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 “August, 2013”

The March Continues…

“Give light and people will find the way.”
Ella Baker


I just sat down with a fellow actor in the OSF company today, Dawn-Lyen Gardner, and realized that there really are no accidents in life. We had been planning to meet since May and in the hustle and bustle of being in shows and having family visitors we kept postponing this inevitable meeting. Finally we took charge and scheduled each other into our lives and met over edamame and tempura.

Within five or ten minutes this kindred spirit asked me two of the deepest questions I have encountered in a long while. First she asked (and I paraphrase) “What is your grand plan?” I responded with my passions about education and wanting to return to NM in the future to train both artists and teachers in theatre and how I miss the classroom. We started chatting about her current passion project that revolves around the word UNITY and how, starting with middle school students, the right combination of support and programs could, and will, create an entire generation of productive, creative and aware youth.

She then asked me the second question: “Why do you do what you do?” It took me a minute to gather my thoughts, I wanted to be a specific as possible. I had to answer why I believe in social justice, education reform, the power of theatre and community organizing. I answered first with ” I believe my life is a diservice if I am not of service to others.” Then after trying to articulate it more I stopped myself and said “It’s in my blood.” She smiled her magnetic smile and said “It’s amazing to be sitting across from someone who is saying my own thoughts outloud to me.”

It is no accident that Dawn and I met today, on this day, the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. She and I are balancing our lives with the responsibility to society we have learned from our parents and the responsibility to society we have trained for as artists. We know deep in our hearts that the “march” is still going. Even 50 years later after one of the most quoted speeches during the Civil Rights movement, we are still fighting for our dreams. We are still dealing with hate crimes on Texas college campuses and in Ashland OR, we cry with anguish because of brown on brown vigalante violence, we are shattered with the inhumane treatment of immigrants, we abhor the increasing numbers of injured war veterans, we challenge the refusal to recognize marriage between anything other than man and woman, we will not back down to fight for a woman’s right to choose, the list of injustices that affect our brother’s and sisters today keep us marching.

I posted a picture of my sprouting avocado seed because I find it to be a perfect metaphor for the continued march towards justice. The avocado I ate gave me nourishment, it fed a hunger and within it was contained the possibility of further growth. I had tried to grow two avocado plants from seed before this and neither worked. But I did not give up, I was determined to make a living thing from what would have otherwise been tossed in the trash. Third time is a charm and my little plant that could is ready to burst out into the light. I see the march on Washington as an avocado, something that nourished and filled a hunger, but my generation and the generations after us are the seeds. You can either toss us in the trash or give us water and light, positive thoughts and love and we will break through the darkness.

There is so much work to do. After our meeting today Dawn looked deeply into my eyes and told me “You have work to do.” We all have work to do. We must be the light to help those in darkness find their way. We must be of service. We must ensure that the fight for civil rights lives on in living breathing people, not just black and white photographs. We as a generation owe so much to the struggles, leaderships, communities, passions and stories of those before us.

On this day I celebrate my siblings, like Dawn, who hear their calling, the beat of their hearts that call them to service and who will live in service to others. We will tell the stories, ask the questions, challenge the norm, listen to those who hold the keys to change and pave a path for those ahead of us. On this day I honor my parents, family and close friends who fought, and still fight, for justice and dreams. I will always honor the work of MLK and at the same time remember the words of Ella Baker: “Strong people do not need a strong leader.” The march continues…

Water, Trees and Medals


I had my first three days off in a row this month so we planned a trip to the Oregon Coast. We first drove to Newport, OR and camped overnight. The next day we visited The Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Rogue Brewery. We stayed the second night in a hotel in Gold Beach, OR. On our final day we went to Crescent City and visited the Redwood National Parks. Matt did all of the driving and I sat in the passenger seat with the maps. We took in sight after sight and wet our thirst for more traveling together. We have so many more places we want to go. Thanks to our friends who lent us camping gear, recommended places to visit and wished us a safe trip. It was a wonderful adventure!

