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

Archive for the month “December, 2012”

Guadalutzin…Tonantzinlupe… 12/12/12

On this auspicious and “once a century” day of the year I am moved to share 12  versions of an image that I was raised to love: La Virgen de Guadalupe.

December 12th is the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe and obviously this year this is a very special celebration being that it is 12/12/12!

As my Tia Frances shared with me ” This is the year of the woman, the year of feminine energy and healing”

Tonight I went to the Celebracion Guadalupana at the Los Angeles Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels. The evening started out with Danzantes filling the plaza with the smell of Copal, the rhythmically  strong movements of bodies young and old, the mesmerizing swirls of feathered headdresses and the earthly beat of the drums. I lit a candle for my ancestors and kneeled in front of the Guadalupe mosaic outside the cathedral. The dancer with the peacock headdress shed a peacock feather right in front of me… We moved into the church and listened to a youth orchestra, the church choir and mariachis. The sound in that cathedral is stunning. The MC, speaking in Spanish, told the history of the Guadalupe and to my surprise also talked about the Indigenous symbolism of this image of Mexico…finally we sang Las Mañanitas to La Virgencita and the midnight mass began.

I associate her image with my grandparents, with my Mexican roots, with my family on sunday mornings going to church, with the endless burning candles on my parent’s altar, with the medal I got at the Basilica in D.F, with feeling safe as long as I say a little prayer to her, with tattoos on brown skin, with the soothing aroma of roses that actually smell like roses…

I also associate her image with womanhood, power, patience, strength, change, pride, tears, confusion, love, community, wonder, and intrigue.

For a little background on the history of this image here is an excerpt from:

A Short History of Tonantzin, Our Lady of Guadalupe:
A bride of light between cultures
By Griselda Alvarez Sesma © 2009


” According to both oral tradition and official versions, a beautiful Mexica woman appeared to Juan Diego and speaking to him in Nahuatl, asked him to tell the bishop that her name was La Virgen de Guadalupe and that she wanted a church built on Tepeyac. When Juan Diego was not believed, as proof of his story, she instructed him to fill his tilma (cape) with roses and take them to the Catholic bishop yet again with instructions to build a church on that same site. When Juan Diego opened his cloak to show the bishop the flowers , instead of roses, the image that we know of today as Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously imprinted upon the cotton fabric. That tilma is now enshrined at the Catholic Basilica in Mexico City.

The devout Catholic will tell you that Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to a peasant by the name of Juan Diego in a demonstration of faith for the conquering Spaniards.

Ask a mestizo or Indigenous person and they will tell you that Our Lady of Guadalupe is really Coatlaxopeuh, another name for Earth Mother Tonantzin, to whom offerings were made on that same hill of Tepeyac hundreds of years before the arrival of the Spaniards.

They will tell you that Tonantzin/Coatlaxopeuh appeared to Cuauhtlatoatzi to inspire hope in a people who were being oppressed by the Spanish and, later when the Church acknowledged Our Lady of Guadalupe as the Patroness of Mexico, to allow the people to continue to honor her in safety.

To many people, she is not either/or, but rather one: TonantzinGuadalupe. Her blend of Indigenous and European features represents the beauty and sacredness of both cultures—not just those of the dominant society. Her face is the face of today’s Mexican, Chicano, Mestizo… The two cultures, reconciled in this moment, acknowledge the uncommon bond of love for the Woman Who is Cloaked with the Sun; the bridge of Light between peoples.

Her duality echoes inside me… I worship Mother Nature and am blessed by flowers, copal, the moon and the stars. My heart still skips a beat when I smell frankincense and myrrh, when I hear the prayers I know by heart during a Catholic mass, when I say “peace be with you,” first to my mother and father and then to those around me. I pray to the energy of the universe and to those who have gone before me.

On this day I pray for the healing of Mexico, the end of violence against women and the chance for all little girls to take pride in their roots, their dreams and their future.

¡Que Viva La Virgen de Guadalupe y Tonantzin!


