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 “Oregon Shakespeare Festival”

#MojadaMedeaOSF: El Ultimo…

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The Cast and Crew of Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival 2017

We did it! On July 6th, 2017 (the 110th birthday of Frida Kahlo) we closed the chapter on the Oregon Shakespeare Festival run of Luis Alfaro’s Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles.

Closing performances are surreal and bittersweet. We connect and build a family of cast and crew, then we have to break apart. This show is particularly special as this story has been on a journey for five years. When it began in 2012 at The Magic Theatre in San Francisco it was finding it’s voice for the first time, after runs in Chicago and Los Angeles it was finding it’s characters and setting, refining the language and movement. Here in Oregon the story has leapt off of the pages again and into the hearts of thousands. Our story has found itself and actively cultivates empathy, discussion and catharsis. Each incarnation has given voice to the voiceless, remembered the forgotten and held space in honor of those who sacrifice daily to live and breathe.

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This is one of the most demanding roles I have faced. It is exhausting and exhilarating. Having approached Luis Alfaro’s Medea three times I have explored the depths and darkness of her plight over and over, and each time it has been a completely new experience.  The emotional demands, the heavy subject matter, the heartbreaking poetry, the love, the violence and the language permeate the rehearsal room and then bleed into the sacred space of the theatre. Something is conjured with this play, dark and light, new and old, sacred and profane, real and magical. The roots of this story run deep and I can’t help but thank these experiences in shaping my work as an artist and more importantly as a human.

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L to R: 2012 Bruja @ The Magic Theatre, 2015 Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles @ The Getty Villa, 2017 Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles @ The Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Now after 42 performances, we take a pause in this chapter of our storytelling. The cast, set and costumes will be traveling to Portland Center Stage in November. Join us in the 5th production of this vital story in the American Theatre cannon and/or spread the word to your family and friends in the pacific northwest!

Until then I leave this video here as a remembrance of my journey with this production:

MOJADA: A MEDEA IN LOS ANGELES 

 

Enjoy!

A HUGE thank you to everyone who joined us on the journey of this story. To the cast and crew, you are all incredibly talented artists and the world of theatre is a better place because of you! To all of the audience members who gave me hugs, words of encouragement and love, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. To all of the family and friends (Mom and Dad, Rich and Theresa, Tia Dolores, Lisa and Jenny, Wilma, Sarita, Rafael, Monica, Elmira, John Lescault, Randall… just to name a few) who traveled up to this little Southern Oregon theatre town, I thank you for being a part of this journey. To my OSF family, I love you and I will miss each and every one of you, but I carry you in my heart. To my love Miles, who saw the show 9 times and sent me 9 roses on closing, I couldn’t have done this without your support, understanding and love…

Axqueniuhqui

(Thank You)

SZV

Mojada Full Poster OSF

 

 

 

 

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#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.

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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

 

 

Home is where the He(art) is….

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…and I had left a piece of my heart in Ashland, Oregon last November. Just a week ago I arrived on a Greyhound bus to this little vibrant theatre heaven. After closing a show in California, and leaving pieces of my heart there, I made the trek north. I consumed theatre, I reconnected with dear friends, I addressed profound, heavy matters of my heart and soul and I have made the choice to return home to Albuquerque, NM for a deep breath and some healing. It is not lost on me that the experience of watching 8 plays brings up questions, challenges and revelations on love, life, loss and laughter. This can and should, stimulate catharsis that can help us face our own inner dilemmas, demons, desires and difficulties. That is the power of theatre. To sit in an audience of living breathing people and watch others on stage who appear just like us, who are searching for the same answers, feeling the same emotions, facing the same fears, there isn’t anything like it. No matter how much I binge watch television, nothing replaces live theatre and this week I had the pleasure of binge watching at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and I would do it all over again in a heart beat!

I was planning on heading back to New York for a little less than a month before a family wedding in Late October, but all my instincts were telling me to go home, to be with loved ones and to mentally, spiritually and physically prepare for my next job. As actors, especially as traveling actors, we are faced with the stress of constant transition, building and letting go of relationships, roles, locations and a perpetual feeling of unsettledness. All of this constant uncertainty can take a toll on the self, can overload and wear down the body and can confuse the heart. So solace, time, silence and healing becomes a necessity. For me New Mexico is where I can always find this peace of mind.

