Stepping into Magic: an actor's journey…

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them" ~William Shakespeare

Flying the coop: from one Tribe to another…


In many regional theaters there is a wall where actors can “leave their mark” to commemorate the end of a run. Sometimes it is in the dressing rooms, sometimes in a backstage hallway or in a rehearsal space. Back in 2012 I signed my first wall when I closed my first professional Equity show: Bruja by Luis Alfaro, directed by Loretta Greco. On Sunday I signed the dressing room wall at Portland Center Stage where we just closed Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles by Luis Alfaro, directed by Juliette Carillo.

The journey of this show has been one that has shifted, flowed, moved and transformed over the years. In part because of the writing, the change in casts, locations and the political climate. I myself changed with the role, as one has too. She is a woman who has so many facets, so many thoughts and feelings, just as I do. The beautiful thing about live theatre and running the same show day after day is the growth that you accomplish, the flexibility and the surprises. I learned more about my strengths, my weaknesses, my fears and desires through this myth of Medea.

I also built family with this cast, joined a Tribe. We worked on this show for a better part of the year and as this play shares, dissects and explores the many facets of family, we did that too. It is a strange thing we do in the theatre, constantly joining and separating. Creating moments that become memories…

And now we are closed. This story sleeps as December comes into the world and I reflect on the final weekend in Portland:

Andy and Irene Robinson caught the Saturday Night show with their Daughter and Son in Law. Andy was the head of my MFA program at USC and led our class through some of the hardest, challenging, fulfilling classes for 3 years. He directed us in a studio project of Ted Huges adaptations of Greek myths: Tales from Ovid and then in our final year he directed us in 12th Night. His work in the classroom/rehearsal room, was one filled with charged energy, yearning, demands, love and joy. I couldn’t believe that he was there, probably better that I didn’t know. It’s an honor to continue to create with the spirit and passion he helped me recognize in myself.


In 2003 I formed a theatre company with an incredible group of New Mexican artists, organizers and community members. It came out of a feeling that there needed to be more Latin@ voices on our stages, more stories of authenticity. Michael was one of those creative forces that helped found Teatro Nuevo Mexico and produced my first Luis Alfaro experience when I played the title role in Electricidad. Michael, Janette Sanchez-Izenman and I all attended The University of New Mexico and continue to work in our creative arenas. They drove all the way from Seattle to complete our circle and hear our story, and I know that the fact that there is a painting behind us that highlights COMMUNITY is not an accident. Both of these folks are tearing it up in Seattle and working hard for their Tribe. UNM Lobos reunited!IMG_E5724Just before our final show we gathered on stage to recognize the culmination of this great journey…


Our stage manager, Chris Bolender, shared this letter with us. When we were in Ashland, OR for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Mary Meagan Smith was our assistant stage manager and she sent these words to us to hear before we said goodnight to our story:IMG_5729

Probably the most emotional part of closing this show was saying good by to Jahnangel “JJ” Jimenez, the young actor who played my son. We were all overcome with the feeling of finality, of familia separating, of not breathing the same air in the same space any more…IMG_5743

He became one of us, embraced and trusted us…IMG_5739

For that I will be forever grateful…IMG_5740

I know that this world is in good hands because of JJ… he makes this a better planet to live on…IMG_5742

The obligatory empty dressing room capture…IMG_5731

Tita’s garden and all of our set props broken down and packed away…IMG_5732

The empty stage…IMG_5733

Our Tribe, Our Family, forever connected in the trials and tribulations of telling our story…

Left-Right back: Vilma Silva (Armida) Nancy Rodriguez (Josephina) Chris Bolender (Stage Manager) VIVIS (Tita) SZV (Medea) Lakin Valdez (Hason) Front: Ken Yoshikawa (Soldier)


And now I am in New York, seeing the sights, watching plays, taking meetings, connecting with family and friends. I missed my Tribe, so I reached out to another one…

One the eve of a Full Super Moon, I gathered a few Kick Ass Womyn I knew were working and creating here in The Big Apple. Most of them I met through theatre and others I happened to meet through mutual friends. We gathered in the Parlor of Gloria Steinem’s house and had a salon. I was interested in hearing from others how they were feeling, how their creativity helped them through tough times, what are they working on, what are our dreams, who/what inspires us, how can we help each other.