Image from the Tilma of Saint Juan Diego which hangs above the altar of the Guadalupe Basilica, Mexico City


“Our Lady” by Alma Lopez


“Portrait of the Artist as the Virgin of Guadalupe” by Yolanda Lopez


“Madre Frida” by Fabian Debora


“Tonantzin” by Melanie Cervantes
Melanie Cervantes
12 x 16
Full color, Digital Print
New Leaf Cover Paper, Ancient Forest Friendly
Printed at Inwkworks Press in Berkeley, 2011
Tonantzin is a representation of mother earth or mother of corn as embodied by indigenous women in the Americas. This portrait is of a Tarahumara woman. I include the serpent symbology because prior to a Judeo-Christian tradition which views serpents as evil, indigenous matriarchal worldviews associate serpents with spiritual wisdom, femininity and being grounded. This piece honors the spiritual and ethereal grandmothers who connect me to every relation living and in the spiritual realm.
Huey tonantzin
tonantzin huey tonantzin
Ipalnemohuani toyolo paquih
tlazohcamati tonantzin
Ipalnemohuani toyolo paquih
tlazohcamati tonantzin
Gran madrecita tierra
madrecita tierra gran madrecita tierra
Dador de vida; mi corazón se alegra
gracias Madrecita tierra
Dador de vida mi corazón se alegra
gracias Madrecita tierra
* found on DignidaRebelde website


Mother patron saint of Chicano children.
Stars of the silvery moon that carries hope Beneath mothers’ feet.
From the old world
To the new,
From the conquerors,
To the conquered.
Guadalupe, faith’s image tattoos on his body.
Tonantzin night’s light. Mother…earth,
—Erika Garcia
Age 17
Reality From the Barrio


Mosaic Mural “Tonantzin Renace” by Colette Crutcher, on 16th St. near Sanchez – San Francisco, California (found on Rudolfo Cristovao’s Flicker page)


Contemporary American Dream Retablo, prayer to Guadalupe


” Our Lady of Guadalupe” by Pristine Cartera Turkus


Art Quilt by El Cielo Studio


“My Virgin of Mary in Relation to Tonantzin” by Fabian Debora

Pushing Boundaries, Island Culture and Mother Fu@#*ng Actors!

jim-morrison First off I must pay respect to the LIZARD KING who would have been 69 years old today! Click HERE to watch a You Tube video of Jim’s poetry (The Carnival of Babylon)  along with some great B&W photos. MOJO rising!


“If you always put limit on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. “
~Bruce Lee


Director Nathan Singh and I go over blocking for the beginning movement piece of the play.

We are deep in rehearsals for SERPENTINE PINK and my body is almost as sore as it was my first year of grad school at USC! I’m writing this post absolutely exhausted from the today’s work of blocking the first few scenes of this explosive story. Nathan Singh has been leading us through extensive physical, and mental, exercises as we build this “desert weird” world of Megan Breen’s new piece.

There is a sacredness in trusting with your gut that your body can take more than your mind thinks you can. Believe me, after having hip surgery (twice) and shoulder surgery, trying to quiet down the voice in my head that shouts “Hey, you can’t do that!” becomes a daily struggle. What helps is having a safe environment to push those boundaries of this physical vessel we are given to explore this lifetime with. Nathan instinctively lead us through a lot of bonding exercises that allowed for trust to be ever present in our rehearsals. Working with the dynamic Michael Harris, who plays Shaman, is a special dance all it’s own. His character holds the healing that I need as Jaymee, but I fight like a feral cat crossed with a rattle snake to avoid taking in the healing energy that I so badly needs. This makes for some very difficult blocking and extremely dangerous situations with a scene partner twice my size. Michael and I explored how to work together to build these moments of physical violence with a tender care to let each other know when we felt we were tipping towards the possibility of getting hurt. Along with great help from Kristin Condon, who plays Henrietta, and the rest of the company we were able to block our “fight” scene today without any injuries!

I am thankful for my broken body, I am happy to feel the pain one gets in their muscles after stretching and pushing the limits of one’s vessel, and I am grateful to have such a rad company that supplies all the ingredients for a safe space that is much needed to create truth on stage…

  • What are your physical boundaries?
  • How do you overcome that little voice in your head?
  • When do you remember last pushing your physical self to the limit?

Click HERE to visit our KICKSTARTER page and donate to our Campaign, every $1 helps!


A`ohe hana nui ke alu `ia (No work is too large when done by all)

~Hawaiian proverb


Image from Please visit this website to learn more about this incredible organization.