So today is a day of travel from one part of my heart to another. With time on my hands and a three hour layover, I turn to reflection of my recent theatre watching OSF. To give myself a creative challenge I only let myself express my experience in a Haiku poem! (Inspired by the character of “Odessa” in Water by the Spoonful.)

Enjoy!

THE TEMPEST

THE TEMPEST by WIlliam Shakespeare

THE TEMPEST by William Shakespeare

For 12 years, the exiled Duke Prospero has waited for this moment: Old enemies have sailed too close to his enchanted island, and a mighty storm has forced them ashore. Now it’s time to settle old scores and reclaim his former dukedom for his daughter, Miranda. Aided by supernatural powers, Prospero dispenses justice while overseeing the growing attraction between Miranda and the princely son of one of his foes. In Shakespeare’s romance, sorcery and love transmute vengeance into humility and humanity, making it possible for all to return to a world made new by the power of forgiveness.

White Bodies Sit Still

A Chance For Love, A Goodbye

Free In Love and Loss

THE COMEDY OF ERRORS

A Comedy Of Errors by William Shakespeare

The Comedy Of Errors by William Shakespeare

Antipholus and his servant, Dromio, go looking for family they lost years ago. Traveling from the rural South, they journey to the big city and find themselves in the heart of the Harlem Renaissance. And surprise! Suddenly there are two identical Antipholi and two identical Dromios, which has everybody in town (including significant others) seeing double. To make matters worse, another family member is about to be executed for breaking local law. Laughs fly as the clock ticks in Shakespeare’s farce about the craziest family reunion ever.

Color, Smiles, Laughter

Where Are We All From?

Reunion Runs Deep

RICHARD III

Richard III by WIlliam Shakespeare

Richard III by WIlliam Shakespeare

The king you love to hate returns. Richard III is the cunning royal reprobate so deformed in body and spirit that even his mother rues the day he was born. His path to England’s throne is murderous. He rules with a tyrant’s fist. He’s backstabbing and bloody. Yet he is so mesmerizing that we dare you to look away. Historically, Richard III may not have been such a villain, but where’s the fun in that? Shakespeare’s reworking of history is tragedy at its best—deep, rich and unapologetic.

Humor In Darkness

Blood On His Fingers, Each One

Sexy Ambition

A WRINKLE IN TIME

A Wrinkle In Time Adapted by Tracy Young From the book by Madeleine L'Engle

A Wrinkle In Time Adapted by Tracy Young From the book by Madeleine L’Engle

Meg Murry is the quintessential square peg: a middle-school math whiz with glasses and a short temper. But when she and her strangely gifted little brother set off to find their missing father, they’re catapulted across time and space to a world where being different isn’t just an annoyance—it can cost you your life. Even with the help of curious otherworldly beings, Meg will have to conjure every power she can find, and then some, to put her family back together. OSF presents a new adaptation of this mind-expanding science fiction story that’s still a favorite with the young and young at heart.

 Childhood Swells In Hearts

Imagination Soars High

Love, Love, Love, Love, Love

WATER BY THE SPOONFUL

Water By The Spoonful by Quiara Alegría Hudes

Water By The Spoonful by Quiara Alegría Hudes

A janitor. A software mogul. A college grad. An IRS paper-pusher. Although they live thousands of miles apart, these four people share a secret: They’re recovering addicts who’ve found a safe haven in an online chat room. There, with liberal doses of jokes and bullying, they help each other navigate the broken terrain of their lives. But when an Iraq War vet’s tragedy spills over into their cyberhome, everything changes. In this fearless, groundbreaking Pulitzer Prize–winner, worlds virtual and real unfold onstage, challenging our notions of family, forgiveness, community and courage.