We held space for each other, gifted each other with stories, laughter and truth. We also played dice, raffled off some beautiful thoughtful tokens and broke bread.

One of the activities was to take a moment in silence and write wishes for each other, express thoughts, quotes, beliefs in how to face life as a creative force. I then typed them up and sent it to the group, a manifesto of support, love and inspiration.

To remember we are not alone…


It was a feeling I will never forget… and I hope that even after I leave NYC they will continue to connect, reach out, communicate and gather.

KickAss Womyns Gathering.jpg

Clockwise, starting under the elephant portrait: Hanna Zwyben, Rachel Jenison, Vivia Font, Regina Bain, Kristin Condon, Alexis Roblan, Adriana Gaviria, Jamie Ann Romero, Agunda Okeyo, SZV, Cassandra Lopez, Erin O’Connor and Stephanie Swirsky.

Tribe is where your heart is, we can find it if we look. If we reach out, if we invite, if we share. Taking time for self-care can be an ongoing battle for some of us. Sometimes we can find help with others. Reuniting us with that sense of family, connection and love. Saying goodbye is an opportunity to say hello…

Who are your Tribes?

Tribe Feathers circle






40 years strong!

Today my parents celebrate 40 years of Marriage!

      I sometimes wish I could have been a fly on the wall to have witnessed this day 40 years ago. From the stories I hear it sounds like it was a blast, tons of family and shenanigans. Luckily I have been blessed to witness 38 years of this bond, and through it all I have learned so much. Through the ups and the downs there have been lessons of forgiveness, flexibility, communication and love. Traditions are important. Dinner is important. Laughing and gardening are important. Family is important. Silence is important and writing cards and letters are important. Celebrating is important.

     Since I moved away from NM, my parents and I have been able to visit a lot of different places together depending on where I landed an acting gig. In each town we explore the food and sights and just hang out in a different environment, and this is something I cherish so much. So even though I don’t get to celebrate with them in person on this day, they are going to be coming to Portland soon and we get to have another adventure!

I cannot wait…..

Maria Varela & Lorenzo Zuniga married on November 5th 1977

mom before the wedding

Sunlight gracing the bride to be getting ready with help from my Aunt Frances as my cousin Gabe looks on…

clyde and dad

The best man, my Uncle Clyde, and my father strutting to the church before the ceremony, caught in a moment of style and coolness…

mom and dad vows

Mom and Dad joined together on this day in 1977 

mom and dad rings

Exchanging rings, those beautiful gold artistic bands that I’ve been looking at for decades…

mom and dad venice

Adventure on the Venice Boardwalk

mom and dad smiling

One of my favorite photos of the two of them. 

Happy 40th Anniversary Mom and Dad, I love you!

If you are reading this and have any memories or stories to share about their wedding day please do so in the comments below!


Anatomy of a Star…

WR 31a a rare example of a massive star

WR 31a, a rare example of a massive star, is the subject of this image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope.

What are stars made of?

How can we comprehend the substance that makes those celestial orbs glow…

We study the sun to understand our vast universal family of brilliant spots and swirls…

He is one of those celestial orbs, his energy runs hot and his eyes burn bright.

As I study him, I start to understand the anatomy of a Star:

There is a shine in his smile that warms who ever falls in that sweet path,

for his smile lights up a room and his hugs are just as warming.

When he steps on a stage his voice travels from light years away to vibrate deep in your bones,

He stands with an inner glow,

bursting with:

energy, electricity and elements.

Whatever story he is telling wraps you in a veil of stardust,

for he is one with the universe and continues to traverse the depths of our imagination and beyond.

On screen he surprises you with his familiarness, like seeing that one constellation you learned about way back when.

He is comforting, intriguing and brings out an inner peace when you see his face.

And those eyes, those beautiful eyes, create great galaxies of complex emotion and feeling…

Even though we cannot see all the stars during the day, we know they are a constant presence,

His presence is fiercely bright whether he is near or far.

It’s his gratefulness,

his giving,

his curiosity,

his desire,

his attention and his love.

He has great LOVE.

What are stars made of?

Joy, Determination, Vision, Hard-Work, Talent, Enthusiasm, Tenacity, Energy, Burning hunger and Grace…

This Star is rising and as I have watched his journey I have learned more about the beauty of our universe,

our world,

our work,

our craft…

Endless Congratulations to you: Miles Gaston Villanueva!

