Spring, 2005
as one of two one-act plays, along with
The Love of Don Pemperplin
Directed by Ellen O'Keefe
Place: Los Angeles - Time: 1980's

Simply Maria, or The American Dream by Josefina López, one of the most popular Latina playwrights currently working in the United States.  This fast-paced comedy follows the character Maria, a bright, assertive child born to Mexican immigrants, who dreams of a obtaining a college degree and a living life far different from that of her parents. “…Her father, Ricardo, tells Maria that in America, with an education, she can have the American Dream. Maria believes him and studies hard. However, when she tells her parents she wants to go to college, they order her to get married instead. …Maria …realizes she has to go to college in order to be economically independent of men and have the life that she wants, one that combines the best of her two worlds.”Dramatic Pub. Co. Catalog.


Playwright's Notes about Simply Maria

I had thought about committing suicide, but I knew I wanted to live. I just wanted so badly to get my parents’ attention and for them to understand me. So I wrote a play! I wrote Simply Maria or Th e American Dream when I was 17. I wrote this play because I had to. I was so angry with my father for his machismo and all of his aff airs. I was so angry at my mother for allowing my father to disrespect her and for being so dependent on him. I wanted to go to college because I knew that would be the only way I could become economically independent and self-suffi cient. However, because I was undocumented at that time, I couldn’t get financial aid and my parents didn’t have any money to give me or lend me. They would just tell me it was going to be a waste of time anyway and I should just get married. It is painful to think about this period in my life because I was hurting, I was confused, and I was mad as hell.

Very early in my life, I learned to channel my anger into something positive. I remember wanting to scream back at my father when he was yelling about house chores not being done. I couldn’t yell back at him and disrespect him, but my throat hurt as I held back the scream. I quickly grabbed a pen and stabbed the paper with my words. I wrote viciously, with rage and said all the things that were in my gut and heart that I couldn’t say out loud. The next day, I read the piece of paper and was very impressed with what I had written. Writing became a tool of empowerment.

I was a junior in high school and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. I was so confused and I kept hearing three different voices, I thought I was going crazy. Nothing made sense. My parents would tell me to do one thing and then I would go to school and my teachers would tell me to keep reaching for the stars. I was living in two different worlds that kept clashing. I wrote Simply Maria to make sense of all this confusion.

...I write to empower myself because I grew up feeling very helpless. I grew up feeling like my life as a Latina woman was not very important. After I wrote Simply Maria or The American Dream, and realized how important my experience is, that of a Mexican-American immigrant woman, I became the protagonist of all my plays and took charge of my life and went on to college. I had to drop out of college three times, but I eventually graduated May 27, 1993.

Josefina Lopez
Los Angeles, 1996

Maria ......Elizabeth Roig
Ricardo ......Jesse Menendez
Carmen ......Linnea Carrera
Jose/Ensemble ......Alexis Ginay
Girl 1/Mary/Ensemble ......Janet Davis
Girl 2/Maria II/Ensemble ......Antonella Scarpiello
Girl 3/Myth/Ensemble ......Candice Liapis
Statue of Liberty/Ensemble ......Stephanie Tichenor
Actress/French Immigrant/Ensemble ......Danielle DiBianco
Bag Lady/Head Nurse/Ensemble .......Carrie Peters
German Immigrant/Nurse/Ensemble ......Melanie McCoy
Mexican Woman/Commercial Actress/Ensemble ......Lizette Bernabe
Italian Immigrant/Prince/Ensemble ......Bryan Avis
Judge/Referee/Ensemble ......Clark Weber
Priest/Actor/Salesman/Ensemble ......Juan Montano
Cholo/Ensemble ......Eric Lopez

Liz Roig (Maria) was last seen performing a one-woman Othello in the downtown “L” stations. She was raised from infancy by a pack of wolverines and a sherpa. She is currently a freshman and hopes to graduate next fall. She will then be traveling to Europe in a canoe to study belly dancing with Dame Andrew. She would like to thank herself for being so fabulous and her pet, Charles, a double chimera she rescued from a fate worse than death. She would also like to thank her ghost writer Conchita Macbeth.

Jesse Menendez (Ricardo) is a student of the game. He has been an actor for the past 3 weeks and has appeared in the one man show the Three Men and a Baby. Jesse was also best boy on the set of Muppets Take Manhattan. He hopes to one day star as Balki Bartokomous in the stage version of the popular 90s sitcom Perfect Strangers. Among Jesse’s many accomplishments are learning to crawl and eventually walking at the tender age of 11. Jesse would like to thank Ellen O’Keefe and the cast for telling him that acid washed jeans are a thing of the past and sporks are not to be used at fine dining events.

Linnea Carrera (Carmen) is in her third year of higher education and having finally decided on Communications as her major, she may actually graduate in under seven years, although that is not likely. This is her second show here at NEIU; she played Mrs. Drudge in The Real Inspector Hound in the fall. Linnea is very excited to be a part of this production and a member of this fantabulous cast. She most particularly wants to thank Lorena and her mom for saying words at her over the phone till she got them right and also wants to thank her friends and family for being just so darn cool.

