An Interview with “Leaves” Creator Victor Vauban, Jr.

In the world of theater, stories are essential. Bold recently caught up with Victor Vauban, Jr., a Brazilian-born playwright/actor /director and circus performer who has been lighting up the NYC theatre scene. His play, “LEAVES”, winner of the 2019 Strawberry One-Act  Festival, recently had a run at the Peter J. Sharp Theater at Symphony Space in New York City.

The brilliant cast ( Wendy Heagy, Ben Rowe, Patricia Fields, Jennifer Jackson, Cassandra Borgella & Julian Kingston, with costume design by Carolyn Adams) led the audience in a dance that felt  secure and safe, like most family kitchens. Yet, the performers manage to hint of something not quite right. Vauban’s writing excels at creating tension and anticipation, while simultaneously providing comfort. It’s a hard balance to maintain, and “LEAVES” does it with incredible authenticity. Whether it’s the spot-on body language of bickering teenage siblings, the contrasting intervention methods of two visiting  sisters, or the small moments of intimacy between a couple- it’s all familiar and inviting. Which is why, when the very unexpected climax occurs, the audience feels it profoundly. I’m not ashamed to say I’m a crier, and I wasn’t alone in that reaction.

Cast of “Leaves”: Wendy Heagy, Ben Rowe, Patricia Fields, Jennifer Jackson, Cassandra Borgella & Julian Kingston. Costumes by Carolyn Adams

Bold recently talked with Victor about his inspirations, the incredible trajectory of his work, and his views on storytelling.

Bold Magazine: Can you describe “LEAVES” to someone who’s never seen it?

Victor Vauban, Jr.: The play ‘LEAVES” is a social drama depicting the daily life of a quintessential middle class African-American family living in Syracuse, in upstate New York. At first sight, it seems there’s nothing out of the normal until the  play progresses and the audience has the chance to realize that there is much more to this family than meet the eyes. The play approaches themes such as romance, family, motherhood, sisterhood and also tackles issues such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder and other forms of mental illness, which still are taboo in the African-American community.

Bold Magazine: Tell us about “LEAVES” ‘ journey from a library in the Bronx to the 2019 Winner of the Strawberry One-Act Festival (produced by Van Dirk Fisher) which has been called  the “American Idol for playwrights” by the Daily News!

Victor Vauban, Jr.:That’s interesting. Every playwright has his/her own ways of writing and developing plays. I found mine almost by accident. After attending a poetry workshop and presenting some of my poetry in the Bronx, the Huntington Free Library invited me to present one of my plays there and that was just the perfect opportunity for me to workshop my plays without the pressure of the formal play workshops around the city. As I got the invitation, another kind of pressure arose, because I wanted to present a collection of six new short plays. I started writing whatever ideas were coming to my mind and transforming them into shorts dialogues. Consequently, these short dialogues became shorts scenes, short scenes became short plays. It was at Huntington Free Library, where my journey really began. This historical library was the first place where the plays ‘MARTIN’S TRUTH’ and ‘LEAVES” (the biggest hits I have written) were presented in 2017 as a 15 minute play. The library works for me as some kind of thermometer so I can see how the audience connects to the themes and the characters; and to my surprise they got so involved with the characters and struggles that the characters are going through that I was requested to have a Q & A after every performance.

Victor Vauban, Jr.: That’s interesting. Every playwright has his/her own ways of writing and developing plays. I found mine almost by accident. After attending a poetry workshop and presenting some of my poetry in the Bronx, the Huntington Free Library invited me to present one of my plays there and that was just the perfect opportunity for me to workshop my plays without the pressure of the formal play workshops around the city. As I got the invitation, another kind of pressure arose, because I wanted to present a collection of six new short plays. I started writing whatever ideas were coming to my mind and transforming them into shorts dialogues. Consequently, these short dialogues became shorts scenes, short scenes became short plays. It was at Huntington Free Library, where my journey really began. This historical library was the first place where the plays ‘MARTIN’S TRUTH’ and ‘LEAVES” (the biggest hits I have written) were presented in 2017 as a 15 minute play. The library works for me as some kind of thermometer so I can see how the audience connects to the themes and the characters; and to my surprise they got so involved with the characters and struggles that the characters are going through that I was requested to have a Q & A after every performance.

After seeing the good response in the Bronx, I decided to bring the same plays performed there to the Strawberry Festival in Manhattan. Since then, the two plays I brought to the festival received a total of eight nomination in different categories and three titles that include best actor, Xavier Michael (Martin’s TRUTH), best actress Antonia Badon (“LEAVES”) and best play for “LEAVES” to Victor Vauban Junior. 

Leaves by Victor Vauban, Jr.

Bold Magazine: That’s so inspiring to artists who are trying to find a place for their work. Your plays always show a familiar human struggle while also highlighting family traditions and cultural differences. What role does your own background play in your work?

Victor Vauban, Jr.: Well, it is almost impossible for any playwright not to seek inspiration in personal experiences, knowingly or not. Family is the fabric of our society. Without family, it is impossible to navigate in the world. I had great parents. I grew up in a big family, where we learn at tender age to share everything and be supportive of one another. When I started writing “LEAVES”, I knew I had to write a powerful love story and the biggest love story I knew about, it wasn’t found in the fairytales, in the soap-operas or in the movies. It was right there at my own home, growing up, watching my parents raising us and the infinite love they had for one another. They were married for fifty years and I never saw to this day a couple who were so in love with one another like them until death did part them. They were the epitome of a couple in love. Until I saw the play on stage, I had no idea that special couple I depict in the play carried all the same traits my parents displayed as a couple.

Bold Magazine: I love that. Victor, If there were a social problem/issue/injustice you could solve tomorrow, what would it be?

Victor Vauban, Jr.: That’s not an easy question, once there are so many issues to be solved in this world that it is almost impossible to pinpoint one without thinking in the importance and negative impact of the next one. In my utopian universe there is a long list of world problems to be solved. But in reality, I do believe that the root of the biggest problems in the world begins with the lack of information, empathy and respect our society faces these days. Some of the biggest problems to be obliterated in our society in order for a fair and quality life are ageism, racism, colorism, ableism, misogyny, transphobia. It is my responsibility to tackle these issues in my plays.

Bold Magazine: What’s next for Victor Vauban, Jr?

Victor Vauban, Jr.: have many plans for 2020. Some of them include finding a producer to take my work to the next level. The dream is to hit Broadway someday and share my stories with the world. I will definitely be coming back to the Strawberry Theater Festival with new material that I hope will cause the same impact as the previous ones. There is also a plan in progress to bring the plays “LEAVES” and “Martin’s TRUTH”  to the Theater for the New City somewhere this year. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

Bold Magazine: We always close with this question- what makes YOU “bold”?

Victor Vauban, Jr.: Life is always full of obstacles and ups-and- downs, which makes it even more rich and beautiful; depending on how we face them. In my case fear is a great source of inspiration. So much so, all of my plays approach themes  that I was thought to fear since I was kid. I have been terrified of those theme as far as I can remember. As I playwright, I have learned to explore, learn and share those fears with the audience. We must learn that fear is a good thing, something so good that will catapult us into extraordinary universes. Fear is the catalyst for creativity, courage and boldness.

Victory Vauban, Jr.

You can follow Victor at:

  • Twitter @BrotherSou
  • IG @BrotherSou1980
  • Website: https://vjunior2009.wixsite.com/brothersou1980

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