South Florida Playwright Luis Herrera Expands His Horizons With “As I Eat The World”

Next month, South Florida playwright Luis Roberto Herrera (who also happens to be a frequent contributor to our magazine!) is hoping to take on the world in more ways than one. If he is able to successfully raise the funds to showcase his new semi-autobiographical one man show in the slot to which it has been accepted at the Frigid New York Fringe Festival, Herrera will then quite literally attempt to consume that world as the play’s main character.

However, there’s actually some fairly serious subject matter behind this seemingly silly concept. The idea for the piece, fittingly titled As I Eat The World, is one that first occurred to Herrera this past August, after he saw a play by a friend in which the author frankly addressed his own struggles with food and weight.

“Seeing that he could just be so honest and upfront like that inspired me to do the same about my own problems,” Herrera said. 

But while the play he references, Heart Stop, centers around the playwright’s battle with obesity, Herrera is hoping to bring a unique “perspective” to the current cultural conversation as a Latino male playwright coming forward with a fictionalized but intensely personal account of his own struggles with disordered eating.

“Within the Latine community, I don’t think it’s discussed enough and sometimes not even at all, and I want it to be addressed more. I want this specific show to express what people within the culture go through, especially men.” 

In fact, the statistics indicate that eating disorders in men are by no means rare, with men actually accounting for about one in three people diagnosed with eating disorders and subclinical eating disordered behaviors being nearly as common in men as in women. But experts have also noted that eating disorders in men tend to be less recognized even by members of the medical establishment, which in turn can cause delays in diagnosis and treatment. 

Additionally, the greater stigma that surrounds men as opposed to women who suffer from eating disorders has been blamed for the fact that men tend to be less willing to seek potentially life-saving help for the condition, which Herrera connects to broader issues causing men who come forward about mental health issues to be viewed especially harshly. 

“There’s this kind of forced or expected masculinity within the culture, that like, mental health can’t be discussed, men have to be stoic, they have to be the ones who are able to hold up everything,” Herrera describes. 

“Sometimes in Latine culture the suppression of it is what creates it, and is what creates it through generations, so I want people to become more aware with this show, and maybe then in their own lives gain some kind of confidence to speak up about it.”

And though Hererra seems to have found just such a confidence in pursuing this project, he also readily admits to being “absolutely terrified” by the prospect of putting himself out there in such a vulnerable way, describing how uncomfortable he felt having his body on “display” during a recent photoshoot to promote the production. 

To make matters even more nerve-wracking, the show’s script is also one that will require Herrera to eat on-stage, though he also says that the fact that he will be doing so as a “giant in space” eating the world as if it were “a piece of cake” at least adds a sense of “fun” to the proceedings. 

This unique premise came about as Herrera looked for a way to make his play about “someone trying to accomplish something” as opposed to just “talking about their problems.” Thus, he eventually conceived of a main character who seeks to push away his issues with food by attempting to eat “the world” since it was the biggest thing he possibly could

Of course, you’ll have to see the play for yourself if you’d like to find out just how much the character will indeed be able to swallow; and though NYC audiences will be the first to be offered the privilege, Herrera is hopeful that this production will be the starting point of a longer journey for the show. 

“I hope it’s something that can make its way around other festivals, and the hopeful dream is that maybe it’d even be a part of a theatrical season. Because the more eyes and ears that we can get on this topic, I think the better we as a people can be,” he says. 

But before that can happen, Herrera first must get through this festival, which will entail certain costs in travel, housing, and any props he must purchase for the production, hence his idea to seek support from the community in covering the costs of this endeavor via a Kickstarter. So far, things are off to a great start with almost $800 raised of Herrera’s $2,000 goal, but there’s also still quite a long way to go.

“Any and all support will help,” he says. 

“That could be as simple as sharing it and passing it along or donating fifty cents to help take this show to New York and help make the production a possible thing, which could only lead to more life.” 

Anyone who is interested in helping enable that life can donate or share until this Wednesday, January 25th, ahead of four scheduled performances on February 18th, 19th, 25th and 26th. And since this innovative work sounds as if it’ll be a welcome break from the usual theatrical mold, let’s hope it gets its chance to see what the world will make of it!

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