 Surreal, Similar

Different, Moving, Heartbreak

Thirsty, Quenching Love

THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA

The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare

The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare

Young Proteus only has eyes for his hometown sweetheart, Julia. But on a trip to Milan, he gets one look at the lovely Silvia . . . and dumps Julia in a heartbeat. Two problems: Silvia is his best friend’s girl, and Julia won’t be dumped that easily. Stir in some bandits, an outraged father and a bad-mannered dog, and it’s friend versus friend in a wild tale of romantic rivals. This sumptuous production of Shakespeare’s early comedy—with twists that echo in his later plays—honors and mirrors Elizabethan tradition with an all-female cast.

Matters Of The Heart

Women’s Tongues Tackle The Bard

Perfection On Stage

THE COCOANUTS

The Cocoanuts Music & lyrics by Irving Berlin Book by George S. Kaufman Adapted by Mark Bedard

The Cocoanuts Music & lyrics by Irving Berlin Book by George S. Kaufman
Adapted by Mark Bedard

The service stinks but the gags are four-star in this Marx Brothers romp. Groucho owns a bum hotel in Florida and peddles dubious real estate to gullible Northerners seeking a place in the sun. He’s after a rich society dame, who’s after an eligible match for her daughter, who’s in love with the hotel’s head clerk. Trouble rolls in with the tide when the other Marxes arrive and mama’s eligible match turns out to be anything but. Mark Bedard (Groucho in 2012’s “Animal Crackers”) will adapt this jazz-age gem with songs by Irving Berlin.

 Puniness and Romps

Musical Numbers With Flair

Warms The Heart To Laugh

THE GREAT SOCIETY

The Great Society By Robert Schenkkan

The Great Society By Robert Schenkkan

The tumultuous beginning of Lyndon Johnson’s presidency that Robert Schenkkan presented in “All the Way” (2012) continues in part two, “The Great Society.” In the years from 1965 to 1968, LBJ struggles to fight a “war on poverty” even as his war in Vietnam spins out of control. Besieged by political opponents, Johnson marshals all his political wiles to try to pass some of the most important social programs in U.S. history, while the country descends into chaos over the war and backlash against civil rights. This American Revolutions–developed world premiere is an unflinching examination of the morality of power.

History Repeats

It’s A Continuation

Will We Ever Learn?

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Ashland in the Fall

 It was heartwarming to be back on the OSF campus, to take in the Fall air of this little Southern Oregon town, to see the leaves start to change. Connecting with the company members I had grown to love and respect last season. Watching their work lit up my soul with pride, admiration and wonder. How is it that in this tiny neck of the woods there is a place where the written text can be shared, enjoyed and experienced by so many people? What a National Treasure, not to mention a two time Tony Award winning operation! Most recently for the Broadway production of All The Way, starring Bryan Cranston. This is a home for me, a place of imagination and beauty.  I will be back, to watch, to work, to wonder.

Chia Seeds, 21 Days and Wedding Dresses

Its tech week and this is my first blog post that I am attempting to write on my phone with the WordPress app. As we take our breaks and work on scenes I am reflecting on the ups and downs of this exhausting process. It never ceases to amaze me how even a perfectly run rehearsal process can fall prey to the tumultuous theatre tech gods. Time always is running out, props seem to be out to get us at times and our minds can be clear as crystal one minute and complete mush the next. But overall there is this unified sense of anticipation, excitement and pride, layered beneath the panic, fear and worry. We are making a living breathing story, bringing characters to life and lifting our voices in one of the oldest rituals, what a life!

BODY

“Chia, it’s not just for pets”
-Brigitte Mars

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I have recenty discovered the “power” of Chia Seeds. I bought a little baggie from the bulk section at the grocery store and I am also hopelessly addicted to Kombucha drinks with Chia seeds. Everytime I perform in The Heart of Robin Hood I drink half a bottle before fight call and the other half at intermission. Chia has been called “runner’s food” because of the energy it provides.
My favorite recipe so far is:
– 5 heaping tablespoons of plain or honey yogurt
– 3 tablespoons of chia seeds
– A handful of dried cherries
Let sit in refrigerator for a few hours or overnight, then when ready to eat top with crushed pecans and enjoy!

* What is your favorite way to get energy?
* Is there a new food you have discovered recently?
* Do you have a Chia seed recipe?

