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 “January, 2014”

Opening Weekend: Dr. Theater & The Critics


Opening night flowers from Mom and Dad

‘Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus.
Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners.”
~William Shakespeare, Othello

It’s midnight on the eve of opening night. After our final preview performance I head to FedEx/Kinkos to print out my opening night cards, hit up Target for some last minute groceries for my fiance who is flying in the next day for the show, and head home to collapse in bed and binge watch True Blood. Instead I am up for the next 12 hours dealing with food poisoning or a 24 hour flu, to this day I don’t really know what happened. The result was opening a 4 show weekend with no solid food in my system for 48 hours.

At 2 a.m. I called my cast mate who lives in the apartment above me and he went into full Momma Bear action. He set me up with soda water, made me a bed on the floor, brought me fresh sliced ginger and checked on me every couple of hours. My stage manager and the company manager were on alert in case I wanted to see a doctor and I assured them that I was going to go on for opening night, no way was I missing this! Just before the show my dear friend, Malika Williams sent me this text: “Doctor Theatre will save you 🙂 BREAK A LEG! HAPPY OPENING!!!”

I was reminded of the many times I had performed while “under the weather,” and other cast members shared some of their horror stories  of performing while sick. The stage manager shared a time when one of her actresses vomited several times on stage during a show! One time during voice class in my first year of grad school I was amazed at how good I felt after our vocal warm-up because I’d had a severe head cold all day and couldn’t think straight. When I mentioned this to the professor she reminded me that vibration eases tension. All of the vocal exercises had relieved the tension in my head and made me feel better, not permanently but enough for me to notice and take a breath.

Malika was right, I was able to get through the entire show, 4 times this weekend, with out passing out or throwing up. In fact while on stage I completely forgot I was ill. The world of our play took me to another place, filled me with strength and healed me momentarily and the words of our story gave me a chance to vibrate out the tension in my body. I was exhausted for our opening night party, and bummed I couldn’t partake in sipping some burbon to toast our opening, but I was thrilled to have survived my opening nightmare with a little help from Dr. Theater.


Philippe Bowgen as Oedipus, Sabina Zuniga Varela as Jocasta and Daniel Duque-Estrada as Creon in Oedipus El Rey by Luis Alfaro. Photo by Karen Almond

Well, I’m not a critic, I’m just a worker. So, I’m always grateful for anything the critics say – good or bad.
~Mandy Patinkin 

 I love reading reviews, the good, the bad & the ugly. Trusting the words in the reviews can be dangerous, but for me I am always excited to read what people experienced while watching a play. My least favorite reviews are the ones that just sum up the story, giving everything away and not really focusing on the production. My favorite reviews are those that cause the writer to delve into a deeper topic that the play brings up. This production of Oedipus El Rey is a daring one, there is high risk for both the audience and the actors within the 90 minute world of our story. There is blood, violence, cigarette smoke & full frontal nudity, and the stage is tiny and intimate. I love doing this kind of theater, the in-your-face, someone might get hurt, messy, sweaty and bloody type of theater. It’s thrilling and sharing it with an audience peppered with theatre critics is frightening and exhilarating.

 While cruising around the internet, looking for quotes about theatre critics to use in this blog post, I came across some articles. In Kristin Brownstone’s piece, Critical Discourse- The Role of the Theatre Critic, she talks with Bay Area critics to find out how they view their role as theatre critics. Robert Hurwitt shares “I subscribe strongly to the idea that all criticism should be constructive. You’re not in the business of tearing people down. ” Karen D’Souza believes that the critic is the one who let’s us know what’s happening and expresses “Can you imagine what would have happened to the debut of Angels in America at the Eureka if no critics had gone to see it? It makes you wonder how many wonderful shows are out there that are getting missed.” Brownstone really asks some great questions in this piece: How do our local theatre critics view their role, and how do those roles differ based on size of the news organization or coverage area? So when a show really stinks, is it better to say so publicly and steer audiences away or opt to not run the review? How seriously should actors and directors take critique of their work?