May this momentous time bring you happiness, elation, and bliss…

You are a Star and I love to watch you shine!




Watch MGV in Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders Tuesdays on NBC 10/9c 8   8 Episode Miniseries begins: Tuesday September 26th!



#MojadaMedeaOSF: El Ultimo…


The Cast and Crew of Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2017

We did it! On July 6th, 2017 (the 110th birthday of Frida Kahlo) we closed the chapter on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival run of Luis Alfaro’s Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles.

Closing performances are surreal and bittersweet. We connect and build a family of cast and crew, then we have to break apart. This show is particularly special as this story has been on a journey for five years. When it began in 2012 at The Magic Theatre in San Francisco it was finding it’s voice for the first time, after runs in Chicago and Los Angeles it was finding it’s characters and setting, refining the language and movement. Here in Oregon the story has leapt off of the pages again and into the hearts of thousands. Our story has found itself and actively cultivates empathy, discussion and catharsis. Each incarnation has given voice to the voiceless, remembered the forgotten and held space in honor of those who sacrifice daily to live and breathe.


This is one of the most demanding roles I have faced. It is exhausting and exhilarating. Having approached Luis Alfaro’s Medea three times I have explored the depths and darkness of her plight over and over, and each time it has been a completely new experience.  The emotional demands, the heavy subject matter, the heartbreaking poetry, the love, the violence and the language permeate the rehearsal room and then bleed into the sacred space of the theatre. Something is conjured with this play, dark and light, new and old, sacred and profane, real and magical. The roots of this story run deep and I can’t help but thank these experiences in shaping my work as an artist and more importantly as a human.


L to R: 2012 Bruja @ The Magic Theatre, 2015 Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles @ The Getty Villa, 2017 Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles @ The Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Now after 42 performances, we take a pause in this chapter of our storytelling. The cast, set and costumes will be traveling to Portland Center Stage in November. Join us in the 5th production of this vital story in the American Theatre cannon and/or spread the word to your family and friends in the pacific northwest!

Until then I leave this video here as a remembrance of my journey with this production:




A HUGE thank you to everyone who joined us on the journey of this story. To the cast and crew, you are all incredibly talented artists and the world of theatre is a better place because of you! To all of the audience members who gave me hugs, words of encouragement and love, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. To all of the family and friends (Mom and Dad, Rich and Theresa, Tia Dolores, Lisa and Jenny, Wilma, Sarita, Rafael, Monica, Elmira, John Lescault, Randall… just to name a few) who traveled up to this little Southern Oregon theatre town, I thank you for being a part of this journey. To my OSF family, I love you and I will miss each and every one of you, but I carry you in my heart. To my love Miles, who saw the show 9 times and sent me 9 roses on closing, I couldn’t have done this without your support, understanding and love…


(Thank You)


Mojada Full Poster OSF





#MojadaMedeaOSF: Penultimate. Only one chance left…

mojada-1Today marked our second to last performance of Luis Alfaro’s Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It is auspicious not only because it happens to be July 2nd, but also because it is the anniversary of the 1st production of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival that started in 1935!

OSF Birthday 2017

Drama professor, Angus L. Bowmer, a teacher at Southern Oregon Normal School in Ashland, approached the city with a plan to have a theatre festival as part of the 4th of July celebration. The city approved and gave him $400 towards the festival. He and his students got to work creating the costumes, simple props and set pieces and presented two plays: Twelfth Night on July 2nd, Merchant of Venice on July 3rd  and Twelfth Night again on the 4th of July. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival  was born! It began in a repertory schedule and continues 82 years later as the largest regional rotating repertory theatre in the United States!

Click HERE to listen to a 1952 radio interview with Angus L. Bowmer.  He talks about the history of the Festival, provides an extended excerpt from the 1951 production of “Twelfth Night,” and discusses the upcoming 1952 season.


The Cast of Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles: (Clockwise Left to Right) Nancy Rodriguez, SZV, Lakin Valdez, Vilma Silva, VIVIS (center) and Jahnangel “JJ” Jimenez                                               (Not pictured Connor Chaney)

What a journey this has been, I am still surprised that we have only one show left… I am in disbelief, some might call it denial…

As I walked home today I noticed this poster in front of the Episcopal Church on 2nd St. I couldn’t find the name of the artist, so if anyone knows, please let me know! It stopped me in my tracks and brought tears to my eyes… To know that there are people, families, children, at this very moment, making the journey to cross the border. They are risking their lives and hearts for a dream, a need, shelter, hope, new beginnings…


I love telling this story.