      MIND

     “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
      -Dr. Seuss

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My Black Monday Crew

This week I got the news that I was not offered a second season at OSF. The day that the acting company receives the email, with or without an offer, has been nicknamed Black Monday. On this day I planned an outing with Matt and another OSF actor. We picked two wineries to visit, had dinner and went bowling. Both of us got the news that we would not be returning for the 2014 season at the first winery. So we sadly toasted with a glass of delicious Cabernet Sauvingon and headed to the second winery. It wasn’t until later that night that I sat down on the couch and had a good cry. Then Matt and I walked to Safeway and he bought me flowers and the new Vanity Fair.

The next few days were hard, I was mopey and kept dwelling on the fact that I wouldn’t be returning to this actor’s paradise next season. I couldn’t enjoy the moment, I escaped into a book during the breaks at rehearsal and really didn’t talk much. Then after finishing a show I walked home with another OSF actor who gave me three great pieces of advice/insight: 1. Maybe you didn’t get this because next year you are supposed to have a wedding. 2. Buy some wedding magazines, start visualizing and go try on wedding dresses. 3. It takes the body 21 days, at least, to get over something and/or adjust to a new direction. What she said relieved me of my worry that I had to get over this fast and move on. She helped me realize that it’s okay to still be sad here and there, for a bit, but that there is so much to look forward to.

A few days later I decided to have friends over to our apartment. Before everyone showed up a dear friend was in the kitchen with me and he shared that he believed in saying Cheers to what may seem like bad news, in essence welcoming and embracing it. So he poured us a glass of Sauvingon Blanc and we toasted to my new change of plans. The little gathering was a success, we played celebrity, drank lot’s of wine and the downstairs neigbors had to ask us to quiet down.

Those few folks who I have shared the news with have all given great advice and all are in agreement that this is a “when one door closes another opens” type of situation. I am slowly understanding it as well, but still got about 13 outta my 21 days left…

* Have you received bad news over the phone?
* What has helped you overcome hard situations?
* Have you had a time where a bad situation led to a great one?

   SOUL
“To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by.   someone deeply gives you courage.”
– Lao Tzu

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My dear friend who gave me the advice about 21 days and getting focused on the wedding took me to look at dresses yesterday. She took me to lunch, shared stories about her wedding, we had sangria and wine and headed to David’s Bridal. I have already decided to use my mother’s wedding dress, seen above on the right. She bought it in Mexico and one of my Tia’s is going to help me alter it. (I made sure not to mention this to the wonderful girl who helped me with the dresses.)

I gave her a made up budget for my dress and she pulled about 6 choices. I have never felt more like royalty than I did that day. I fell in love with every dress! The best moments were when she would add the perfect veil to each dress. It was so surreal…

We work in a profession where we get to wear amazing costumes and make up, but this was a completely different. I could feel a shift in my focus, a clearness to what I am getting myself ready for. This simple gesture of taking me to lunch and then trying on dresses helped me with taking a huge step towards getting over the heartbreak of not getting an offer from OSF and instead embracing the moment which leads to our future.

Now I am ready to open my second show and embrace each moment of working here. I only have about 3 more months and I am going to live it up! I also have started to check out bridal magazines and collecting all the D.I.Y. tips and tricks because we are on a tight budget! I can’t wait to see what me and my Tia come up with for the wedding dress, and I am lucky to have a cousin that works in the bridal industry. Check out her amazing veils, hairpieces and jewlery HERE

* Do you have any wedding dress stories?
* Are there any tips and tricks you can share from your wedding?
* What do you like most/least about wedding planning?

A Broken Body, Strange Women & Chavela…

Photo of Young Frida (Taken from Google Images)

Photo of Young Frida
(Taken from Google Images)

Feliz Cumpleaños Frida Kahlo!

Today is Frida Kahlo‘s 106th birthday! I cannot pinpoint the exact time when I first encountered the story of Frida, or saw one of her paintings for the first time, she seems to have always been around me in spirit. Today as I write this blog I will use her words and art through out this post. Click HERE to watch a YouTube video with footage of Frida. Enjoy!

BODY

I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.

