Phenomenal San Diego Women: Creators and Performers (2020).