Alliance Theatre's 'Dream Hou$e' addresses the cultural cost of gentrification

"Dreamhou$e" is on the Hertz Stage Jan. 28-Feb. 13. (courtesy of: Alliance Theatre)

The rise of gentrification in urban areas has left many families in crisis, often unable to live in their own neighborhoods. A new play at the Alliance Theatre addresses this issue, brought to us by the Alliance’s Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition winner Eliana Pipes. “Dream Hou$e” follows the lives of two Latina sisters deciding whether to sell their home, grappling with the cultural costs of America’s conventional notions of progress. Pipes joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes via Zoom along with actor Darilyn Castillo, who portrays Julia.

Interview highlights:

The tangle of personal history and broader cultural narratives inspiring “Dream Hou$e:”

“I grew up in a little pocket of Los Angeles that was really transforming because of arts-led gentrification, and when I was 13, my family moved,” recounted Pipes. “We sold our house, which means that we sort of participated in that process of gentrification. And on the one hand, that move was really great for my family. It brought a lot of resources into our life, but on the other hand, that move meant a kind of cultural loss that I didn’t really have the vocabulary to understand at the time, as a little kid.” She continued, “Writing this play was really a way for me to sort of sort through the benefits and the losses and the wins and the gains, but also the sacrifices that came with leaving that community.”

“As a woman of color, I’m Black, white, and Puerto Rican, especially writing Black and Latino stories when sometimes theaters haven’t done the work to get those populations into the audience. I sort of felt like I was being asked to sell my cultural pain for money. And I wanted the money. I wanted the access I wanted to be in those spaces,” said Pipes. “Grappling with that ambition and what it costs me to pursue this industry that I love so much… all of that complicated, tangled mess ended up in the play.”

Castillo introduces her character, Julia:

“Julia is six months pregnant, and she is the younger sister of the two,” said Castillo. “Julia is a free-spirited social studies teacher to a charter school of fifth graders. So she has a love for history and a love for culture, and through her process of the show, she’s grappling [with] many different things of becoming a young Latina mother, now dealing with the passing of her mother, and coming back to her hometown and refining a connection with her heritage and her house, and more importantly, her sister.”

A show-within-a-play, riffing on TV fantasies of American homeownership:

“I think there’s been a lot of interesting commentary on the way that particularly house-flipping can contribute to gentrification. The show isn’t necessarily built on any one model, but it is a sort of ‘flip-it’ show,” said Pipes. “I will say that the show in the play has a lot more sort of surrealism and twists and turns than you’ll find on an HGTV show. We start in that sort of familiar HGTV land, and then the play just launches off into space.” The world premiere of “Dream Hou$e” takes place on the Hertz Stage at Alliance Theatre, running from Jan. 28 – Feb. 13. More information and tickets are available here.