~Frida Kahlo

Broken Column by Frida Kahlo

 At a young age Frida was involved in a Trolly Car accident. She suffered serious injuries as a result of the accident, including a broken spinal column, a broken collarbone, broken ribs, a broken pelvis, eleven fractures in her right leg, a crushed and dislocated right foot, and a dislocated shoulder. Also, an iron handrail pierced her abdomen and her uterus, compromising her reproductive capacity.

 When I first read about her injuries it struck me that I had two injuries similar to her, a broken pelvis and a dislocated shoulder. My pelvis was not broken in an accident however, it was necessary for it to be broken in three places for surgery. When I was 14 months old it was discovered that I had CHD (Congenital Hip Dysplasia) I underwent surgery at that age and wore a full body cast for many, many months. I remember none of this. However I remember clearly when I was 15 years old, just 3 days after my birthday undergoing a second surgery for the same problem. My hip was starting to dislocate again, slowly and painfully. The same orthopedic surgeon who performed my surgery as a baby performed the second surgery as well. I was young and able to recover within a few months and was playing sports the following season. Many thanks to the homeopathic treatment of Traumel. Several years later I had arthroscopic surgery on my shoulder after dislocating it 7 times. A few years ago I visited an Orthopedic surgeon about my knees which I had dislocated a few times as a child and now suffered from chronic pain. After an x-ray it was discovered that I do not have the usual cradle behind the patella that everyone else has, my cradle is flat. As a result the cartilage behind the knee cap is not properly polished smooth and causes creaks and cracks when I bend. Just last year I woke up with a frozen neck and an x-ray was taken by my chiropractor. It was the first time I had seen the bones of my upper spine, and there is no natural curve! It could have been the result of a car accident a few months before or just wear and tear over time.

It is quite natural for me to be angry at times about the “misfortune” of my broken body. Yet I try to remind myself that if Frida was able to survive her injuries, as well as Polio at a young age, and still produce stunning and heartbreaking art, so can I. She is my patron saint of my broken body. I have a lot of work to do. I visit a chiropractor weekly, I try to keep up with my leg extensions and simple strengthening exercises. Working on the Elizabethan Stage at OSF is quite the challenge with all the running up and down stairs and ramps. Every night I am done with a run of The Heart of Robin Hood I thank my saints and my body for helping me make it through unscathed. I am able to forget about my chronic pain and injuries when I am on stage, and like Frida said, I am not sick, I am broken, but I am happy to be alive as long as I can create.

* Have you ever been in an accident?

* Is there an artist in your life who inspires your work?

* What are your tips for healing and getting stronger?

MIND

I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me, too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it’s true I’m here, and I’m just as strange as you.

~Frida Kahlo

Photo created by Robert Toren

Photo created by Robert Toren

I visited Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul for the first time in 2007. As I walked from room to room I imagined her going about her daily routines, entertaining guests, relaxing with Diego, I imagined her living. For me and my comadres who work in creation and activism she lives in our hearts and in our artistic expression and raised voices. We may or may not know why we do what we do, but the more we meet others like us we know that we are on the right path.

We are deep in rehearsals for The Tenth Muse, my second show at OSF and the world premier play by Tanya Saracho. This is an all female cast, written by a Latina and directed by a Latina, Laurie Woolery. I am in the room with some of the most amazing, interesting and strange  women! Judith-Marie Bergan, Wilma BonetAlejandra Escalante, Vivia Font, Sofia Jean Gomez, Katie Medford, Avery Proctor, Vilma Silva and Shadee Vossoughi.  And we are all here bizzare and flawed and on a journey of creation and storytelling.

As we explore a time when women were not encouraged to raise their voice, create and/or think for themselves we also discover that there are still those issues today. The link between past struggles and current ones is a strong one. Laurie used the following quote in her director’s notes for the OSF program: ” I have the right of education. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing… I have the right to speak up.” Malala Yousafzai. This young women fights for a right to education despite being shot and living in a culture that does not embrace the power of the female mind and imagination. The ten of us in the cast of this play, along with our director and playwright are fighting the same fight, using voice and text as weapons. We are conjuring the spirit of Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz in the hearts and minds of ourselves and then hope to pass it along to all the women and girls that come to see the show. We want to say “we are here and so are you and we have a right to be here, we have a right to use our voice, and we have a right to create and imagine!”

