Mariachi Girl is the story of Carmencita, a girl who dreams of becoming a singer in the male-driven world of mariachi. Timeless and family-friendly, it’s an appropriate piece to kick off the Fiesta season that begins just a couple of weeks later. In anticipation of this exciting event, ArtScene SA spoke with Teatro Audaz’s Executive and Artistic Director, Laura T. Garza, and JoJanie Moreno, director of the piece.
Putting on the Big Show
As one of Teatro Audaz’s co-founders, Ms. Garza is proud of how far the company has come in just a few short years. She said, “We’re so excited about it. We’ve been working since our inception to get to a production this size. We started out with staged readings, right? And we always wanted to do a big mainstage musical like this, and we’ve finally gotten to the point. And the fact that it’s a mariachi musical makes us even more proud, because it really does represent San Antonio and what we’re all about.”
Revisiting an Old Friend
Ms. Moreno actually directed the piece for the first time at the Magik back in 2019 (AKA the pre-pandemic era). About this new experience, she said, “It feels great! I loved the show the first time I directed it, and being able to work with a majority of the same cast has been really exciting for me. I felt like the first time we did it, we became very much of a close-knit family, and going into it with Teatro Audaz, we’re doing the same thing. We also welcome the new cast members in — Danny (Esai Gomez) and Mrs. Parker (Jessica Arenas), and they fit like a glove. So we’re just all excited. It’s a good thing all around.”
A Post-Pandemic Production
How has the new world we’re living in changed the face of theater? Ms. Moreno said, “Having to change some of the blocking, social distancing being required in our rehearsal space… It really affects how our actors perform, and the musicians as well. I have to say this — our cast is doing a great job with the limitations they’re given. It’s really a refreshing and exciting thing for us all to get back together in such a tough time. But it’s that family relationship, the theater and being able to work on a show that we all love — it’s really been a good thing for the soul.
“So we’re laughing and having fun, even though we’re six feet apart. It’s been really nice to get back into the theater with this show. I’m grateful for that.”
Ms. Garza added, “We had talked about what show we wanted to do coming back from COVID. We knew we were going to do a big show. And this season, our theme is about familia. In our culture, that bond that you have with your family is so strong. Coming back to that, after all that this pandemic has put us through, we feel that San Antonio can really connect with that. We feel that this story really emulates that for the city.”
A Story That Resonates
What makes Mariachi Girl such a timeless piece? “It’s the perfect kind of uplifting family story that everyone can get behind,” said Ms. Garza. “The fact that it’s a girl empowerment story also spoke to our hearts. You know, Teatro Audaz is very female-driven. It all ties in so nicely, so this is the perfect one for us. It’s kind of a full-circle moment.”
Ms. Moreno said, “It’s the common thread of having a dream and feeling like you’re up against barriers. A lot of times, it’s family. That family unit that tells you that something can’t be accomplished or it’ll be harder. So, for Carmencita, in this case it’s tradition and culture and machismo. It’s something her father believes in, and it’s something we see over and over again, especially in the Latin culture, where some of us are embedded in these traditions.
“And when we try to evolve a little bit, or assimilate, it seems like we’re turning our back on our culture, and that’s never the intent. In fact, we’re trying to change and grow and share our culture. That’s what really resonates for me. Being the first in my family to be a theater artist — that was unheard of. That wasn’t something my parents pushed, you know? It’s a story that really resonates — being a girl in a man’s world, even though the show doesn’t hone in on that, there are elements of it. So I feel that anyone can connect with the story.”
Bring on the Mariachis
The most exciting aspect of the production is the live mariachi band, Mariachi Azteca de América, onstage with the cast, including musical director Gino Rivera, who also plays Carmencita’s father. Ms. Moreno said, “Luis and five of his musicians are gracing us with their presence, so the whole show is scored with mariachi music. It’s just a really great experience that we’re fortunate to have.”
Ms. Garza continued: “Yes, that’s something new for us. We’re thrilled that the audiences are going to see the mariachis onstage. In rehearsals, it’s been a fun experience for the actors as well, so I just can’t wait for the audiences to experience it.
“Because you know musicals are always fun. And a mariachi musical? There’s nothing else in the world like it. In San Antonio, in the Latinx community, we know what it’s all about. The spirit that comes with mariachi music — it’s in our blood, our cultura. They’re going to be taken completely back to their family and their home, and they’re going to love it.”
Special Events on March 12
“That’s a big night for us,” said Ms. Garza. That’s our ASL interpretation night with Robert Cardoza. We’re also going to have the talkback with [playwright] Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, who’s going to be there in person with us, including the cast members, JoJanie and myself.”
Ms. Moreno added, “We’re really excited about being able to talk to Roxanne about her inspiration for the show, her process for writing it and the goals she had. It’s really an awesome experience, especially for young people to get to see somebody who had a dream, made the story and now gets to see it come to fruition.”
“The other thing we have planned for every night of the show is that we’re asking local performers — mariachi, ballet — to participate.” said Ms. Garza. “We put out a call to the community to do live pre-show performances for the first 15 to 20 minutes. We want to help showcase the talent that San Antonio has to offer. We have such fabulous, talented people here! That’s what Teatro Audaz is all about.
“We did that with Man of the Flesh. We’re trying to continue that. It’s one of the initiatives we’d like to continue with all of our shows. Were trying to incorporate as much of the community as we can because we’re trying to bring teatro back and keep it alive as much as possible.”
Mariachi Girl plays Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. from Mar. 4-13 at the Russell Hill Rogers Theater, 800 W. Ashby Place. Tickets are available here. Presale pricing runs until Feb. 25.