Leo Garcia is a filmmaker, performance curator, producer, visual artist, actor and an award-winning playwright. He served as Highways Performance Space's Artistic Director from 2003 - 2016 and currently serves as Highways' Executive Director. While at Highways, Garcia has developed and presented over 900 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 pre-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. The film is distributed by Midnight Releasing and is available on VOD/DVD on Amazon, iTunes, Google Play and others.
Garcia also 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 one and 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,” and shows the ways history has of recycling itself. The essayistic, experimental nature of the work is inspired by the politically charged silent-era montage of Dovzhenko, Vertov, and Eisenstein and the later impressionistic ﬁlm and video works of Marker and Godard.
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 cycle explores the themes of abduction: of land, of self, and of alien abduction, and follows the lives of five New Mexican families from 1598 to 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, originating 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 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. He has been directed by her 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. Garcia is one of five living playwrights whose work Fornes chose to direct; all writers whose works were created in residency under the direction of Fornes (Cherríe Moraga, Ana María Simo, Manuel Pereiras Garcia, and Caridad Svich).
He has appeared in over 30 off-Broadway and regional theatre works and hosted the Emmy nominated NBC Special, Another American, followed by 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, which was 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 with 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 as a result of his many contributions to the arts as well as his indefatigable activism on behalf of alternative artists and the alternative arts community through the support and presentation of their performance works and in service to the community at large. In 2010, Garcia was honored by the HARC Foundation as a recipient of Trumpet Award for "his unique and extraordinary contributions to the Arts and to humanity."
As a young person, Garcia was influenced by the presentational, didactic, agitprop plays he discovered in a little red book of “actos” by El Teatro Campesino and was inspired by the hopes and optimism he witnessed in Shirley Temple films. He was often at odds with the extremes of his interest. On one hand, he sought to dramatize the sociopolitical, material, and cultural issues of the exploited, and 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 the recruitment of high school aged children of agricultural workers from the rural communities of Colorado and to 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 that the works of El Teatro Campesino 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 a political and social education, he thought, as well as a theatrical one. This mix of influences created a syncretism that satisfied his needs.