I am honored be able tell this story.

I hope you have heard our story.

Please join us to listen to this story.

Our final performance is Thursday July 6th at 8pm. Get your tickets HERE.

My heart is prepared to tell it for the last time on the Angus Bowmer stage, but my spirit isn’t ready…

I am comforted by the announcement that we will be transferring this production to Portland Center Stage in the fall. The entire cast, set and costumes with be heading up north in late October to rehearse, tech and present this story November 4th-26th. So mark your calendars if you live in the area, or send the information along to friends and family you may have that live nearby.

Mojada-750x414 PCS.jpg


Thank you for being a home away from home, a sanctuary for telling stories and a vehicle for change…

Congrats to the cast and crew of Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles for one hell of a run!

I am proud to be a company member and part of this fantastic cast!

Happy Birthday Dad!



a poem for my Father’s 70th Birthday


It’s the smile,

no the laugh,

maybe the nose,

the eyes…

Those are him, those are me.

His blood, my blood.

The words he yelled from the bleachers still echo in my ears:

“Follow your shot!”

Now I yell that at the television every time a player misses.

He taught me

Guided me

I can fix things because of him.

He soothed me

He reprimanded me

I want to be a better person because of him.

He raised me

He praised me

I am who I am because of him.

He supports me

He loves me

I am able to give back and tell stories because of him.

His smile lights up my heart

His laughter is electric and brings me joy

His eyes see me and tell me the truth

His face brings me peace.

I look up to him and I can see myself.

I look like my Dad.





On the afternoon of May 20th, 1999 I got a call at work that Esther was in labor.

(I have known Esther for over 30 years, she is the definition of a BEST FRIEND)

I showed up smelling of fajitas and lime juice, in my work uniform.

She had been in labor for hours and when I showed up we were only minutes away from  a miracle.

Her mother and I were allowed in with her as the birthing started.

None of us knowing if it was going to be a boy or a girl.

Loyola, Esther’s mom, keep rubbing her belly saying “Come on Cassie, come on Cassandra..” Knowing it was going to be a girl.

And that she was: a girl, a woman and an Archuleta.

In her first few minutes of life, after watching her appear into our world, she was grabbing the blanket under her and sticking it into her mouth.

Doing a one armed push up.

Full head of hair, and full vision of what she wanted.

Today, she walked and graduated High School.

A mysterious, beautiful, creative and wonderuous child.

She is my first birth, my special little girl.

She walks across that stage and claims her education and her journey.

And I know that great things are in store for her.

I am awestruck and amazed.

The future is in good hands because of her.

Cassandra is taking on the world, and I cannot wait to see what happens next…

Congratulations my sweet child, my perfect example of life and love.

I am so proud of you, so honored to know you and be a part of your life.

Even though I am far away,  you are always on my mind…

I love you Cassandra, thank you for helping me experience and believe in the miracle of life!!!


Tia Sabina



#MojadaMedeaOSF: Dia De Las Madres Part 2.

When I first sat down to write my blog post today I realized it was the perfect day to memorialize the weekend I had a few weeks back in Chicago with my parents. So I wrote that post and then I began to think about Mothers, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the Mother’s who have lost their children. Especially those in Mexico, where Mother’s Day is being celebrated today. So another post came about that I wanted to share…

May 10th is a bittersweet day because over the past decades Mothers in Mexico have organized protests calling out the government on their lack of help in finding their lost children. Las Desaparecidos (the dissapeard ones) the women, men, boys and girls who have gone missing by the thousands in a country plagued by drug trafficking, gang warfare, cheap labor, dirty politics and misogyny.

In 2003 I learned a lot about the missing children of Juarez, especially the women and girls, when I joined the theatre troup Las Meganenas. They had an original work that had been performed numerous times called Rio De Lagrimas/River of Tears. The story followed a young student who was learning about NAFTA and the effects on our neighboring country Mexico. After falling into a deep sleep she is visited by three spirits that take her on a journey of transformation, learning, knowledge, history and loss. She first becomes La Malinche and recounts how her children, born from a Spanish father, were taken from her. She then transforms into La Llorona (The Crying One) and mourns for her children that have been killed by her own hands. Finally she transforms into a Maquiladora worker (Factory Worker) who represents the thousands of women who are faced with living far away from home in very dangerous surroundings and who suffer abuse, rape and even death.

