Leo Garcia is a filmmaker, performance curator, producer, visual artist, actor, and award-winning playwright. He served as Highways Performance Space's Artistic Director from 2003 - 2016 and is currently Highways' Executive Director. While at Highways, Garcia developed and presented over 1200 performance works and co-founded Film Maudit 2.0 Film Festival. His work is Influenced by the didactic of agitprop and inspired by the optimism of naiveté.
Garcia's play Earth or The Monster of Tierra Amarilla is currently in post-production with the support of the National Performance Network. Garcia is producing and partnering with Patrick Kennelly to direct.
Garcia produced the independent full-length feature Excess Flesh, a psychological thriller with tones of body horror: "a modern-day Los Angeles. The entrapment of dreams. The prison of self,
a la Polanski, Zulawski, von Trier." Excess Flesh premiered at SXSW on Friday, March 13, 2015. Theatrically, Excess Flesh was released for a one-week Limited Engagement in Los Angeles in October 2015. Midnight Releasing distributes the film and is available on VOD/DVD on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, and others.
Garcia produced ten minutes is two hours, a short-form documentary video shot in South Sudan. "ten minutes is two hours" is both a work of and a commentary on cultural exploitation. It is a self-consciously "cinematic" re-creation of a journey through a land plagued by the ghosts of colonialism and the present anxiety of conﬂicting religious and political agendas – both of which can often seem the same. Evoking a surreal sense of place, both very present and very distant, the video depicts the hazy lines between notions of "foreign aid," "missionary practice," and "colonialism." It shows the ways history has of recycling itself. The politically charged silent-era montage of Dovzhenko, Vertov, and Eisenstein and the later impressionistic ﬁlm and video works of Marker and Godard inspire the essayistic, experimental nature of the work.
As a playwright, Garcia has chronicled his family's genealogy, ten generations plus of New Mexican family history, in his cycle of plays entitled The Abduction of Hernan Cortes: The New Mexico Cycle. The play cycle explores the themes of abduction: land, self, and alien abduction, and follows the lives of five New Mexican families from 1598 to the present. His play Earth is currently in pre-production and has been funded in part by the National Performance Network.
Garcia's plays have won awards from The National Endowment for the Arts, Theatre Communications Group, New York Foundation for the Arts, Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Repertory, The National Performance Network, The National Hispanic Media Coalition, and MCA/Universal. His works have been developed and presented by numerous nationally-established companies and presenters, including The New York Shakespeare Public Festival (The Public), The Jewish Repertory Theatre, International Arts Relations Theatre (INTAR), The Los Angeles Theater Center, The South Coast Repertory Theatre, The Tiffany Theatre, and Santa Fe Stages, among many others.
After receiving his MFA from the Asolo Conservatory, Garcia moved to New York City, where he worked as an actor and playwright. Here he originated roles in John Jeserun's "Dog's Eye View" at La MaMa; Eduardo Machado's "Fabiola" directed by Oscar Hammerstein, Jr. at Theatre for the New City, and Maria Irene Fornes' "Cold Air" directed by Fornes at the International Arts Relations Theatre (INTAR). Garcia also originated the role of Nathan Leopold at NYC's Jewish Repertory Theatre in his play about the relationship between Leopold and Richard Loeb and their psychological crime. That same play was submitted to Fornes for consideration as a playwright in residence at INTAR, where Garcia began his career as a playwright and served five residencies under the direction of Fornes.
Garcia worked for many years with his mentor, internationally acclaimed playwright and director Maria Irene Fornes. He has the unique and distinct honor of being a member of the original writers in Fornes' playwright residency program at INTAR in NYC. He worked with Fornes as both a writer and actor. She has directed him in her plays in New York, Los Angeles, and Siena, Italy, at the Dionysia World Festival. Notably, Fornes also directed Garcia's play, Dogs, at West Coast Ensemble Theater in Los Angeles. Fornes chose to direct Garcia's play, Dogs, making him one of five living playwrights whose work Fornes chose to direct.
Garcia has appeared in over 30 off-Broadway and regional theatre works. He hosted the Emmy-nominated NBC Special, Another American. He continued his television work in Los Angeles, where he guest starred in episodic television, including his favorite, Star Trek the Next Generation, and was a regular on the daytime drama serial Santa Barbara.
While in Los Angeles, Garcia wrote, produced, and directed his first film, A Rainy Day, distributed by Universal Television and shown in festivals nationally and internationally. He served as an artist, teacher, director, and producer for numerous productions and classes at Highways Performance Space; resident playwright with the Mark Taper Forum's Latino Theatre Initiative; and project artistic director and playwright with the community-based San Diego Playwrights Project. Garcia has also been a fixture on the Los Angeles alternative performing arts scene for many years, one of a handful of artists who represent a fully developed, professional approach to multi-disciplinary work. His solo performance works include "My Alien Abduction" and "Leo Garcia is Dead."
The Los Angeles Stage Raw Theater Awards awarded Garcia the 2016 Queen of the Angels Award. Garcia was "honored for his tenacity and skill while serving as artistic director for Highways in Santa Monica – recognition that his social media supporters described as "long overdue."
Out Magazine recognized Garcia as one of the OUT 100 of 2005, a list of the year's most interesting, influential, and newsworthy LGBTQ people. The award honors his many contributions to the arts and tireless activism on behalf of alternative artists. In 2010, The HARC Foundation awarded Garcia the Trumpet Award for "his unique and extraordinary contributions to the Arts and humanity."
As a young person, the presentational, didactic, agitprop plays Garcia discovered in a little red book of "actos" by El Teatro Campesino influenced his work. The hopes and optimism he witnessed in Shirley Temple's films also inspired him. Garcia was often at odds with the extremes of his interest. On the one hand, he sought to dramatize the exploited's sociopolitical, material, and cultural issues. On the other hand, he hoped to sing and tap his way to Hollywood stardom. Garcia began his social activism at age sixteen when his father sent him to work as an apprentice recruiter for a federal VISTA program funded by the Office of Economic Opportunity. Garcia's job was to assist in recruiting high school-aged children of agricultural workers from the rural communities of Colorado and orient them to the real possibilities of achieving higher education.
Garcia continued his community service through his high school and early undergraduate years and came to believe that the spirit of service is not only an asset but also a requirement.
Though inclined to pursue a career in the social sciences, Garcia never forgot the impact El Teatro Campesino's works had on him, nor did he forget his joy in the magic of Hollywood. As Garcia navigated through college, he pursued the theatre as a way of having it all, a form of political and social education as well as a theatrical one. This mix of influences created a syncretism that satisfied his needs and brings us here and now.