“Always be like a water. Float in the times of pain or dance like waves along the wind which touches its surface.”
-Santosh Kalwar


Outdoor Spa at Irelands Rustic Lodges

Since the opening week of The Tenth Muse I have missed my weekly chiropractic appointments. It’s been almost three weeks since laying on Kelly Lang‘s table and having her go to work on my neck, hip, knees and ankles. I found Dr. Lang at Hands on Wellness here in Ashland. She specializes in athletic training and treats her actor patients just like athletes. Without her help I am not sure how I could make it through the physical work in The Heart of Robin Hood. She gives great insight on how the body works, how to help the body relearn healthy movement and what to watch for to stay safe.

After being in a car for more than 3 hours at a time my body starts to ache. Our first night of the trip we camped at South Beach State Park. Luckily one of my cast-mates lent us some great little air mattresses from REI which saved my back. What really helped my body during this trip was the hot tub by the sea at Ireland’s Rustic Lodges in Gold Beach. Even thought the weather was overcast and cold I spent some time in the hot tub while Matt explored the beach. The outdoor spa at this hotel has three hot tubs on a deck that overlooks the ocean. (In the photo above the ocean is just past the vegitation, but hard to see with the heavy marine layer.) I soaked while watching hummingbirds chase each other, listening to the waves and feeling the pain melt away.

Soaking has always been the best relief for my chronic pain. However, I have not had a bath tub in any of my houses for the past 7 years. Even when moving to Ashland I had a choice between apartments, one of which had a bathtub, but it didn’t have enough natural light, so we chose the other apartment with just a shower. Luckily OSF company members can use the sauna and steam room at The Waterstone Spa for free. We can also get a discount on the soaking tubs. Tomorrow I finally have time for a chiropractic appointment and right after I am going to sit in the steam room.

* What methods help you relieve bodily pain?

* Have you ever visited a chiropractor?

* What is your favorite way to enjoy water?


“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
― John Muir


In the heart of a redwood grove.

Among all of the sites we took in I can’t stop thinking about the redwoods. Matt and I visited the Sequoia National park  a few years back and were very excited to visit their cousins when we knew we were headed towards the coast. We can now say we have seen the largest and tallest trees in the world. We didn’t spend as much time with the redwoods as we had with the sequoias, but it was still quite powerful.

There were a number of redwoods that had fallen down. The trunks stretched out the length of a football field. To see the polished roots exposed with ferns and plants growing out of them told us that they had fallen down years and years before. Every once in awhile we would stop and look up to see the dappled sunlight highlight the tallest limbs that made up the forest canopy. I felt so small, so in awe of these sacred brothers and sisters that have seen so much.

Both of us mentioned Star Wars and I kept hoping to see and Ewok pop out of somewhere. There was a group of small children behind us that were having the time of their lives climbing up onto the fallen trunks and trying to scale the trunks of the still standing beasts. They looked so tiny following each other in a line while skipping across the trunks, like a line of ants. I got the same feeling I do when looking up at a clear view of the stars, I feel a subtle comprehension of the immensity of our universe.

* What is your favorite memory of trees?

* Have you ever hugged a tree?

* If an Ewok showed up in the forest would you run or try to hug it?

“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”
― Rumi


When I graduated college my aunt gave me a rose quartz necklace. I wore it, along with a St. Michael medal that another aunt brought me from Russia and a Virgen de Guadalupe medal, while traveling to Mexico by myself for the first time. Since then my traveling necklace has gone through many additions and changes, the only thing that is the same is my need to wear it when I travel.

Over the past 10 years I developed a slight fear of flying. I grew up on airplanes, traveling with my mother several times a year. But as I got into my late 20’s I started avoiding speed, rollercoasters, motorcycles, snowboarding, etc. Even driving too fast in a car, such as road trips at high speed limits can cause fear. My necklace works twofold: first it is a physical object that I can grasp and hold when fear rises, second, I believe the medals and charms hold power from either the place or person where I got them.

