University Times

New play about undocumented women in search of opportunities

Theater department puts on Latina, spreading harsh realities

Photo Courtesy of Cal State L.A Theater Arts Dept.

Photo Courtesy of Cal State L.A Theater Arts Dept.

Anthony Karambelas, Staff Reporter

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Thirty years ago, a man navigating the complex world of show business watched a play that stole his heart. Though times weren’t right at the moment, he promised himself, “Someday, somewhere, I’ll do it as a director.”

        Thirty years later, as a professor of theater arts, Dr. Steven Rothman found himself in a classroom at Cal State LA teaching an acting class of primarily Latina students. The women in his class came to him, desperate for scenes that they could relate to. Suddenly, he remembered the play from thirty years before.

That play was Latina.

This fall, Rothman is fulfilling his dream of directing this brilliant and provocative work by Milcha Sanchez-Scott.

“We have such an incredible group of talented women in this program who happen to be Latina and we haven’t picked a major play for them in years that would allow them to explore,” said Rothman.

Especially on a Hispanic-serving campus like Cal State LA, it only makes sense that we should be representing the student body with bilingual plays such as Latina. According to Rothman, these shows give students a chance to explore topics that are very familiar to them.

While Latina is evocative, making audience members laugh at times and cry at others, it also has its informative aspects. Viewers will be shocked to find that the circumstances portrayed in Latina are not far from reality.

        Rothman said, “When I reread the script again, my jaw fell on the floor because the play was written in 1980 and is talking about illegal immigration. It’s talking about the difficulties of people in the working class and making a living. It’s talking about exploitation by white people in terms of the Latino population. In other words I’m reading this thing and going, did nothing change?”

        Latina involves the Felix Sanchez Domestic Agency, which is run by poorly treated Latina maids.

Gloria Hernandez, fourth year Theater major, has a grandma who worked as a maid the exact time during which Latina is set. “It just makes me wonder, did she go through all that ugliness? It’s hurtful that people were treated like that. My grandma to this day refuses to speak English,” she said.

        Lilyana Melero, another fourth year Theater major, expressed the inspiration she found in Latina. “Up until I got to Cal State LA, I never really thought of myself as Latina because I’m mixed race, so it wasn’t until I saw the melting pot that we have here and even doing this show, I realized I am Latina and I have all this stuff to be proud of.”

Melero added, “When I was a kid and I was watching TV and theater and movies, I never really saw anything that related to my life. I’m just so happy a play like this exists.”

Latina also allows insight into the lives of those often ignored.

        Osboldo Mancia, assistant stage manager for the production, said, “Most of the time, we see a Hispanic cleaning lady and we don’t understand their stories or their struggles and maybe this could be a glimpse into that. I know most of us have had cleaning ladies come to our houses and we just don’t talk to them.”

Diana Cruz, who plays the main character, Sarita, said, “I want to touch the people who are too Americanized and deny their own culture. I hope they identify themselves with my character. There’s nothing wrong with embracing your own culture. It’s something beautiful, you should do it.”

Audience members will be kept on the edges of their seats with surprises throughout the production. As Rothman said, “The show has some moments that will surprise the audience in a way that is really cool, because it’s magical. The play is realistic, but at times it goes somewhere else and things happen that is like, what?!”

In a nutshell, Latina provides a reality check, bringing to light important issues that need to be addressed. Rothman added, “Everyone in the audience, regardless of who they are, are going to be forced to face some hard realities, which is why has nothing changed?”

For those interested in attending the play, Latina will be showing at the State Playhouse on campus. The show dates are November 4,9,10, and 12 at 7:30 PM, November 5 at 8:00 PM, November 6 at 1:00 PM, and November 12 at 12:30 PM. Tickets Student and senior cost $10, while general admission is $15. Tickets can be purchased at www.calstatela.edu/mtd, and for more information email mtdevents@calstatela.edu.

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