I learned to speak basic English in about six months, watching Sesame Street, Electric Company, and re-runs of Laverne and Shirley. (I say Banana like a mid-westerner even though I grew up in Cali.) I was eight when I became aware that I was thinking in English.
Growing up as a 1.5-generation Salvadoran-American, outside of my home life, I didn’t know much about my culture. I often felt in between. Experiencing life in this way heightened my observation skills.
By college, I realized that as a Latina, I hardly saw myself reflected in literature, history, or media and that growing up, I’d longed to see myself reflected. That longing drives me as a writer and theater maker.
I am called to create as a validation of my American experience.
Milta Ortiz is a Salvadoran-American playwright, who moonlights as poet, performer, and writer. Originally from the Bay Area, she now calls Tucson home. Currently, she is a Projecting All Voices Mellon fellow at Arizona State University. Her most recent plays are Pilar and Paloma and Cycles, a commission from StoryWorks Theater and the Arizona Daily Star, which received a virtual world premiere in August 2020. Her play Judge Torres, commissioned by Milagro Theatre Group toured nationally to colleges and universities in the 2019/2020 season. She received NEA Artworks and NALAC Artist grants to develop and produce her play, Sanctuary, which premiered at Borderlands Theater in September 2018. She devised, wrote and directed Solving for X for the Working Classroom, which premiered in 2017. Her play, Más was produced at San Diego State University (2018), Su Teatro (March 2017), and co-produced by Laney College (March, 2016), and Ubuntu Theater Project (May 2016). Más premiered at Borderlands Theater in September 2015 thanks in part to an NEA Artworks grant and was a semi finalist for the Steinberg-ATCA Award. Borderlands’ production toured to Northern Arizona University and Arizona State University in 2016 and 2017. Más was developed at Borderlands Theater through a National New Play Network residency and a NALAC individual artist grant in 2013/2014. Más was selected to the Latino Theater Commons Carnaval play festival, and the Kilroys List in 2015. Other produced plays include A Tucson Pastorela (18th-21st annual productions), Sonoran Shadows, Disengaged, Fleeing Blue and solo play Scatter My Red Underwear. She is associate artistic director at Borderlands Theater. She earned an MFA from Northwestern University and a BA from San Francisco State University.
Thanks to a PAV Mellon fellowship at Arizona State University, I am excited to work on two projects. I am collaborating with Quetzal Guerrero and Borderlands Theater on Anita, a musical in the universe of Annie with the Tucson sound.
I’m researching and marinating on a performance piece that focuses on Afrodescendencia (African ancestry) en El Salvador and in my own lineage. The working title is based on a question I was often asked when I first moved to Oakland. What Are You Mixed With? As someone who is 100 percent Salvadoreña, I've been curious about it too.
I’m working on a firs draft of MIO: Growing Up Salvi (working title). A memoir I’ve thought about writing for years that I was recently prompted to begin. It’s both terrifying and empowering to sit with my own truth. I’m grateful to the Arizona Commission on the Arts for the Research and Development grant for the opportunity to embark on this journey.