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 tag “Community”

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.


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…


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)


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…


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.

KickAss Womyns Gathering.jpg

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





HerStory: After the results.


Emma Esselstyn (center) joined thousands of demonstrators in Seattle.                     Karen Ducey/Getty Images

Her words are a collective yell in news feeds, comments, links, articles, texts, stories:

“Where can I sign up for Self Defense Classes?”

“I am not safe living here as an immigrant.”

“This is dangerous for us.”

“I can’t stop crying.”


Her daughters are confused and worried,

“The look on my daughter’s face was priceless.”

“My daughter was so upset.”

“My girl burst into tears.”

“I didn’t know how to tell her.”

“She doesn’t understand.”

Her youth from all walks of life are scared and in danger of being uprooted,

“Students hid under the bed this morning, in fear of deportation, and didn’t want to go to school.”

“What about my parents?”

Her protectors are taking to the streets and filling the air with their chants,

“How did this happen?”

“Not my President.”

“White Lash”

“I feel so much anger.”


“If you see something, say something.”

She hears our angst, watches our tears fall, grasps our clenched fists.

Her voice fills our hearts with hope, action, love,

“Popular vote…”

“The healing power of sisterhood.”

“Thank You.”

“I Love You.”


“The future is Female, it is You.”

“Don’t be Afraid, be Loud.”

“The sun will rise in the morning.”

“We will not mourn, we will organize.”

The pens have been taken up with more purpose,

the shoes are laced with stronger determination,

the voices are turned up with clear objectives,

the eyes are clear with a specific plan,

and the hearts are full with a beating drum to guide the FIGHT,

To guide the ACTIVISM,

To guide the MOVEMENT,

To guide the ART,

Her voice still reminds us:

The time is NOW

The Time has ALWAYS been NOW


First Day of School! Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles

With The Maestro Luis Alfaro on our first day of rehearsal!

With The Maestro Luis Alfaro on our first day of rehearsal!

I can still remember what I wore on my first day of school in 7th grade. Stonewashed jean leggings, white Reebok high tops with fuchsia socks rolled down, a matching fuchsia T-Shirt and a high ponytail with white and fuchsia scrunchies. It was a brand new school and I was nervous. I had signed up for basketball and after classes I headed to the gym. While running laps for warm up, I could see the older students running in the front, familiar and excited to be together again for another year. The school was grades 7-12 and because of the small population of students we got to practice with the upperclassmen. I spotted one girl, Sara Lovato, who I recognized. The previous year I did a school visit and was abandoned at lunch  by my 8th grade tour guide who didn’t want to be seen with a nerdy 6th grader tagging along. Sara noticed that I was out of place and she offered to take me to lunch. She bought me nachos. Seeing her again I got a rush of connection and stated to the girl running next to me “I know her, see the tall girl with the black hair? I know her.” Sara remembered me, and from then on we formed a friendship that continues today. Despite the distance, she lives in Denver and recently received her PhD in Pharmacology, we stay in touch. Those rare but wonderful times we do get to see each other we are able to pick up where we left of and enjoy catching each other up on our lives. It was that recognition that enabled me to feel like I had a place at this new school, that I belonged. That connection and friendship was the foundation of the community I became a part of.

Today was the first day of rehearsal for Boston Court’s production of Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles at the Getty Villa Outdoor Classical Theatre. It’s a brand new theatre and I was nervous. But similarly to that first day of 7th grade it was the recognition from familiar faces that began to create our community. I saw the talented faces of those I have worked with before, those whose work I have known, and those who I met for the first time. These faces, familiar and new, are those that will be with me on this journey. This is our village, our tribe, our community.


Medea’s costume board from Designer Raquel Barreto

Our first day was filled with paperwork, costume measurements, meet and greets, emergency procedure presentations, dramaturgical presentations, design team presentations, a reading of the script and electing our Equity deputy. A full day, a long day, an exciting day. I could feel the buzz in the air when we would go on breaks and people would drop into conversations, mingling over the gummy bears and pretzels. This production has so many hearts, minds and souls invested in it. We are conjuring a world of old and new, familiar and unknown, ancient and contemporary. Tomorrow we are creating a group altar and diving back into the text.

I began the day with coffee and a smoothie made with love by my partner Miles Gaston Villanueva. Later in the day he wrote an incredible post on Facebook and invited people to send me well wishes and congrats for my “First Day of School.”  A slew of people responded, many I knew, many I didn’t. The comments all contained such positive energy and support. No matter one’s views on Facebook or other social media forums, they are communities. These communities are made up of people we know and people we don’t. It’s how we interact and communicate that matters.

I’m still nervous. I probably will be for the entire run of the show. I know it’s because the work is important. The story is essential. The art form is crucial. This is my community and I have a responsibility to be an active member. The familiar faces, the new energy, the kind words and gestures are what remind me that I am a part of something. Something full of potential and possibility…


Sweet words and roses on the front door when I arrived home after the first day of rehearsal!

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