Alexis S. Ginay (Jose/Ensemble) is an accomplished artist who likes to work in pastels (although jeans and a white t-shirt will suffice). This is Mr. Ginay’s second appearance in a mainstage production at NEIU having made his first mainstage appearance in Life is a Dream, after his home planet exploded and his spacecraft mysteriously landed in the college parking lot! He would like to thank the director and cast for teaching him the earthly ways!

Janet Davis (Mary/Ensemble) loved doing this show. Snoochy Boochies!

Antonella Scarpiello (Maria II/Ensemble) is a graduate student studying Communication, Media, and Theatre here at NEIU. She is excited to be joining such a talented cast and crew. Antonella was previously seen in a production of Dostoyevsky’s White Night. She was also in a commercial for BYU business school. Antonella can also be seen in NEIU’s childrens’ show Happily Ever After. She would like to thank the fellow actors and Professor O’Keefe for their support.

Candice Liapis (Myth/Ensemble) is a junior at NEIU, majoring in Communication and minoring in Theatre. This is the first time she has ever been on stage and she is very excited. She was also the assistant stage manager for Buried Child last semester. She would like to thank Ellen O’Keefe for giving her a shot! And give a peace sign to all my friends! You too mom!!

Stephanie Tichenor, (Statue of Liberty/Ensemble) a true southern belle, is originally from New Orleans. She is a junior Communication major and Theatre minor here at NEIU. She was last seen on stage in Stage Center’s production of Life is a Dream. She is thrilled to be working with such a giving, talented, not to mention incredibly good looking cast, director and crew, She would like to thank her friends, family and monkey for their constant love and support.

Danielle DiBianco (French Immigrant/Ensemble)

Carrie Peters (Head Nurse/Ensemble) is a senior at NEIU majoring in Communication, Theater and Media. She appeared in the Stage Center production of Way of All Fish. With love and thanks to Rebecca, her most important production of all.

Melanie S. McCoy (Nurse/Ensemble) is finishing her final semester studying Communication, Media and Theatre here at NEIU. She is excited to be acting with some of the most talented actors in the world. You may remember Melanie from such NEIU productions such as: Little Murders (Wedding Guest) and The Way of All Fish (Miss Riverton). Melanie would like to thank Professor O’Keefe for this opportunity. She would also like to thank her loving family for their support, and those amazing friends who helped her through some tough times.

Lizette Bernabe (Commercial Actress/Ensemble) This is Lizette’s first theatre production. She really enjoyed working with this group and says she feels a good energy vibe transmitted. She is a junior at NEIU and is majoring in Communication. She loves dancing and her dream is to perform some of her moves for an audience some day.

Bryan Edward Avis (Italian Immigrant/Prince/Ensemble) will be finally graduating this semester and he couldn’t be more thrilled. He was last seen in We Won’t Pay, We Won’t Pay and The Case of the Crushed Petunias. He also directed a studio series last year, Water and Wine. In addition to acting and directing, he is also a runway/print model. After graduation, Mr. Avis will take a much needed vacation touring the South Pacific in May. He wants to thank all positive cast and crew members (except Candi who kept sticking out her tongue and making him laugh, just kidding, love ya babe!) as well as send a special thank-you to Anna Antaramian, Melanie, Freddy, Tom & his grandmother Victoria for all positive and constructive criticism (no matter how much he hated it) throughout the years and lastly, my dogs, Loo-e, Mina and Moonflower, i love you. “I know God exists because I can see Him in you!”

Clark T. Weber (Judge/Referee/Ensemble) is a senior at Northeastern majoring in Communication with a minor in theatre. He has lived and performed in Chicago since 1987. Although, this is his first role in a Stage Center production, he was last involved in the Stage Center’s production of Buried Child as the stage manger. For the past five years, he has been the alter ego of the Seadog Speedboat Rides mascot on Navy Pier. Other past stage credits include Dickie Despin in Tony’s & Tony’s Wedding, Woody Allen in Hollywood Squares Live!, and Judas in Jesus The Wonder Years-The Musical. He is currently appearing in the Children’s Theatre Workshop production of Happily Ever After. Other acting credits include Photo Assistant #1 in the film Baby’s Day Out, as juror Harvey Pilsky in the TV show Early Edition and as a nerd in the music video Short Short Man. He has also sung with the DePaul Community Chorus. Clark would like to thank his grandmother for all her love and support and give props to all his talented fellow cast members and the hard working crew.

Juan Nezahualcoytl Montaño (Priest/Actor/Salesman/Ensemble) is a freshman at NEIU. His long overdue return on stage is shadowed by a very long absence. Having played a minor part as Putnam in The Crucible and the lead in Romeo and Juliet, he believes it is time to return to the spotlight. An aspiring poet and actor, his love for theatre is ever growing. Shakespeare, Neruda, Lorca, Poe, Piñero, Baudelaire, Luis J. Rodriguez and Valdez are among the influences in Juan’s dreams and aspirations. He would like to thank all his friends and family for their support, friendship and love. Being part of a great, talented, and good looking cast is a privilege he is grateful for.