The piece is infused with music and photography, ritual and poetry. One of the most poignant moments was when we would ask the audience members to read names off of small stones we handed out with the programs at the top of the show, and lay them to rest at the altar on stage. We held space for these lost children, said their names, promising not to forget.

It was one of the most challenging and fulfilling pieces I have ever worked on, as a director and actor. These women, Las Meganenas, are still a huge part of my heart and working with them is one of the reasons I am telling the story I am right now with Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles. Their mission to talk about those that no one wants to talk about, issues that are swept under a rug, pain that is not recognized is instilled in me. Their work helped me form my mission as an artist to tell relevant and important stories. An each of them are Mothers, who in their daily lives nurture and love the next generation of storytellers and change makers, including me…


Las Meganenas! (L-R) Valerie Borrego, Vivian Fernandez, Apryl Begay, SZV, Michelle Otero Soledad Hindi, Alicia Lueras Maldonado.

Recently I was chatting with a group of Latino students on a tour of OSF, they weren’t going to be able to watch Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles in their short visit, but they were curious what it was about. I asked them if they had ever heard of La Llorona and their faces lit up! We talked about what happened to this woman who is so heartbroken that she takes the lives of her own children. I explained that my play is similar and based of an ancient tale that explored the same themes. A connection was made through a shared history of story…

Today and this weekend has got to be very difficult for those who have lost their children, in whatever manner. From Mexico to Syria, from down the block to our own homes. Loss of a child is something that I cannot fathom, and yet it is something that I am dealing with each night I take on this role. That final moment of the play when I have to stand on stage in the stark horror of my choice. I wonder how those who have inflicted pain and violence on the children of our world are haunted? How does the blood of our children, which soaks the earth we walk on, haunt the future generations? How do we hold space for those that are mourning, those who are haunted, those who haunt…?


I think we can begin by talking about it, and no matter what steps we choose to take part in the fight, we vow to NEVER FORGET & NEVER BE SILENT.

Tell Their Stories.

Hopefully, today or sometime this week we are all given the chance to thank a Mother for their work, their love, their support, their gifts. Even if it’s a whispered prayer to those who have passed on, because they are still with us. For all of you reading who are Mothers, THANK YOU. You are the ultimate creators of joy, love, good and hope. The light in the dark…

Feliz Dia De Los Madres!


#MojadaMedeaOSF: Dia De Los Madres Part 1.


Panoramic View of Maria Varela’s photography exhibit at The National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago. On Display until July 30th, 2017.                                                                                       (Maria is pictured looking into the glass display on the left.)

Feliz Dia De Los Madres!

May 10th is when Mother’s Day is celebrated in Mexico and I thought there is no better day to write about the magical weekend I had in Chicago celebrating my Mother’s photography exhibit!

(For more history on Mother’s Day in Mexico check out my cousin Teresa Zuniga Odom’s latest post on Southern Señora HERE!)

On April 22nd I boarded a plane to Chicago to meet my parents to celebrate my moms first solo photography exhibit at the National Museum Of Mexican Art! It was a whirlwind of a weekend, not enough time of course, but we packed in lot’s of adventures and celebrations!


I took a Lyft straight to the museum from the airport to see the exhibit, and was awestruck at the elegance of the curation. The beginning of the photographs are accompanied by a quote from my mother that sets the tone for the collection of prints…


I had never seen most of the images on display, and the ones I had seen before were just negatives, slides or printed small and included in books. The prints were beautiful, the captions were perfect, and a painful, deep and raw story unfolded about resistance, organizing, struggle, hands, earth, the power of movements and legacy.

photo and title

It was very moving to stand in that gallery and watch so many different people enter and walk from photo to photo. I wanted to shout “This is my Mom! She’s the one who took all of these photographs!” But I knew there was something special about the three of us, my parents and me just watching others look and read and ponder….

the three of us

It was a bit surreal, looking at my mom’s images, her camera, the literature materials she helped create, the photo of her in her 20s next to her car… It’s hard to imagine what she was experiencing, at such a young age, day to day in an area of our country rife with hate and inequality. What is inspiring about this collection of images is the breadth of her views through the lens. The many faces, hands, eyes, voices… over so many years and terrains.