Leonard Jacobs shares a list in 50 Thoughts on Theatrical Criticism- Revisited (1-25). My favorite thought is “Critics teach. Critics also learn.” It reminded me of an Oscar Wilde quote I had found just moments before: “The critic has to educate the public; the artist has to educate the critic.” I love ideas that circle around continuous learning. That’s how I feel when I read reviews, I am learning about how one person was able to view our story, their lens is one that I am able to borrow for a moment to look at my work from another point of view. When I encounter a “negative” review it can fester and nag, but often times I try to use it as a challenge, maybe I wasn’t digging deep enough, maybe I could go further with a particular character’s journey. That’s the gift of live theater, especially with a 8 show a week run, we get to learn and grow within our story and work towards the most honest and truthful performance we can give. When I encounter a “positive” review I pat myself on the back, because I know how hard I have worked and I enjoy knowing that someone took pleasure in my performance. (I also get to use quotes about my work on my personal website for marketing purposes!) Truth be told, I am my own worst/best critic. I can walk off the stage feeling horrible about a performace even though the audience was on it’s feet applauding at the curtain call, or I may have a huge smile while taking off my make-up because I found a new way to deliver a line that opened up an insight into to my character but the audience was dead quiet and unresponsive. Regardless, I am sharing a story and participating in an act that traces back to my ancestors, and I do it with pride and an eagerness to find out how it affected others.

Below are links to the reviews of the show that have come in so far:

* Spoiler Alert, for those of you who may be coming to the show and want to experience the piece fully you might not want to read about it 🙂

Art & Seek Review by Jerome Weeks

Theater Jones Review by Teresa Marrero

The Dallas Morning News Review by Nancy Churnin

Culture Map Dallas Review by Alex Bentley

The Flash List Review 

Pegasus News Review by Chris Jackson

And here are some great articles and interviews about the production:

KERA Podcast THINK 98.1 featuring interview with Director Kevin Moriarty

Dallas Morning News Article about DTC acting company member Daniel Duque-Estrada

Theater Jones Q&A with Playwright Luis Alfaro and Director Kevin Moriarty by Teresa Marrero

Dallas Morning News Article about Latino Theater Scene in Dallas

157DTC FY14 OEDIPUS 1025w349t JAN23

For More Information and to Buy Tickets click HERE!

Frozen in our kingdom…


A sample of the tattoo work in the show...

“I’m freezing the show.” Were the words from director Kevin Moriarty today in rehearsal before our 3rd preview. We had just finished reworking the epilogue and had only moments before our dinner break. My breath caught for a moment, because I had never heard this term before. He went on to explain how the show was now in our hands, along with our crew. My head was spinning. I realized that we were at that moment when a director leaves their cast.

Not that we won’t see him again, I mean we are going out for drinks tonight and we will celebrate with him opening night, and he runs this theater center. We still have four more previews to iron out kinks and explore the dynamics of the story, but our sacred workspace is empty one person.

Theater can be tough for anyone with separation anxiety. You say goodbye to loved ones when you leave for an out of town job, you say goodbye to having the script and the table in front of you, you say goodbye to the rehearsal room, you say goodbye to ideas that don’t help the story, you say good bye to the director, each night you say goodbye to the audience, and finally, in the end we have to say goodbye to each other, cast, crew and theater staff, at the end of a run. Yet each of these elements stay in your connective tissue, throughout the run, after the run, and late in life when you tell stories about “there was this time when I was working in Dallas….”

We have been released to continue our work in this kingdom of Oedipus El Rey. We get to fine tune our fight choreography, master time management before the shows, warm up our voices, interact with various audiences, love or hate the reviews (or not read them at all,) and know we are working and loving the hell out of our jobs. All the while, we will have the voice of our fearless leader in our hearts. Our director, our King, our Rey, who ruled our kingdom with a firme hand (along with hilarious stories and random lectures on topics such as architecture.)

He wrapped up our rehearsal notes today with words of thanks. Mentioning our strength as an ensemble, how we are connected and all on the same page telling the same story, how our ideas and sharing enriched the cultural conntext of this play. It was because he set the tone on our first day with energy, curiosity, wonder, humour and intelligence that we are now a royal family on this journey.