Currently my traveling necklace has the rose quartz crystal, St. Michael and Virgen de Guadalupe medals along with some new additions. I had a necklace with a small metal rectangle stamped with the word LOVE (my first tattoo was this word scratched into the inside of my right ankle by my own hands with a pin and Indian ink), when the necklace broke I added it. My cousin sent me a necklace with a little gold cowboy boot that reminded me to kick-ass and when that necklace broke I added it. I also created a second necklace (I had forgotten my first one on a trip back to New Mexico) with a St. Cristopher medal I bought in Albuquerque and Guadalupana medal that a dear friend sent me. For this Oregon Coast Trip we had packed up the car and were just about to take off when I realized I didn’t have my necklaces. I jumped out of the car and ran back into the house to grab them off of my altar and jumped back into the car, ready to go.

* Do you have a fear of flying?

* Do you have any superstitions or routines when traveling?

*What helps you overcome fear?

Wildfires, Dressing Room Altars & The Eagle and The Snake

This past weekend I opened my second show at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival!  It was such a rush to hear the audience respond to the hard work we had done, to hear the vocal responses to moments and hear their applause at the end.  Now that the rehearsal process is over we can focus on fine tuning our pace, our relationships and our responsibility to tell this story.

Each time I walk off stage after curtain call I am overwhelmed with emotion from the ride that just happened. The music, the audience, looking at my cast mates, all of this brings a sense of accomplishment, joy and the anticipation of doing it all over again!


I’d rather fight 100 structure fires than a wildfire. With a structure fire you know where your flames are, but in the woods it can move anywhere; it can come right up behind you.
Tom Watson 


That is the sun, not the moon, behind smoke at around 5pm. Just below is a mountain ridge that is usually crystal clear.

This week I have been learning all about the Air Quality in Southern Oregon. There are several wildfires that have been burning around the Medford and Grant’s Pass area, and the smoke descended on Ashland Monday afternoon. The cast and crew of the Tenth Muse took a road trip Monday morning to Lake of the Woods for a celebratory and relaxing day by the water on our day off. We left around 11 am and I noticed the smell of fire and a slight haze in the air. When we returned around 5 pm we came down from the eastern mountains and could see the entire valley filled with smoke.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival had to cancel 3 performances on the Elizabethan Stage due to poor Air Quality and created a procedure to inform patrons about show cancelations. For three days I walked around with a bandana and scarf across my face because the air smelled like a campfire.  We were sent an email that asked us to limit our time outside and drink lots of water to keep our voices and ourselves healthy. The smoke in the air gave everything an apocalyptic feel, the sun was a red ball as was the moon. Mountain views I always saw on my walk to work were hidden behind layers of smoke. Friday morning was the first day we could all see and feel the sunlight! We could see the sky!

Having a glass of champagne with a cast-mate Thursday after our matinee performance she shared something that blew my mind! (We have been tracking the numbers to see how bad the air was, the number 300 equaled air that was considered “Hazardous.” Below that is “Very Unhealthy,” “Unhealthy,” and “Unhealthy for Special Groups.” We were teetering around 230-277 each day.)  She told me that China is rarely below 300 in certain parts of the country, and it is not because of wildfires!

I can’t even imagine learning to live somewhere where “Hazardous” air is the norm, but it is becoming a reality in more and more places…

* What are your experiences with Wildfires?

* Have you lived in an area with “Hazardous” air quality?

* What is the air quality in your area?

(You Can check HERE at AirNow for your local air quality)


“The earth laughs in flowers.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson


My dressing room area decorated with opening night cards, flowers and personal tokens.

I am really big on altars. In every home I have lived in I created an altar. When I started doing theatre I realized the dressing room was just one more space to create a sacred place for reflection, inspiration and  beauty. My family home has an altar where my parents keep a candle lit at all times.  Each time I am in a new place the first thing I do is find the space for the altar.

A really great book on home altars is Living Shrines: Home Altars of New Mexico, on you can look inside the book online!