* Have you ever been silenced by anyone?

* What forms of creativity do you like?

* Where have you seen injustice towards women?

SOUL

“Nothing is worth more than laughter.It is strength to laugh and to abandon oneself, to be light.”

~Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo & Chavela Vargas

Frida Kahlo & Chavela Vargas

As I sat down to write this post I put on the music of Chavela Vargas, one of the most heartbreaking and powerful voices I have ever heard. I discovered Chavela when I started working with Las Meganenas in Albuquerque, NM on the piece Rio De Lagrimas. One of Chavela’s most well known songs is La Llorona, heard HERE.

Chavela broke a lot of the “rules” that applied to women in her time, she wore pants, smoke cigars, drank a lot, swore and was a rumored womanizer. One of her rumored lovers was that of Frida Kahlo. I can only imagine the passionate and intimate moments between these two groundbreaking artists. This photo is one of my favorites of Frida and Chavela. It reminds me of those times when laughter breaks out and is unable to be contained, the joy of tears flowing from a free mind and open heart. During the production of Still Life by Harry Clark, I played Frida Kahlo and listened to Chavela often to invoke the spirit of Frida. While playing Medea in Bruja by Luis Alfaro I also listened to Chavela. She explores love, pain, tragedy, hope, her songs recount lost loves, the struggle with life, and the joy of loving another’s soul. One of my favorites El Ultimo Trago can be heard HERE.

I recently found a very good quality YouTube video of Chavela in concert, I was searching for videos of her concerts after she passed away. I cried many, many tears for her, she and my Tia Lala were the focus of my Dia De Los Muertos altar in October. If you have a moment, click HERE and enjoy an hour long concert by Chavela. There is a great introduction as well as clips of Chavela talking about life, truth and herself. I wish I could have seen her live in concert before she passed, but her music lives on!

* What musician(s) do find to be heartbreaking?

* Do you have a favorite song that helps you with your work?

* When was the last time you had a really good laugh?

Ashlandia…

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So here we are! Ashland, OR. After a wonderful 3 day drive/vacation, stopping in San Luis Obispo, Monterrey and San Francisco we pulled up to our little 2nd floor apartment in a little blue house. Every once is a while I realize, “Whoa..I am living in Oregon” Usually it’s while I am on a bike ride, or when we decide to drive around in the mountains, or when I am walking to work at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. It’s now been 2 months that we have been adjusting to the small town life (We love it!) and I have been in rehearsals for one of the two shows I will be in: The Heart Of Robin Hood and this week I start rehearsals for the second show: The Tenth Muse. What’s charming to me, besides the wonderful family of the OSF company, is the flora and fauna of this region of the country. The spring rain, the blooming flowers, the trees and snow capped mountains are breathtaking. Not to mention the tons of birds that sing with out reserve all hours of the day, and my all time favorite, the neighborhood cats that come when you call them and give them selves up to random stranger belly rubbing. However, I would have to say the overall, best, can’t believe it, this is amazing, fact about this new home of ours is how much we DON’T have to drive!

As some of you may know I like to write in Three Sections for my posts: Body (Physical Self), Mind (Intellectual Self) & Soul (Sacred Self) & I will throw in some quotes at the beginning and questions at the end of each section to encourage personal reflection, conversation and musings… Thank you for Reading 🙂

BODY

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now, and we don’t know where the heck she is.”
― Ellen DeGeneres

Ashland Alley Art discovered on a walk while picking wild poppies...

