As Fresno State University Theater’s newest full-time faculty member, Gina Sandí-Díaz is bringing new voices and new flair to their theatrical line-up. As an Assistant Professor of Theater, Sandí-Díaz specializes in Latinx and Latin American Theatre and Performance. Her second outing for University Theater is Just Like Us, a play by Karen Zacarías based on the novel by Helen Thorpe, opens on Friday.
The timely, documentary-style play follows four Latina teenage girls in Denver—two of whom are documented and two who are not—through young adulthood. Their close-knit friendships begin to unravel when immigration status dictates the girls’ opportunities, or lack thereof. When a political firestorm arises, each girl’s future becomes increasingly complicated. Just Like Us poses difficult, yet essential questions about what makes us American.
Originally from San Jose, Costa Rica, Sandí-Díaz is also an actor, director and applied theatre facilitator. She earned a Ph.D. and M.A in Theatre from the University of Kansas and a B.A in Performing Art from Universidad Nacional, Costa Rica. Her artistic and academic work has been presented in the U.S and abroad including Costa Rica, Nicaragua, the Netherlands, and Turkey. Her most recent credits at Fresno State include directing Lydia for the University Theatre last Spring.
Here is her Drive-Thru Interview.
In one word, describe your present condition.
In one sentence, what’s going on in your world?
Not much, and a whole lot at the same time. My family don’t see much of me at the moment because I am eating, breathing and sleeping Just Like Us
With no restrictions on content or form, describe the present condition of your artistic outlook.
I am passionate about storytelling. It took me a long time to realize that I loved the theatre so much because it is the place where I learn the most about human behavior. I am interested in learning more about how different people navigate this complicated journey we call life. We come to the theatre to see, to feel, to experience life in community with other humans, and that, to me, is very uplifting.
Why Just Like Us?
Just Like Us documents the life of two teenage girls who grew up undocumented in this country between the years 2004-2009, and how the immigration reform of the time affected their lives and the lives of their families. When asked “why this play?” Karen Zacarias once answered something along the lines: “Because this is the story of the good girl and we rarely get to see these stories.” I agree with her statement. But what motivates me the most to direct this play is the opportunity to pay tribute to all families who have done extraordinary acts of love –risking their lives and leaving everything behind– to offer their children a better life. These stories matter to me, they matter to our students and to our community.
What do you find exciting about working with this play?
What these characters go through is heartbreaking, and yet, the play is very encouraging and heartwarming. Above all, this is a story of endurance and perseverance. I loved the meaningful conversation we had during rehearsals when situations in the play mirrored our own lives and we just had to talk about it, even when it was difficult. Tech week is also very exciting because all the pieces of the show finally come together and as a director, it is wonderful to see the design pieces come to life and complement your work. We are about to enter tech week right now and it’s very exciting!
What makes a great audience for you?
Any audience that is willing to go along for the ride is a great audience.
What are your top three theatre reads?
Warning: I have a very eclectic taste! These three books had a big impact on me and my career:
–The Theatre and its Double by Antonin Artaud
–Theatre of the Oppressed by Augusto Boal
–The Archive and the Repertoire by Diana Taylor
One word that best describes you in the rehearsal room.
Actors are better suited to answer this one… I think I can be a little too focused, sometimes I forget people need a break. =)
What’s some advice you’d like to give all young actors?
Travel, travel, travel. Travel the world if you can… go see how other people live; be bold and do things you have never done. Get out of your comfort zone! The more you live, the more tools you’ll have as an actor.
I am working on a small script based on the life of a prominent Central Valley artist. I am looking forward to immersing myself in the world of playwrighting next semester. Playwrighting is new to me but is an area I am curious and excited about.
Just Like Us runs October 26 through November 3, 2018 at The Dennis & Cheryl Woods Theatre (Speech Arts Building at Fresno State)
(All performances at 7:30 p.m. except for 2:00 p.m. matinee on Oct. 28th. No Performance Oct. 29th)