Bilingual play “Mariachi Girl” excites UT theater students

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(Photo Courtesy of Teatro Vivo)

This October, Teatro Vivo, an Austin-based theater company “dedicated to producing quality bilingual theater” will premiere “Mariachi Girl” at ZACH’S Theatre for Youth. The play showcases the talent of UT actors and playwrights alike.

“Mariachi Girl” is a bilingual musical that tells the story of 8-year-old Carmencita who dreams of following in her father’s footsteps: being part of a mariachi band. Carmencita’s father protests this idea because he believes that only men can be part of mariachi bands. Nonetheless, Carmencita continues to follow her dreams despite the gender stereotypes working against her.

Theatre and dance professor Roxanne Schroeder-Arce wrote Mariachi Girl and played a major role in the show’s casting and production. Schroeder-Arce is a director, performer and published playwright whose work focuses on Latino theater for young audiences. Several of Schroeder-Arce’s bilingual plays, including Señora Tortuga, Legend of the Poinsettia and Sangre de un Ángel, are shown to young people in theatres around the United States.

“I am always interested in writing about young people — their aspirations and dreams — specifically Latino youth,” Schroeder-Arce said. The idea that people young or old can become whoever they want to be is the common theme in much of her work. “Carmencita is learning that and teaching that, as well. The children in my plays are typically very wise and the adults get to learn through and with them,” she said.

Senior theatre and dance major Aisha San Roman was ecstatic when she landed the starring role of young Carmencita, San Roman values her culture, much like the character she plays in Mariachi Girl. 

“I believe in what Carmencita represents,” San Roman said. Born in McAllen, just 20 minutes away from the Mexican-American border, San Roman had dreams just as big as Carmencita’s when she was her age.

“I definitely see a little of myself in her. I was a dreamer when I was a child and I still am today. Luckily, my parents supported my dreams,” she said. 

San Roman’s greatest influence is her father. “He understands my passion for music, the arts and has always supported my dreams,” she said.

San Roman’s father is involved in radio broadcasting, so music has always been a huge part of her life.

At first, San Roman was intimidated by the theater. But after taking classes in the theatre and dance department at UT, her feelings changed.

“I have fallen in love with the art form and I’m so excited about this opportunity,” San Roman said. “This role means so much to me. I see it as a wonderful beginning for my future, and I am so happy and honored to be playing a character that positively represents my culture and community.”

According to Schroeder-Arce, San Roman embodies the role of Carmencita effortlessly and is a pleasure to watch on stage. “Aisha takes on this child in a very authentic way.” Shroeder-Arce said. “I think she is going to knock it out of the park and she is the first Mariachi Girl, which is pretty exciting.”

Amarante Lucero, senior theatre and dance professor, said that it is gratifying to see his own students, like Aisha, blossom and express themselves in work that relates to their everyday lives.

Schroeder–Arce sets out to inspire through all of her work.

“I think we all have dreams,” she said. “And we need to hear that whatever they are, we can achieve them like Mariachi Girl does.”