OVERVIEW OF CREATIVE WORK
The representation of work here is informed by my years of experience in the field of theatre and academia, and my goal to continually develop as a director, choreographer, actor, and playwright. Each project I undertake is an opportunity to diversify and grow as an artist and as a person. The primary area of my professional productivity and concentration for the last decade has been directing and choreographing. I also write for the theatre and have contributed to the field through professional play readings of original works, produced short plays, and the publication of a play for young audiences. I have also maintained a professional tether to acting by performing solo works, remaining a member of Actor’s Equity Association, and taking on roles when my academic and professional schedule has allowed. My work in academia and the theatre is based in issues of identity and diversity.
Throughout my professional career I have contributed to the field in a range of areas. As a director, I have mounted contemporary straight plays, a farce, and an avant-garde work. As a director-choreographer I have staged and choreographed modern musicals. As a solo artist, I have created and performed works that explore culture and identity. And as a playwright I have written works that contribute to the fields of Latina/o Theatre, LGBT theatre, and theatre for young audiences. In order to understand the approach to my work, and who I am as a theater artist, I offer here a brief overview of my background, which led to creating the projects represented on this site.
I grew up in a conservative Mexican family in Los Angeles, California. In my early years, my sense of self as a gay person was in conflict with the cultural and religious environment I found myself in. I believe this is a significant aspect of my sense of self as a theatre maker and artist. Themes of identify and culture have been central in the original works I’ve created for the stage. My outlet during those early years, as a means of finding solace and locating myself in the world, was Hollywood musicals. I grew up just blocks from the MGM Studios in the Culver City area of Los Angeles, and was fascinated by the connection between the fantasy American film musical that I discovered on late night television and the actual location in which those films were created just blocks from where I lived. Before my teenage years, I was well acquainted with the cannon of American musicals from the golden age of Hollywood. I wanted desperately to be part of the land of ideas that created those magnificent worlds. Although I didn't have access to a film camera, I did have access to spaces (backyards and school auditoriums which became make shift theaters) and other children (who became de facto actors). Thus, I set out to create magical worlds of my own with the resources I had. I directed my first play at the age of ten and have been creating and participating in the theatre in some form since that time.
After receiving a scholarship at a prestigious dance academy in Los Angeles when I was nineteen, I began my professional work as a dancer, having studied ballet, jazz, and contemporary forms. During my years as a professional dancer, I developed a deep understanding of the body as an expressive instrument and as a kinesthetic performance tool. I also researched various other dance forms such as folk dance and musical theater dance, and I developed a visual aesthetic related to placement and the lines of the human body in a theatrical space.
Through dance, I learned about the nuances of rhythm, pacing, and tempo in storytelling. I studied acting as an undergraduate student at UCLA, and soon after began working professionally in the musical theater. I performed in regional theaters as well as National and European tours. As I continued to work in musical theater I immersed myself in acting classes at Playwright’s Horizons in New York City and subsequently with master teacher, Ellen Burstyn. I transitioned to working professionally as an actor. During those years, I found a tension between the themes I wanted to express in the theater and the projects and roles available to me. This is not to say I was not adaptable as an actor, but I hungered to tell other stories. To be specific - during the late 1980s and into the 1990s there were few plays, musicals, and roles that reflected the gay Latina/o experience and identity. As I attempted to build a resume that included work in the television and film industries, I found those environments to be both racist and homophobic during those years. In the early 1990s I dedicated myself solely to creating projects that reflected my experience. I learned about, met, and was inspired by other Gay Latina/o theater artists who were creating work during those years.
