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
obtaining a college degree and a living life far different from that of
parents. “…Her father, Ricardo, tells Maria that in America, with an
she can have the American Dream. Maria believes him and studies hard.
when she tells her parents she wants to go to college, they order her
married instead. …Maria …realizes she has to go to college in order to
economically independent of men and have the life that she wants, one
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.
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
(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.
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.