At USC while getting my MFA I put a make-up kit together with a built in altar. I got a tool box at Kmart and then decorated under the top of the box with a photo of my parents and I, pictures of my USC class-mates, La Virgen de Guadalupe (of course) inspirational quotes and images. You can see a little bit of it in the photo above. Just looking at the photos, pictures and images, reading the quotes, helps me center myself in times of pre-show jitters.

Opening night can be very special. You walk into your dressing room and certain cast-mates leave little treats for you. Cards, trinkets, jokes, all wishing you “Break a Leg”  and “Happy Opening.” There is also my very favorite gift, flowers. My parents, no matter where I am, manage to get me flowers for my opening night, and most of the time they are Calla Lilies, you can see them on the left in the photo. Below the Calla Lilies are a beautiful purple hydrangea and magenta flowers from my fiance and to the right a bouquet of pink, purple and red roses from a dear friend in Los Angeles. One of the dressers who helps with my wardrobe in one of my shows commented that it looked like I had robbed a florist shop!

If you have never put together an altar here is a site with some ideas for making a personal altar!

* Have you ever made an altar?

* Is there a certain space in your living area that you consider sacred?

* Do you like having fresh flowers in your living space?


“Sometimes I imagine I am a great big eagle. I swoop down and take animals, take snakes in my beak.”

Tomasita in The Tenth Muse by Tanya Saracho


My China Poblana skirt and Lizard Skin tipped boots from the
Antiquarium Books & Antiques in Ashland.

When I was a teenager I had a huge Mexican flag hanging on the wall of my room. I was enamored with the Chicano culture, low-riders, Oldies and eyeliner. It wasn’t until I graduated college and traveled to Oaxaca that I understood what my Mexican heritage meant. After getting over a stomach bug and venturing out to the plaza to find a meal of tamales and Bohemia beer I looked around and realized there were people everywhere who looked like me. The dark skin, the full lips and nose. Granted I was  much taller than most, I felt a familiarity with the smiles and handshakes of the locals that I met. I was relearning spanish and traveling to all the little towns that surrounded Oaxaca, I fell in love with Mexico by being in Mexico, not just admiring it from afar.

I remember before venturing to Mexico the great Sandra Cisneros had written a story in my journal about Maria Sabina, after she had learned my name was Sabina Maria. I asked everyone I encountered in Oaxaca about Maria Sabina and was joyfully told story after story about this famed Curandera. I came home with a thin newsprint poster of her that hangs on the wall of every home I have lived in. That trip started one of many to the homeland of my ancestors. However, I haven’t been back since 2010…

This season at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival I was invited to perform in the role of Tomasita, a young Nahua girl who was brought to a Mexican convent in 1715. In the second act of the play she shares a dream with the young Mestiza girl Jesusa, who was also brought to the convent. In this dream Tomasita sees herself as an eagle, taking a snake in her beak. This is the very image that appears on the Mexican Flag. Our fierce playwright, Tanya Saracho, was bringing in the vision of a country that in 1715 was beginning a new race with the mixing of Indigenous and European Blood.  The Mexican flag has gone through many variations  before becoming the flag we recognize today.

While walking to and from rehearsals and shows I would pass and Antique store on Main Street. Around the month of June there was a China Poblana skirt on display. There was a sequined Eagle and Snake emblem, the Mexican Coat of Arms, the envisioned dream of the character I was playing and I knew I had to have it for opening night.  I passed by it for many weeks and finally walked in and asked to try it on. Not only did it fit, but while in the dresssing room I found a pair of red lizard skin tipped boots that fit like a glove as well. I didn’t know it was a China Poblana at the time, neither did the man who sold it to me, but when I put it on for opening night our amazing costume designer and a cast-mate both told me what it was. As I write this post I can see it draped with the sequins shining light and I wonder who wore it before me, how did it get to Ashland, what made the owner put it on display, etc. All I know is that it came to me like a dream…

* Have you ever visited Mexico?

* What was the last thing that you purchased that you knew you were meant to have?

* Is there a dream you remember having that came true?

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