So our show is frozen… we now have the luxury of exploration, repetition, observation and ownership. Our Rey will watch from afar and know that he brought us together and set us free, to fill our stage and ask our questions…


The cast of Oedipus El Rey @ The Dallas Theater Center

Old Traditions & New Years

Mom and Sola in front of our Winter Solstice Tree.

Mom and Sola in front of our Winter Solstice Tree.

When I was little my Mom and I would take a walk to the Rio Grande Bosque with our dog Chula around Christmas time. Amongst the cottonwoods and salt cedar was a little pine tree that we would visit. It was about as tall as I was, and as this tradition has continued I have grown and the tree is now over 20 feet high. For Winter Solstice we create peanut butter and birdseed ornaments to hang on the tree for the birds and the coyotes and we bring snacks and drinks for ourselves. The past couple years my Mother has been making Hot Buttered Rum! Sometimes other family members join us if they are in town, but this winter it was just me, my Mom and our dog Sola, and it was really special.

     I wondered what it was like for my mom to be walking with me, now 34 years old, and a new dog, down the same path we used to walk when I was little. It was chilly and a lot later than we usually walk out there in the wilderness. We finished decorating the tree and then found a nice spot on the bank of the river to open our thermos of hot buttered rum and watch the sun go down as we heard the ducks and cranes sound their nighttime songs. When we decided to walk back it was dark, I lit the flashlight app on my phone and we made our way back to civilization. It was a little scary, I have to admit, as I have gotten older my imagination tends to create horrible scenarios, most likely because of the T.V. shows I watch. We knew there were probably coyotes out there tracking us, I was holding Sola on the leash and she was on high alert. But being there with my mom I felt safe, we kept talking and making noises with plastic bags and pretty soon we relaxed when we were back at the car.

     Despite the dark walk home, it was so peaceful, so beautiful and a perfect moment to have before leaving New Mexico for another job in another town. My mother is a big promoter of traditions and as I have gotten older I am thankful for them because they remind me of where I come from, something that I always keep in mind as I excavate the lives of different characters in my work.

NYE fireworks above the American Airlines Center in Downtown Dallas

NYE fireworks above the American Airlines Center in Downtown Dallas

    This New Year’s Eve I took myself out for a night on the town in downtown Dallas! My fiance was out of town, my castmates were with their loved ones and I was in the mood to treat myself to a good dinner. I am an Open Table fanatic, I love collecting dining points and discovering new restaurants. I found a cute little french restaurant, Mercat Bistro, that was near downtown and had a reasonable Prix Fixe menu for NYE. The restaurant also happened to be near the American Airlines Center where they had a big NYE concert and fireworks at midnight. I walked over there after dinner and could almost imagine what it would be like to be at Time Square in NYC, there were so many people!

     The Dallas Theater Center has given me a rental car to share with the actor playing Oedipus, however I have discovered the car service LYFT, and rather than drive myself to dinner and drinks in Dallas I have been using this service. The girl who picked me up had the car decorated in balloons, glow bracelets and a mini disco ball, it was super festive and a great start to the evening. I exited her car with my green glow bracelet and walked into the little bistro.

  Dinner started with a glass of Moet champagne along side my first course of King Crab stuffed Mushrooms. The second course was a glass of Prosecco with a Seasonal Vegetable Salad. The main course was a bold Spanish Red Blend along side a fantastic Filet Mignon with grilled asparagus and Fois Gras (The best I have ever had!) Dessert was ice cream and assorted cookies. Knowing that they would be busy I asked to sit at the bar so I didn’t take up a table. I made friends with the waitress, bartender and the gentleman sitting beside me and to my surprise he picked up my tab! It was a fantastic start to the New Year, having a total stranger feed a starving artist.

     Having the Winter Solstice tradition with me while embarking on a new play in a new year helps keep me balanced. I can remember the beautiful sunset and the sweet Hot Buttered Rum when I need to relax, and I can call upon the memory of the dark walk back to the car to keep me alert and on my toes. It’s no coincidence that the year started off with a New Moon, the magical time for new beginnings and a time to set new goals. I am thankful for the Old ways and the New, and I embrace this next journey into the world of Oedipus El Rey…

My sketch on the first page of the script, completed during table work.

My sketch on the first page of the script, completed during table work.

Post Navigation