We had a late lunch at 5 Rabanitos in the Pilsen area just a few blocks from the museum before heading downtown to our home for the weekend at the Historic Whitehall Hotel. The view from our room was incredible, we could see Lake Michigan from our window!

That evening we had dinner with my Aunt Frances and Harvey who were in town from Albuquerque and my Aunt Angie who flew in from Denver to surprise my mom! Both of my aunts were born in Chicago, a fact I never knew, and my mother lived here from 4th-12th grade. They shared a few memories of living in Chicago and my Aunt Angie recalled being a young girl when my mom was away working in the South for SNCC. What a great gathering to celebrate her work, there was something very momentous about having family in town to witness this event, this first solo exhibit of my Mother’s images…

Sunday afternoon I talked my parents into attending the final performance of my dear friend and colleague Nathan Singh‘s production of Wig Out by Tarell Alvin McCrany. It is his final semester of his MFA in Directing at DuPaul University and soon he is going to be tearing up regional theatre stages all over the country! It was a fantastic production, and I glanced over a few times at my folks who were totally enjoying themselves… Afterwards we took him out for a drink a bit of food before heading off to the museum.

That night was an evening discussion that was a part of Open Engagement 2017 that happened to be taking place in Chicago. This event is “an annual, three-day, artist-led conference dedicated to expanding the dialogue around and creating a site of care for the field of socially engaged art. The conference highlights the work of transdisciplinary artists, activists, students, scholars, community members, and organizations working within the complex social issues and struggles of our time.

two Marias

I called it Las Dos Marias, a discussion between interdisciplinary artist Maria Gaspar and my mother Maria Varela. The Two Marias had met a handful of times before this evening and there wasn’t really a planned structure for the conversation. Maria G. had a few questions and they just let themselves talk and flow while sharing photos and videos of each of their work. Afterwards there was a Q&A session and then we headed back downtown for a celebratory late night dinner at my Mom’s new favorite spot: Lux Bar! (We had been there for breakfast that very morning!)

couch and stage

What I came away with from this discussion is the struggle between art and activism. The discussion that is alive and well about what tools are used for the most effective change in movements. My mother does not call herself an “artist” and when asked about her beginnings as a photographer she describes a very utilitarian process. Now looking back, almost 50 years later it is hard not to see her images as art and her as an artist. But it raises a wonderful question about the role/use/effectiveness of art for an activist and furthermore for a movement. Why do we use mediums such as photography, video, dance, spoken word, painting, graffiti, multi-media, etc? What draws us to these tools and how does our relationship change/grow/evolve over time when we are a part of a movement, or trying to become active towards a passionate goal for change?


Las Dos Marias (Photo taken by my Uncle Harvey)

What I enjoyed most about the discussion was the energy in the room that can only happen when those present leave the space wondering “What can I do next to answer these questions…?”

I found myself drawn to theatre as an effective tool in teaching and directing. The power stories had to help regain confidence in a wounded student, or to see a community react to a story that reflected their dreams and struggles. Then when I began acting and speaking the words of Latin@ playwright, and even Shakespeare and classic writers, that covered political, relevant and sensitive issues I realized the power of my voice. Similar to my mom I have a hard time calling myself an Actor at times because I feel like it doesn’t encompass all that I do towards my mission in life. However, as I have grown in my profession I realize, in the words of William Shakespeare, “It’s All One.” My work as an actor is just another facet of my activism, my work towards change.

These photos of my Mom’s are not the only result of her work, they are a a valuable and poignant part of her life’s mission as an activist. She is a teacher, an organizer, a collaborator, a mentor, a mediator, a veteran, a mother, and so much more. Whether she chooses to call herself an artist is no matter, what is important is that she picked up that camera in the first place.

padres and skyline

Monday my Dad treated us to one of my Mom’s Bucket List items: a boat tour of the Chicago River and Lake Michigan. We chose the Signature Lake & River tour, chartered by Wendell Boats. It was a beautiful day to be out on the water and over the 90 minutes the tour guide taught us so many interesting and hilarious facts about The Windy City. Legend has it that the name does not come from the weather, rather it was because the politicians from that area were known to be long-winded and a bit too talkative! We began just under the DuSable bridge and headed east out to Lake Michigan past the famous Navy Pier. The view of Chicago from the lake was breathtaking, and then when we headed in along the river there was one huge building after another. It’s hard to imagine that most of this great city had burned to the ground in the Chicago Fire of 1871.