A few month ago I applied to become a “Task Rabbit!” As a TR I  go on the company’s website and look up tasks that people in my area need done. These tasks range from housecleaning to picking up groceries, but every once in a while a really interesting task comes along, like the one I am working on now. A feature film called OUR BLUE CANOE which will be released in 2013. This film: “is the cinematic feature documentary that chronicles the epic journey of the Pacific Voyagers, a group of over 100 Pan-Pacific Islanders, who for the first time ever, are sailing a fleet of traditional-style voyaging canoes across the vast continent of water they call home to carry a message of stewardship for the ocean.” But before they are able to finish the film they need help in transcribing the hours of interviews with the different voyagers and people involved in this project.

I was lucky enough to land this job! (When you are a Task Rabbit you have to bid on the job and the person who needs the task done has a choice between all of us TRs who make an offer.) It is very hard work, listening to the interviews and learning to adapt my ear to the different dialects, trying to type out all the um’s and ah’s and getting the details of their speech just right. It takes about 3 hours for just 30 minutes of video. However, the reward is not the money I will make for  this task, it’s the exposure I am getting to the Pacific Islander cultures and beliefs. These folks that are being interviewed are on a mission to bring awareness of how the health of the ocean, specifically of their home waters of the Pacific, is vital to the health of the entire planet. These interviews give me a glimpse into their personal struggles and rambling thoughts, most of which will probably end up on the cutting room floor, what a treat!

I won’t give anything away, rather if you click HERE you can watch the trailer for yourself and keep an eye out for this film in 2013! (To apply to become a Task Rabbit click HERE)

  • If you could make a documentary what would it be about?
  • What types of “Tasks” would you feel comfortable asking someone else to do?
  • What culture would you like to know more about?


‘A happy family is but an earlier heaven. ‘

~George Bernard Shaw


USC MFA Class of 2014


USC MFA Class of 2011

Last Tuesday I had the pleasure of watching the 2nd year USC MFA’s (the 6th class to pass through the halls of the MFA in Acting program) perform their Solo shows. They were lead by the heartfelt genius Luis Alfaro this past semester through the writing and performing of a story from their personal experience. Luis began the evening telling us that he tells his students ( and I paraphrase here) “There is a story that you want to tell, and in this story you are beautiful and in control and everything works out, but there is the story that you need to tell and in that story you are a lot more messy.”

 The evening was a roller-coaster of emotions, one story would bring me to tears from heartbreak and another would have me gasping in laughter. Their truth, brokenness, beauty, hunger, questions, revelations and breath riveted me the entire hour and ten minutes. I was able to “meet” these family members all over again. I told many of them that the 2nd year Solo show is a “rite of passage.”  I’ve always felt that these one night only “performances” are special moment for our “family” of MFA’s (Mother Fu@#*ng Actors, as some of us like to say!) to really get a sense of ourselves, the “good”, the “bad” and most importantly the “ugly.” We alumni and faculty get to welcome the current 2nd years to the family by listening to their stories, the 1st years get to see what they are in for and begin thinking about the story that they want/need to tell and the 2nd years get to say “Hey this is me, nice to meet you.”

For their Facebook event page the class of 2014 posted a few group photos of their class and once seemed so familiar to me. They were all gathered in a living room, facing the camera, entwined around each other as if to say “Bring it on, here we are and here we go!” I remembered…during our second year as MFA’s we all got together just before spring break and took a very similar photo, filled with spirit we piled into the living room-exhausted from the rigor of the program and super excited for the break- and made the same statement “Bring it on, here we are, here we go!”

This family of MFA’s is getting bigger and bigger, the 7th class is now roaming the halls as first years and voyaging together on a ship of truth, no-limits and guts… how lucky! We have built in siblings, crazy cousins, weird aunts, funny uncles, all there to watch us grow, cheer us on, give advice, look up to, fight with, love with, and cherish. Living in this LALA land of hostile traffic, dirty air, over priced costs of living and over payed/under dynamic “actors” we are blessed to have this network, this group, this connection, this bond, this army… this FAMILY.

Proud to be a Mother Fu@#*ng Actor!

  • What other types of “families” do you have in your life?
  • Have you ever performed a solo show?
  • Can you remember a group photo that brings back memories for you?

(Click HERE to find out more about the USC MFA in Acting program, watch a video which features members of the first three classes (2009, 2010 and 2011) and read a letter from our fearless leader Andy Robinson)

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