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

#MojadaMedeaOSF: WE ARE HERE…

Mojada Full Poster OSF

February 26th, 2017 we opened Mojada: A Medea in Los Angles  by Luis Alfaro, Directed by Juliette Carillo, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The matinee crowd was electric, when Luis Alfaro introduced himself in the recorded curtain speech the theatre erupted in cheers that continued until Luis himself stood up. Then the cheers and yells continued. The young actor who plays my son, JJ Jimenez, myself and VIVIS, who plays Tita were standing at places, our ears ringing with the noise of the crowd. The lights dimmed, our cue light went off and I stepped onto the stage for the third time as Luis Alfaro’s Medea.

mojada-1 Prologue

Jahnangel “JJ” Jimenez as Acan and Sabina Zuniga Varela as Medea    Photo by Jenny Grahm

I started this blog in 2012 along with my first equity show: Bruja @ The Magic Theatre, directed by Loretta Greco. This was the first incarnation of what is now Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles. In 2015 I portrayed Medea in a production at the Getty Villa co-produced with The Theatre @ Boston Court. And now we are off and running at the top of the season at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival where all four of the first shows of the 2017 season feature Latinx leads! WE ARE HERE!

OSF Top of Season

Armado Duran as Caesar in Julius Caesar; Sabina Zuniga Varela as Medea in Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles; Daniel Molina as Hal in Henry IV Part One & Jamie Ann Romero as Viola in Shakespeare in Love.

This past Saturday we had a matinee that was filled to the brim with High School students from the East Coast, Sacramento and Santa Barbara. After the show our Stage Manager hosted a dynamic talk back with the audience. When the post show ended I talked at length with several of the audience members, students and teachers. The conversations went beyond “congratulations” and “good jobs” and quickly dove into questions, stories and discussions…

Four interactions have stayed with me from that afternoon. First, a tall, thin African student in a beautiful red sweater introduced himself to me and began by saying “I am trying not to cry…” He then shared with me that his parents are from the Ivory Coast and the line that really stuck out to him was when Medea’s son tells her “Mom, speak English…” He began to cry and talk about how his family has struggled with assimilation. He pointed to his sternum and explained that this story had hit him at his core, and he was going to need time to process it. We hugged for a long time, both of us with tears of connection on our faces. After speaking to a few other students I noticed a young Asian woman who was being consoled by the young man from the Ivory Coast, she was crying. I walked up to her and asked if I could hug her, she quietly said yes and we too held each other full of emotion. I asked her name and she shared with me that she was here in the United States at a boarding school, from Hong Kong, with no family in this country. She was particularly curious about  how I, as an actor, deal with the emotions of my character of Medea. “Do her emotions become a part of you?” We talked about how healthy it is to cry, I mentioned some self-care I have discovered for this role is taking a shower right after I walk off the stage from curtain call. We recalled a line that Tita has in the play when she is recounting taking a shower after crossing the border: “I let the water run, and the tears follow.” Our tears turned to smiles as we snapped selfies and thanked each other for the communal experience.  Next, a young (I think caucasian student, but his Spanish pronunciation was excellent, so who knows what his beautiful background may be) man introduced himself and asked if he could chat with me about a few lingering questions he had. We had the OSF bricks to ourself for a few minutes and delved into a deep discussion about why Medea feels so stuck and scared in the United States. Why does she not let herself try and succeed like Hason? What is it that is holding her back? And of course WHY does she commit her final act…? He was so intrigued about her thoughts and trauma, about understanding why she was the way she was. Soon his classmates joined him and we said our goodbyes. As I was walking away a young Latinx student stopped me to introduce herself. She was from the school in Santa Barbara and was one of a group of students who wrote essays to qualify to go on the school trip to OSF. There were hundreds of students who wrote essays and she made the cut. She mentioned in particular that her essay focused on the fact that Luis Alfaro’s play was part of the season. We hugged and smiled, took a photo and I asked her to send me a copy of her essay.

Granite Bay HS

Twitter photo from Theatre @ Granite Bay One of the High School groups who saw all four shows this weekend at OSF!

Four students from vastly different backgrounds, bloodlines, cities and countries found themselves on common ground in a theatre on a Saturday afternoon. We connected with our personal lenses, our personal hiSTORIES, our emotions. This is the generation that has inherited the scars, wounds and genetic memory of this country and the countries of their ancestors. If we all dig deep enough we will find the immigrant story in our family tree. If we open up we can ask questions about hurt and sacrifice and struggle and journey. If we really want to we can find more to connect on rather than separate.

It is incredible to look at the journey this story has made from that first production in 2012 in San Francisco to today. In 2017 WE ARE HERE at OSF, reaching thousands with this story that now has an added weight of importance to it as our Divided United States struggles with the hurtful, harmful and negative attitudes towards immigrants and refugees. All of the work that is going on in the American Theatre, on our Film&TV sets, all of it must step up to enrich that diverse and dynamic mirror that we are working hard to reflect. Our work as artists requires us to say loud and proud: WE ARE HERE! So that our audiences can see themselves and they too can shout: WE ARE HERE!

As we celebrate the diversity that is on stage at OSF this season  we must also celebrate the diversity of those who are sitting in the audience, completing our storytelling circle. The many generations, the many languages, the many colors, the many emotions, the many travels…

WE ARE HERE… All of us from SOMEWHERE.

What is your immigrant story?

Videos on Mojada:A Medea in Los Angeles @ OSF:

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival presents “The Past is Always Present: Luis Alfaro as a Citizen Artist”A Festival Noon Conversation with Tiffany Ana López ((Director of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre at Arizona State University, Dramaturg for Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles by Luis Alfaro, and member of the National Latina/o Theater Alliance)

Snapshot: Melding the Modern & the Ancient Scenic and Costume Designer Christopher Acebo shares the inspiration behind the designs of this season’s production of Luis Alfaro’s MOJADA: A MEDEA IN LOS ANGELES. This powerful and timely production is playing in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Angus Bowmer Theatre through July 6, 2017.

Director & Playwright Interview: MOJADA: A MEDEA IN LOS ANGELES Playwright Luis Alfaro and director Juliette Carrillo discuss Alfaro’s play and its contemporary setting in Los Angeles among immigrants. MOJADA will be staged in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Angus Bowmer Theatre from February 19 through July 6

 

 

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