They’re telling stories, on their own terms.

A new Astoria theater festival of 10-minute plays may seem like the organizers’ vehicle to shake up the theater world. At the core, after all, is the concept of nontraditional casting, wherein founders Kendra Augustin and Patricia Cardona Roca — playwrights, directors and actors who have plenty of experience auditioning — let actors play roles impossible in a traditional situation.

The festival, named “Leela” after a Sanskrit word meaning “to play,” lets actors step outside of the “boxes” they’ve been trained to brand themselves within.

“When you’re in school, they tell you, ‘This is your type. These are the things you have to do,’” said Spanish-born Cardona Roca, who runs into issues with her accent.

Augustin and Cardona Roca originally focused on women in history, but kept circling back to limitations in the acting world, tethering them to “plays that brought something positive.”

“We all bemoan being typecast all the time. It’s what everyone talks about,” Augustin said.


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