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

Ringing in 2018, and a wish for you…

The moon rose up in the east, signaling her journey towards her fullest form.

Two cousins placed pennies on the train tracks, awaiting the physics that create shining smashed copper discs.

Grandaunties cuddled the newest addition to the tribe, connecting the full circle that is family.

These little ones are our future, making this world a better place, one new wonder at a time.

And these cousins are gonna take over the world, but after they finish their tea.

The older cousins enjoyed a night in with a spread fit for royalty: meats and cheese, bacon wrapped dates, pate and bubbly.

The Full Wolf Moon rose higher to watch the festivities around the globe, surrounded by her community of stars.

And tonight, my wish for you is:

No matter where you’ve been, where you are going, or what you desire, just know that you are loved. Today is a beginning, but it is also just a moment. A place-marker along our path of purpose. No pressure, just energy for growth! Find what you are passionate about, and do that as much as you can. Surround yourself with those that light your heart on fire and give new meaning to the word joy. Create your best self, throw that away and then do it again! Enjoy the ride. Take time to watch children play. Sit in silence. And gaze at the moon. She waxes and wanes, fills and empties, shines and dims, just like we do. So amidst the ups and downs, find comfort in the in-betweens…

That’s where the true fight resides, that place where you choose to keep going. Or that time you feel you can’t go on. We’ve all had plenty of both. But embrace the challenge: That moment when you remember what you are made of. Don’t give up. Ask for help. Bask in your strength. Help others. Be of service. Change, resist, learn, rebel, reclaim, create. Listen.

Happy New You.

Happy New Year.

All my love,

SZV

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Winter Solstice…

I woke up this Winter Solstice morning– well to be honest it was afternoon…

(Side-note: I haven’t been sleeping well most of the year.  I have been living out of suitcases and boxes, traveling to Oregon, California, New Mexico, Illinois, Pennsylvania & New York, working on a role that has enhanced/exhausted my emotional capacity, and I think my body has finally decided to REST. My appetite has been limited as well, I just haven’t felt like eating much. Yet the minute I got home to NM I’ve been eating serving after serving of homemade meals, sleeping so soundly, and I realized that being home in New Mexico has shifted me into a mode of sustenance and recuperation.)

So, I woke up today and saw this post by my mom:

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Winter Solstice has been a special day for me and my mom for almost 20 years now. We would regularly take walks along the Rio Grande river since I was able to walk, with our various dogs (Chula, Simpre, Sola) throughout the years. We ventured to a particular spot  along the Bosque that had a little juniper tree growing amongst the cottonwood trees. At the beginning it was only about 2 ft tall, and today it is about 20 ft. I feel as if this tree and I have been growing together, like she is my Bosque sibling. (My name Sabina translate to a species of juniper tree) We have created a tradition of decorating the tree with edible goodies for the birds and coyotes of the area to enjoy. Most of the time we make bird seed ornaments with peanut butter and pine cones. But this year we decide to just leave some cinnamon raisin bagels on the branches.

After decorating the tree we find a space along the river to sit and watch the sunset while watching the migrating cranes, Canadian geese and other fowl. We usually bring a little picnic and hot beverages… It is a celebration of the final light before the longest night. The time before the days begin to get brighter. A moment of silence in nature to reflect on the year, the ups and downs, the in-betweens.

I am so grateful to have had this moment this year, because what a year 2017 has been…

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Walking along the Bosque trail.

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The path to the tree…

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My Tree Sister, who has been trimmed for passing bikers…

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Mom decorating the tree…

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We found a pine cone from years ago that we had hung on the tree with peanut butter and birdseed.

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Bagel decorations for the birds!

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Bosque Tree decorating accomplished!

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Panorama view of our Winter Solstice picnic area

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Salud to our days getting brighter!

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My inspiration for looking towards the future, one of the brightest sources in my life to help me keep going…

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EL SOL, the life force that will grace us with more and more light after today…

Winter Blessings to you and all of your loved ones, may your days not only bring you more sunlight but also more love, joy, hope and action towards change. May your kernel of courage unfurl and bring strength into 2018!

HAPPY WINTER SOLSTICE!

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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.

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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…

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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)

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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…

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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.

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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

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

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

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Mom and Dad joined together on this day in 1977 

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

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Adventure on the Venice Boardwalk

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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!

xo,

SZV

MGV Joy

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…

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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.

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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.

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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:

MOJADA: A MEDEA IN LOS ANGELES 

 

Enjoy!

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…

Axqueniuhqui

(Thank You)

SZV

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.

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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…

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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.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY OSF!

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!

Dad

YOU LOOK LIKE YOUR 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.

 

 

 

Cassandra…

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!!!

xoxo,

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…

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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!

 

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