Rehearsals for the cast of B’aktun 13, Teatro Milagro’s 2012 touring show, are well under way. This new, bilingual show, written by Teatro Milagro’s Artistic Director Dañel Malán and directed by Matthew B. Zrebski, will kick off its national tour here in Portland on January 13, 2012. Before they take the stage and then hit the road, three of the cast members for B’aktun 13 took a moment to chat with the Miracle Insider (in this case, our own Marketing Assistant Susy Chávez). Tricia Castañeda-Gonzales (who plays Luz), Daniel Moreno (Rio) and Ajai Terrazas (Sal) talked about their road to the theatre, their roles in B’aktun 13, and the secrets of jointly translating onto the stage an original work that centers around Mayan prophesies of the end of an era in contemporary times.
Tricia: Well, I was born in Pasadena, California. I lived in California until I was a sophomore in high school and then moved to Gresham and went to Linfield College where I received a B.A. in theatre arts.
Daniel: I was born just outside Lubbock, Texas, but grew up in Woodburn, Oregon. I moved to Portland when I was 18 and have lived here ever since.
Ajai: I am of Indian and Latino descent, born and raised in Corvallis, Oregon, where I went to Oregon State University and studied theatre arts.
What lead you to the theatre? And what do you find most rewarding?
Tricia: My grandfather was an actor and singer. He has influenced my life tremendously. I’d like to say that I might have acquired his skill. I actually did my first play in sixth grade and didn’t do any again until my mom convinced me to take an acting class my junior year in high school. I’ve been addicted ever since.
Daniel: I was raised in a Tex-Mex family and I have always had a thing for the performing arts. I was in choir from the third grade through high school; I was the first male dancer on my high school dance team; I was involved in our high school speech team competing in prose and poetry. After high school I continued to perform in theatrical music performances at an underage gay night club. I was searching for ways to express myself and make people understand the world through my eyes. While at times may have seemed over the top, it was always what I loved to do.
Ajai: For me, I started play acting as a kid and, well, I never grew out of it. I love to do work that speaks to me. One of the things I like about this show is that it examines ideas regarding heritage and identity. I enjoy it all: working on the show; touring and acting in different venues; teaching is also be rewarding. Acting, performing, it’s what I am happiest doing.
Daniel: I agree. Getting to travel to places one has never never been to and meeting new people everywhere we go. It feel like we get to make an impact on people’s lives, like we bringing some sort of change to communities … working with students, teaching them that it is OK to be who you are and finding new ways to express themselves. To get feedback from them that say they learned something new about themselves … This is very rewarding.
Tricia: I would say that my favorite part is that moment when you realize, once the show is running, that everyone involved came together to create this whole new world from scratch. It’s like a puzzle. We might not know where it might not be clear at first, but when everything comes together, it’s so satisfying.
You are now rehearsing and getting ready for B’aktun 13, can you tell us a little about that process?
Ajai: As a group we’ve done a lot of character work and scene work. Ensemble acting exercises, playing with sound. Lots of rehearsing and line-reading worked through show ideas in workshops. Personally I am always looking for a better way to understand my character, through observation and personal reflection.
Tricia: I would say we are all studying the script in depth, really honing in on who our characters are and how they relate to each other. We have been discussing la cultura as well as learning more about Mayan culture. Personally I have been focusing on what drives my character, what she seeks in life and what she might be willing to do to achieve it. I am looking forward to playing with the physical aspects of my character, her voice and translating her off the page onto the stage.
Daniel: We are all getting ready and more familiar with each other. Building relationships with our newest cast member, Tricia. Trying to make her feel welcomed and comfortable. Ajai and I have been on tour already so it is important to engage in building a relationship with one another in order to translate our characters on stage. It’s also about having fun with the show, letting it flow. Personally the process has been to scale back, to let the honesty of moments shine. I have found that I need to stretch a lot more than I have in the past perhaps. This is a very physical role, and I have begun to think of ways to do this from Rio’s external style to personal turmoil.
Ajai: There is a lot of unsolved conflict in the play, both internal and external conflict. My character for example, Sal, is a character embroiled in conflict and so his relationships follow suit. So I think it’s very important for us to be open, to allow ourselves to go places individually and with each other as a cast.
Finally what is your understanding of B’aktun 13, what do you hope others take away when they watch the show?
Daniel: What I understand from my character is that the time for change has been a long time coming. The show signals to the end of an old way of life and the beginning of a new chapter. I feel like it calls for us to stand up for each other in love and respect of each other and of our land our cultures. What I hope people will take away from the show and my particular character is that we are all different but that’s what makes the world an exciting place. We each bring something.
Tricia: Personally I cannot wait to see how the play evolves on stage through time. For me B’aktun 13 is really about embracing who you are as a person, using your past to fuel your success in the future. It is about embracing who you are, your culture and those people who are around you. It is about embracing the here and now because you never know what the future holds.
Ajai: The character of Sal goes through a significant transformation and I am looking forward to portraying it. I feel that at its core B’aktun 13 is asking us not to neglect the connections that exist between ourselves and others.
“B’aktun 13” plays Jan. 12-through Jan. 21 at the Milagro Theatre (525 SE Stark St., Portland). Performances are Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., Sunday and Saturday, Jan. 15 and 21 at 2pm. A free community resource fair follows the matinee on Saturday Jan. 21. Tickets are $12-$24 from 503-236-7253 or www.milagro.org. This Portland engagement of “B’aktun 13” is sponsored by Juan Young Trust, La Bonita Restaurant and Just Out newspaper.