After the boat ride we walked a bit too far in search of oysters. We googled a place at The Navy Pier, but were led astray by a bit of false advertising. So we ended up at Bubba  Gump Shrimp. The silver lining was that my other amazing friend and colleague Megan Breen was in town workshopping a play and she met us for lunch. Watching her and my folks completely ace the Forrest Gump trivia from our server was astounding!


It’s never easy to say goodbye to my parents, for this trip I got to do it one at a time. My dad left earlier and mom and I had one night left in Chicago. Before my dad took off I snapped a photo of us outside of the hotel. After his car drove away my mom and I looked at each other and agreed that he had a great time, no matter how much he dislikes the hassle of traveling. It was wonderful to have him with us as we celebrated my mom and explored the city of Chicago…


Mom and I were exhausted and decided to just snuggle up in our hotel room, watch a movie and rest up before heading out for dinner. We watched Sicario, one of my favorite films that is really hard to watch but beautifully shot. (And my best friend Kim Larrichio is in it!) We roused ourselves from bed after the last haunting scene and walked down the street to one of our favorite Chicago spots: Gibson’s. We ordered dry gin martini’s, a spicy lobster stuffed artichoke and listened to the piano player’s renditions of classic jazz. Then we ended the night at Lux Bar, of course, for dinner and a glass of bubbly to toast to the end of an incredible weekend!


The morning before she left we encountered a bed of tulips with one tulip that wasn’t like the rest. We were drawn to it and I snapped a few shots. It reminded me that in our work it is important to remember our voice, that part of ourself that makes us unique. The enigmatic fact that each cell of our being makes us different from one another but also connects us. We are part of a whole and we are an individual, an important balancing act towards making change. To stand up for ourselves, speak our voice, be ourselves, but to remember that we are a part of something larger than ourselves. We are all one…

I’ve grown up traveling the country with my mother and I never tire of spending time with her walking the streets, visiting museums, finding new favorite eateries and seeing the sites. This trip was extra special because the visit to the museum was to see her work, her incredibly relevant, historic, astounding and important work. I couldn’t be more proud to be her daughter!

Chicago holds a special place in her heart and in mine as well, it is where I first met Luis Alfaro after all…. and now here I am at OSF starring in his adaptation of Medea.

And guess who flies out to Ashland in less than 24 hours from now? MOM and DAD! We have another adventure planned for Mother’s Day weekend, and I couldn’t be more grateful to them for making the trip..

So here’s to my Mother and her incredible span of work that has brought such depth and adventure to our family’s life.  Her life continues to inspire me every day and I cannot to wait to see what she does next!

Feliz Dia De Los Madres Mom, thank you for everything… I love you!





#MojadaMedeaOSF: Break Time = Highlights and Oil Pastels

I am on the tail end of a 6 day hiatus from our show up here at OSF. The incredible and highly anticipated Universes’ production of UniSon went into tech this week in the Angus Bowmer Theatre, thus giving the current running productions in that space some time off, it’s called the “Bowmer Break.” The temperatures have dropped recently and I have found myself spending a lot of time at home, binging netflix (Finally finishing all of The Sopranos, Completing Big Little Lies in 2 days, and now I’m in the middle of 13 Reasons Why and Broadchurch) keeping score while watching Jeopardy, the occasional Yoga with Adriene video, and having fun in the kitchen! It’s been a time of reflection, rest, creativity and long walks.

