By Victor I. Cazares / Directed by Shana Cooper / Workshop, Yale School of Drama / 2008

As the inaugural program of Project Luminarias, a collective co-founded by Jacob Padrón and Shana Cooper at the Yale School of Drama, The Dead Women of J-Town & Smiley workshop allowed for the opportunity to apply our new rehearsal method to a new play by Victor I. Cazares. Actors explored the borderlands of Mexico inspired by telenovelas and images gathered by designers Katherine O’Neill and Scott Dougan. Given its place outside the curriculum of the Drama School, the performance could only take place after the final curtain call of the shows our cast members were also performing in: 11:45 PM on the eve of Spring Break. Despite our fears we'd have a meager audience, we packed the little theater's every inch of available space, fire code be damned.

Play Synopsis:

Life wasn't easy for these women working and living in the borderland factories of Juarez, Mexico: they got paid shit, they got killed, and then they were forgotten. Death, on the other hand, is looking up. Determined to follow their living relatives that have crossed over to America and leave their Necropolis of Sand, The Dead Women of J-Town & Smiley fight against Sam, the manifest border guardian, the mysterious McDonald's of the Infinite Desert, and, most perilous of all, the borders that separated them in life: sexuality, religion and money.

In addition to the workshop at Yale School of Drama, The Dead Women of J-Town & Smiley was a part of the Yale Playwrights Festival (2006) and has received a workshop at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival's Black Swan Lab (2009). For more information about how you can support the World Premiere of this important new work please contact us at

About the real women of Juarez:

NPR: "Juarez: A City on the Edge"
Mother Jones: "To Work and Die in Juarez"