Ashland Alley Art discovered on a walk while picking wild poppies…

I remember that what I enjoyed most about working in San Francisco was all the of walking I got to do, to and from rehearsal, around town and along the water. I am not a runner, my knees can’t take it, but I do like to walk. I find that my mind is able to take in all the senses as well as have time just to wander. I recently came upon a walking labyrinth adjacent to the Episcopal church in their Trinity Garden. I realized that there are two types of walking, one is to get to a certain destination and the other is to move in space and eventually arrive somewhere, but without an expectation of “getting somewhere.” I am able to walk every day here in Ashland, unless I take my bike, and every time I am able to notice details that I wouldn’t be able to see driving in a car. Sometimes Matt and I will walk around the surrounding blocks and just take in the different styles of houses and lawns, I always get caught up in the endless variety of plants and flowers. Along with walking I have been working with a personal trainer once a week. We are focusing on Cardio, upper arms, core and legs, so pretty much everything! I am feeling stronger which is so very necessary for my role in “The Heart of Robin Hood.” I play Fang the Wolf, among 5 other characters, and am using my body in a way that I normally don’t. Lot’s of twisting and squatting, hard on the knees and quads. The theatre we are working in is also very large and to get from one place to another requires a lot of ramps and stairs. The entire cast is going to be in incredible shape at the end of the season!

* Where is your favorite place to walk?

* Are there a lot of places to walk where you live?

* When was the last time you went on a walk for enjoyment?

MIND

“I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.”
― Groucho Marx

(From Google Images)

(From Google Images)

I am almost always in the middle of one book or another, many times I am in the midst of two. A very dear friend is my own personal library, she is an avid reader and anytime she lends me a book I love it! She recently lent me “Through A Glass Darkly” by Karleen Koen. I read it in one month, and it’s quite a large book. I loved the historical setting and enjoyed the authors way of getting into the hearts and minds of the many characters. Before I left LA to come to Ashland she lent me the sequel “Now Face to Face”. I have yet to finish it, I would say I am about two thirds to the end. I love it, but with my schedule I haven’t found as much time to read, usually it is just before bed. I am thinking of taking the book to the park today to get a good deal of reading done since I have picked up a new book! I recently finished “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” by Luis Alberto Urrea and found the sequel to this in the Ashland Book store. Like the other book I am reading, this sequel follows the main character in her journey to a new land. I have only read a few chapter’s of “Queen of America” , but I am already reminded of the journey I took with the first book. So here I am, dealing with two sequels that follow the main characters, both women, who started as young naive girls and are now on a journey through past pain, heartbreak and future adventure and I can’t wait to get back to them. At the same time I have been keeping up with my television shows. What I consider my romance novels, the easy to watch shows have all come to an end this season: Grey’s Antatomy, Scandal and Smash. A new find is the series Call The Midwife on Netflix, only the first season is available, click on the link to go to PBS for he second season. It’s a look into the East End of London in the 50’s and an order of Nuns and Nurses who served as the midwives to the women in that area and is narrated by Vanessa Redgrave. We have now joined the Game of Thrones frenzy and can’t wait to get to another episode!

* What book are you reading now?

* What television are you watching?

* Do you prefer reading or watching?

SOUL

“We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.”

― Dorothy DayThe Long Loneliness: The Autobiography of the Legendary Catholic Social Activist

OSF Company Photo 2012 Season

OSF Company Photo 2012 Season

Here at OSF I have a built in community. As most theatre artists experience, there is a temporary family built for every show, and in this case it is extra special because of the length of time we have together. I already I have enjoyed Ladies Night at the Jackson Wellsprings soaking in the sulfur water, potlucks at 125 Wimer, darts at The Black Sheep, Salsa dancing at Tabu, and of course drinks at Martino’s. There is a wonderful diversity of the crowds I find myself in, not just in cultures and ethnicities, but in artistry; there are actors, designers, directors, teachers, and more that make up these wonderful gatherings. I find myself spending a lot of time with folks who are here because of the FAIR program at OSF. Tonight I get to see the work from the 4  F.A.I.R. Assistant Directors and Matt will be in one of the readings! The support that OSF gives to Theatre Artists is so impressive and I am happy to be surrounded by such committed and talented creators. What is also heartwarming is the chance to run into people when walking to and from rehearsal, or when I am just out and about I can almost always see someone I know and share a smile. We recently took the company photo for 2013 and I was amazed at the amount of people I don’t know. There are so many people keeping this ship afloat…

* When did you first become part of a community?

* What kind of artist are you?

* Have you ever moved to another city for work?

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