Carmen Aguirre is an author, actor, and playwright. She was born in Santiago, Chile to parents who were teachers and activists. Her parents were supporters of Allende, and went into exile after Pinochet's coup. Carmen was six years old when her family fled the country in December of 1973, three months after Allende's overthrow. Her family landed in California and then made their way by land to Vancouver, Canada, where they were accepted as political refugees.
After spending much of her teenage years and early adulthood back in South America working for the underground resistance movement against the Pinochet dictatorship, Carmen returned to Vancouver in 1990 to attend the prestigious acting training program, Studio 58, at Langara College. As the only Latina in the program and one of only three students of colour, she quickly realized that if she was going to get any interesting roles in the Canadian theatre scene, she would have to create them herself. So it was while attending theatre school that she wrote her first play, In a Land Called I Don't Remember, an autobiographical piece that took place entirely on a bus in the Andes mountains, crossing from Argentina into Chile. In it, she explored her dual identities of Chilean and Canadian, through the two lead female characters. That play received its premiere at Studio 58 in 1995 to critical acclaim. Since then, much of her writing has been autobiographical and unabashedly left wing, exploring themes of exile, loss, alienation, and isolation. Often the tone of her work is darkly comic.
Carmen has written and co-written twenty-five plays, including Chile Con Carne, in which she explores exile and internalized racism through the eyes of an eight-year-old girl, The Refugee Hotel, about the first batch of Chilean refugees to arrive at a Vancouver hotel in 1974, The Trigger, about a violent childhood rape, Blue Box, which interweaves two stories, one about being hunted by the secret police when she was in the Chilean resistance, and the other about chasing an unavailable man, and adaptations for the stage of Eduardo Galeano's, Jorge Amado's, and Julio Cortazar's work. She founded The Latino Theatre Group in 1994, made up of non-actor Latino/as from the local community, and co-created over twenty-five Forum Theatre pieces with them over the next eight years, including two full-length plays, ?QUE PASA with LA RAZA, eh? and Spics n' Span. Her plays have been nominated for twelve local and national awards, and The Refugee Hotel won the 2002 Jessie Richardson New Play Centre Award. Currently she is working on three new plays, Broken Tailbone, Anywhere But Here, and The Trial of Tina Modotti.
As an actor, Carmen has worked extensively across North and South America, with over eighty film, television, and stage acting credits to her name. Theatre standouts include: Veronica in Stephen Adly Guirguis' The Motherfucker with the Hat, for which she won Calgary's 2014 Betty Mitchell Award for Outstanding Performance in a Supporting Role, Dona Flor in Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands (adapted for the stage by herself and The Electric Company), Celestina in Jose Rivera's Cloud Tectonics, and Mathilde in Sarah Ruhl's The Clean House. Film and television standouts include: Aunt Silvia in the multiple-award winning Quinceanera, Alcina Albeniz in Endgame, Isabella Pernao in The L Word, and Taft Hotel Maid in Best In Show.
Carmen's first book, Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter, about her experiences in the Chilean resistance, was published in 2011 in North America and the United Kingdom, and was translated into Dutch and Finnish. The book will soon be published in Chile in translation by LOM Ediciones. Something Fierce received rave reviews on the international stage, won CBC Canada Reads in 2012, was nominated for several national and international awards, and is a #1 national bestseller.
Carmen's second memoir, Mexican Hooker #1 and My Other Roles Since the Revolution, a sequel to the first, in which she explores healing from PTSD, will be published in April in North America and the United Kingdom. It has already landed on the Globe and Mail's, The Ottawa Citizen's, Quill & Quire's, and 49th Shelf's most anticipated books of 2016 lists.
Carmen is a proud member Canadian Actors' Equity Association, The Playwrights Guild of Canada, and the Union of B.C. Performers/Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists. She is the recipient of the 2014 10 Most Influential Hispanics in Canada Award, the 2014 Latincouver Inspirational Latin Award for Achievement in Arts and Culture, the 2012 Outstanding Alumna Award from Langara College, the 2011 Union of B.C. Performers Lorena Gale Woman of Distinction Award, and the 1993Anthony Golland Award, presented by ACTRA.
Carmen lives in Vancouver. Her favourite pastime is salsa dancing.
© 2016 Carmen Aguirre. All rights reserved | Graphic Work by Dafne Blanco