Eric Lopez (Cholo/Ensemble) has been spelling words since 1987. After receiving his first pictionary at the tender age of 4, he’s been enamored with the art of spelling ever since. As a Junior Achiever he joined the cut-throat spelling bee circuit at his elementary school. With his extensive vocabulary in hand, and the thirst of correct spelling in his soul, Eric can often be found at junior high spelling bee tournaments annihilating his competition, marring their home videos and… their dreams. If you walk down the halls of NEIU, you can hear Eric explaining the difference between their, there, and they’re to his grammatically challenged peers. Eric challenges anyone to ask him to spell mnemonic, pterodactyl, and xylophone. His spelling bee background has helped him to perfectly articulate his lines during NEIU theatre productions. Eric would like to thank Sesame Street, Webster’s Dictionary, the makers of the kids toy “Spell and Check,” goawaykids, needle$$, his family, and all of the people he’s outspelled over the years.

Production Crew
Producer ..............Rodney Higginbotham
Director ...............................Ellen O’Keefe
Set Designer ....................John Rodriguez
Costume Designer ........Elizabeth Shaffer
Lighting Designer ..........Robert G. Smith
Choreographer .......................Mary Foley
Sound Designer ...............Leroyd Manuel
Stage Manager ...............Jennifer Noncek
Box Office Manager .................Eric Steier
Light Board Operator .........Elias Morales
Sound Board Operator ....Leroyd Manuel
Costume Mistress ..............Yvette A. Trejo
Playbill Designer ..............David Ropinski

Ellen O’Keefe (Director). The last time Ellen O’Keefe ventured out at the Stage Center Theatre, she was playing the role of Bananas in House of Blue Leaves. Now she is very pleased to make her directoral return with such a talented cast and crew. She has directed over fourteen productions, most recently, an original adaptation of Aimee Bender’s The Girl in the Flammable Skirt for Paleo Productions. She is a founding member  of Michael Montenegro’s mask and puppet ensemble, LAMP, which performed their latest work, The Sublime Beauty of Hands at this year’s Winterroot Festival. Some of her favorite directing projects include: an original adaptation of School for Scandel, The Adding Machine, Biederman and the Firebugs, Archangels Don’t Play Pinball and a staged reading of her play, Ubu Planet, with The Woman’s Theatre Alliance. She is a member of the NEIU faculty and when not walking the picket line, teaching, or performing, she likes to relax with her remarkable family, Richard, Eve and Adrian, who make all things possible.

John Rodriguez (Scenic Design) joined the theatre faculty at Northeastern last year and has been teaching courses in technical theatre as well as working as a designer on the mainstage shows. Last year he designed the lighting for Little Murders, Lend Me a Tenor, The Game of Love and Chance, and the set and lighting for Ghosts. This past summer John designed the set and lighting for the Stockyard Theatre’s production of Duet for One, directed by Lynn Ann Bernatowicz and produced at the Victory Garden’s Theatre.

Elizabeth Powell Shaffer (Costumer) received her Masters Degree in Design from Penn. State University in 2002, after graduating from Washington University in St. Louis. She has been designing and draping in the Chicago area for several years. Her credits include: Bailiwick Arts Center, L’Opera Piccola, Opera Theatre Highland Park, Chicago Jewish Theatre, Reverie Theatre, and Lifeline Theatre (where she is an Artistic Ensemble member). She eagerly awaits a call from the Lyric. She is also the Assistant Designer / Head Draper for the annual Baroque Handel Opera Festival in Gottingen, Germany.

Robert G. Smith (Lighting Designer) is the resident designer in Northeastern’s Department of Communication, Media and Theatre where he has been designing scenery and lighting since 1984. In Chicago professional theater he is an ensemble member at Famous Door Theatre and Stage Left Theatre, is Vice President of the Board of Directors of A Red Orchid Theatre and is a founding member of Plasticene. He has also designed for Steppenwolf, Northlight, The Next Theatre, The Organic Theater, Apple Tree Theatre, The Second City, The Apollo Remy-Bumppo and dozens of other Off Loop theaters. Elsewhere he has designed productions in New York (Off Broadway), London (West End), Edinburgh, Dublin, Los Angeles, Jerusalem and Singapore. His design for the television series The Straight Dope was seen across the nation on the A&E cable network. He has been nominated nine times and has received seven Joseph Jefferson Citations as well as three After Dark Awards and an Emmy nomination.

Mary Foley (choreographer) began jazz dance training at the age of four and has found ways to pursue the many facets of dance as a performer, teacher and choreographer ever since. For the past five years, she has been devoted to teaching and performing the art of partner dancing, especially the Argentine Tango and Swing. She currently co-runs Mariposa, a tango salon here in Chicago, and has studied with master teachers from San Francisco, New York, Argentina and Brazil. She continues to study different forms of solo dancing,most recently Flamenco, with several institutions including NEIU. She would especially like to thank Dame Libby Komaiko for her influence on the work done for this production.

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