Looking back at the end of March here are a few of the highlights:



It was a whirlwind of a week, too short by far, but filled with exploration, eating, walking, laughing and just soaking each other up. I was so happy to finally be able to share this little corner of the earth with him, the sights, the people, the beauty and wonder. He saw our show four times and each time had new insights and thoughts about our story. We found favorite places, enjoyed being at home together and chatted with old and new friends. It would be a dream for both of us to work on these stages during a season together. We know it would take the perfect alchemy to work that out, but for now we can dream about being on that Elizabethan Stage together one day… The Scottish Play perhaps…? In the 2+ years we have known each other, saying goodbye hasn’t become any easier. I was a challenge to make the decision to come up here and spend 6 months away from our Pasadena Paradise, but after seeing our show he told me “I am so happy you took this gig, this is so important.” It made my heart swell to hear that. His support over the years is a huge part of why I was able to be here in the first place. He invited me to live with him in Pasadena when I needed to be a “local hire” for a play in Los Angeles. Since then he has been such a force of inspiration, comfort, sustenance and love. How I wish he could be up here the whole time, but he has important work of his own to do…. So until the next time he can escape from LALA land, I will hold the memories of his visit close to my heart…



The week after Miles left I had the pleasure of meeting two school groups that attended our show:


Selfie Post Show with students and teachers of Kehillah Jewish High School!

The first was a small group of theatre students from Kehillah Jewish High School in Palo Alto. A dear colleague, who I met over 2 years ago in the bay area, contacted me to ask if I wouldn’t mind meeting with his students before our show to get to know them and talk about life as a theatre artist. We met on a sunny day, had lunch and a great conversation about what each student’s passions were in the theatre, be it stage management, directing, acting, writing, set design, they covered it all. They saw the show that evening and then I met up with them for a brief chat after the show. It was a wonderful connection to know they were in the audience, and talking with them afterwards was so nourishing. They shared their thoughts about the final, devastating moment and we chatted about technical and emotional moments in the show. It was a treat!


Selfie with students from Oregon School for The Deaf!

During the month of March I participated in a 5 course class on ASL, taught by OSF’s very own Julie Simon. Although I have a very basic grasp of this incredible language I was so excited when I ran into the students from Oregon School for the Deaf after an evening production. I communicated as much as I could and they all helped me with phrases and words I didn’t know. Our show was interpreted that evening and when I asked how it went they told me it was one of the best interpreted shows they had attended. We had three interpreters, one to play Medea, one to play Tita and one to play Acan, Armida, Hason and Josefina. They saw the show 6 times to study the performance and prep for one night of translation! How I wish I could have watched their performance. I am so proud to work for an organization that recognizes the need and importance of incorporating ASL into their productions and what a thrill it was to use what little ASL I have absorbed with this fantastic group of students!

The final highlight is a family outing!


My onstage son Acan, played beautifully by Jahnangel “JJ” Jimenez invited the cast to see his brother perform at the Camelot Theatre in Talent, OR. They have a series called Spotlight that showcases different musicians and for this particular show JJ’s brother Rodrigo portrayed Ritchie Valens. My stage husband, Lakin Valdez, and I drove to talent to meet up with JJ, his sister and Mom. The production was called “The Day The Music Died,” and followed the lives of the three artists (Ritchie Valens , Buddy Holly and The Big Boppa) whose plane went down on February 3rd, 1959. I was amazed at the voices of all the artists on stage and the live band was spectacular. The narrator, who also sang and played music, was a cousin to Ritchie Valens on her mother’s side. It was a wonderful evening of music history, and Rodrigo sounded just like Ritchie Valens!!! We saw a few folks who had seen our show and we joked about us having a family night out: Medea, Hason and Acan….

In between binging TV, walking around Ashland and cooking I dusted off my art supplies!

IMG_1013 (1)I’ve always been a multimedia artist, and since a very young age I have drawn/colored/doodled/sketched. During this break I picked up my Oil Pastels and began a series of pieces inspired by words and thoughts. I remember an art teacher I had at a young age who would push me to keep working every time I thought I was done with a piece. I realize now how much that practice comes into play in my acting. We are never completely done fully realizing our characters. There is always something more we can discover and work with. I forgot how meditative and calming it is to work with my hands and the colorful pastels. Patterns would emerge, feelings would surface, and the piece would reveal itself to me. Does anyone remember the activity in grade school that would involve a blank piece of paper with a black “squiggle” or “doodle” on it? Our assignment would be to make something of it, anything, with that one little shape. I specifically remember in 4th grade I turned a random shape on a blank page into a penguin in a desert….

Below are four pieces I created over the break. I am excited to keep going, and if you have any words or thoughts to inspire a piece leave me a comment!



Our long break is over and we have our first show after 6 days off!

It has been a rejuvenating time off but I cannot wait to get back to our theatre, our world, our story, our words…





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