For Yale's Charise Castro Smith, A Storm's A'Coming


Charise Castro Smith entered the Yale School of Drama intending to study acting, but when she graduated in 2010 it was apparent she also had a promising career as a playwright.

“I always loved, and was interested in, writing,” she says. “Right before I started at Yale, I had written a play and put it on in my first year there at the [Yale] Cabaret. It was then I realized playwriting was something that I wanted to pursue.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel, who was head of the playwriting program at the time, became her mentor and within a few years after graduation, she was solely working as a writer.

Now Smith’s El Huracán is receiving its world premiere as the opening show of the Yale Repertory Theatre season, continuing through Oct. 20 at the University Theatre in New Haven. The play centers on “an unforgivable act,” which happens to a family when Hurricane Andrew devastated much of Florida in 1992 — and years after.

“This is a play about forgiveness and it is the play that is closest to — and draws most from — my own life,” Smith says. “It’s about an immigrant family in Miami — a mother, a daughter and grandmother — who are dealing with the elderly woman’s declining health. I was 9 when [Andrew] happened and my family was on vacation in Vancouver, but when we came back a few days later, my grandparents’ house was completely destroyed. It was crazy for a kid coming back to see a home and a city that I knew so totally different and chaotic.”

The play is set during the storm and 27 years later, which invites the question: Do you need time to forgive?

“In this play they certainly do,” she says. “Forgiveness is hard and realforgiveness takes more time than we wish.”