In order to expand my creative abilities, I completed my MFA in playwriting at UCLA, and soon after began to focus on the creation of solo performance work. Off and on for nearly a decade, I created solo performance that explored the intersection of the two themes I was most interested in: Latinidad (Latinness) and Gay identity. I was fortunate to tour many colleges and universities and to appear at numerous theater festivals with my two major solo shows. I was passionate about the solo work I was engaged in, but also felt there were other parts of my creative self to be challenged. While continuing to perform my solo works, I began to develop my portfolio as a director and choreographer. Starting off as a director and choreographer of non-equity summer stock, I built my professional resume, and parlayed my experience and creative productivity into an academic position at The University of Texas at El Paso (1999-2004). Since 2006, I’ve been on faculty at The University of Vermont.
I made the decision to remain in academia because it provides me an opportunity to share my deep passion for theater with young people, and it provides a home base for me to create new projects, collaborate with other theater artists, host guest artists, and serve as a guest artist at other institutions myself. I believe deeply in the value of higher education. I’ve had the opportunity over the past fifteen years to hone my skills in the academic environment and in the professional realm by directing a wide variety of genres and styles, and working with a multitude of different novice and professional actors.
In my first academic position at The University of Texas at El Paso, I founded the Border Public Theater and the Latino Guest Artist Program. After that appointment, I took a brief two-year hiatus to return to New York City and work as a marketing executive on Broadway shows. That period of my professional career allowed me to learn about large scale marketing initiatives, community engagement, and organizing publicity related events for productions.
My current position as Resident Director and Chair of Theatre at The University of Vermont keeps me in Vermont most of the year, where I have directed numerous productions at the two local professional theaters in my region: Saint Michael’s Playhouse and Vermont Stage. In a constant effort to expand my skills, I make it a point to participate in professional development opportunities when possible, and I continually research the aesthetics of directing. I’m an avid theater supporter and I attend every theatrical production my schedule will allow. In 2014 I was accepted to the Lincoln Center Director’s Lab.
While maintaining my academic and administrative position, directing in my department, and working as a professional director, I’ve also been able to expand my body of original plays. Two documents in this dossier reflect my contributions to the field of Latina/o Theatre: An article by Dr. Ashley Lucas about my solo performance piece Border Stories, and an interview conducted by Andy Martinez that centers on that same work. My other solo performance play When We Danced, based on interviews with senior and elderly LGBT individuals, was performed at several solo performance festivals. In the past three years, I’ve concentrated on writing multi-character plays (both short plays and full length). Several of my short plays have been produced at play festivals around the country, two of my full-length plays, A Visit From San Cristobal and Our Father’s House, received development readings at Company of Angels Theater in Los Angeles. During the summer of 2015, while on sabbatical, I traveled through the U.S. Southwest and central Mexico (primarily Queretaro and San Miguel de Allende) to conduct research for a new play for young audiences. Inspired by my paternal grandmother, who was a great storyteller and prominent influence on my love of stories, I interviewed numerous Mexican and Mexican-American people on the topic of family ghost tales and Mexican legends. The result of that research is my play for young audiences: Cuentos de Josefina (Josephine’s Tales), published in March 2017 by YouthPLAYS.
My goal to continually hone my skills as an actor is intended to fuel my work as a playwright and director. I was recently accepted to the True Acting Institute Summer Intensive Program where I completed my certification in Meisner Actor Training. I believe the three realms (acting, directing and writing) complement one another and make me better in each area.
This serves as an overview of my background as it relates to the emphasis of my creative work. In order to avoid being exhaustive, the materials on this site contain samples of materials that I feel best reflect my productivity since obtaining tenure in 2011. For the directorial projects included, I've provided notes on my approach as well as production photos, reviews where available, video footage where available, and research images from several projects. The original full length plays included in this dossier are explained by a short contextual statement that illuminates the creation of those works. I've included the entire texts of three short plays that have received productions. There are also two samples of my non-creative writing. 1) A review from Latin American Theater Review, and 2) An interview I conducted for Howlround.com. I plan to contribute more to the area of Theater Criticism in the coming years.
At the heart of every project is my goal to expand my own creative experiences as well as those of my collaborators and audiences. I do so with a large measure of humility and passion for the art of theater.