CPH Kicks off 2022-2023 with Vibrant, Music-Filled Comedy, AMERICAN MARIACHI
Posted September 2, 2022 in Press Releases
(Cleveland, OH) Cleveland Play House opens the 2022-2023 theatre season with the regional premiere of the vibrant, music-filled comedy, American Mariachi. Written by José Cruz González with original musical arrangements by Cynthia Reifler Flores, this new mariachi musical runs from September 17 to October 9, 2022 in the Allen Theatre, located in the heart of Playhouse Square. Co-produced with Alabama Shakespeare Festival, this joyous, heartwarming play is directed by Henry Godinez, and features Gloria Vivica Benavides, Gigi Cervantes, Lucy Godínez, Ricardo Gutierrez, Molly Hernández, Eréndira Izguerra, Amanda Raquel Martinez, Bobby Plasencia, Christopher Llewyn Ramirez, and Elizabeth Romero. Tickets can be purchased at clevelandplayhouse.com.
Familia. Amor. Tradición. These values are at the heart of mariachi music and the community where Lucha cares for her mother battling dementia. So when an old mariachi recording reawakens her mother’s memory, Lucha vows to learn and perform the song with her own all-female mariachi band. Join Lucha as she recruits band members, tracks down instruments, and stands up to long-held traditions to make her dream a reality. Set in the 1970s and performed with live music and plenty of humor, American Mariachi is a jubilant, moving story of family, memory, and the power of song.
CPH Interim Artistic Director Mark Cuddy says, “What a thrill to have such a talented cast of singers, musicians and actors come to Cleveland to share this exuberant and heartwarming mariachi musical! I’ve never seen anything like it onstage. Cleveland is in for a treat.”
A celebration of female empowerment and Latin culture, the play’s origins can be traced to a mariachi performance playwright José Cruz González saw at California State University: Los Angeles, where he serves as a Professor Emeritus of Theatre Arts. The concert was led by Cynthia Reifler Flores, an original member of Mariachi Reyna del Los Angeles, the first all-female mariachi band in the U.S. Enthralled by the music, González studied the artform for ten years, taking classes from Reifler Flores and others. In the process, he learned about the resistance female mariachis faced by performing a male-dominated tradition, battling a culture of machismo to find their place in artform. He also discovered Reifler Flores had once played mariachi in the California bars his grandfather had frequented after field work. When he wrote American Mariachi, he asked Reifler Flores to create the original music arrangements.
González says, “I learned about women in mariachi in the 1970s — it was such a big taboo then, and in fact in some cases, still is today. At that time, it was very revolutionary for women to say “We want to play this music,” because it was a tradition that passed from father to son, not father to daughter. How brave of these women to say ‘We want to do this.’ I knew there was a story there.”
González was also inspired by a story he heard from another professional mariachi, who recalled a pivotal moment during a performance when she spotted an old woman in the crowd, who suddenly became alert and energized when she heard the music. González remembered the story a few years later, when he discovered his own mother was suffering from dementia. When he played her songs on his vihuela (pronounced “bi’Wela”) – a guitar-shapped Spanish lute, his mother would suddenly come alive and sing. González says, “That’s how one of the seeds of American Mariachi would evolve — we’re telling a story, but we’re also talking about how music is memory... and what a blessing it’s been.”
The result is a deeply human show that exalts the art of mariachi while tackling real world issues, from sexism to early-onset dementia. Written to bring generations of families together in celebration of community and song, American Mariachi presents a poignant exploration of youth making timeless traditions their own. Featuring a live professional mariachi band, the production explores these subjects through song, humor and sorrow, amidst a jubilant soundtrack of well-known music from the mariachi canon, as well as two original songs composed by the playwright. Although the action takes place in a Chicano neighborhood in the 1970s, the obstacles Lucha and her community face are strikingly universal.
American Mariachi received its world premiere in 2018 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts Theatre Company. It has been produced across the country at several major regional theatres, including The Old Globe in San Diego and Goodman Theatre in Chicago.
Director Henry Godinez says, “I love this play for its mission to get people to understand that we have so much more in common than we have in differences as human beings. This play, despite being so specific, is also so universal in its themes. Even audiences that have never heard mariachi, or come with preconceived notions, are blown away by the fact that they can see themselves in this play.” In a case of life imitating art, all of the actors performing in Lucha’s band had to learn to play mariachi music on traditional instruments, including the guitarrón, violin, vihuela, and trumpet. The live mariachi band is led by music director Cynthia Reifler Flores.
González says, “I love what happens when the actors and the mariachis come together in rehearsal. The actors [were] terrified to play this music, and the mariachis [began] to help them learn and [gave] them tips. And then…the actors [helped] the mariachis with their acting moments. They begin to share this language together, which is so beautiful... It is so amazing to see them sing and play. It was always my dream to have the actors play with the professional mariachi and they do just that at the end of the show.”
The creative team for this production includes scenic design by Linda Buchanan, who drew references from Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood and Dallas’ Latinx communities. The resulting set features urban brownstones in vivid hues, complete with rows of windows where the professional mariachis appear throughout the show. Costume Designer Danielle Nieves created a wardrobe featuring traditional mariachi garb alongside colorful clothing rich with ‘70s details. Rounding out the design team are María-Cristina Fusté (Lighting Designer), Ray Nardelli (Sound Designer), and Jason P. Hayes (Hair and Makeup Designer).
A celebration of Latin culture staged during Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15), American Mariachi coincides with CPH’s ongoing Community Development work in the Clark-Fulton neighborhood, the most densely populated area of Hispanic and Latinx residents in Ohio. Part of CPH’s Education Department, the Community Development Team facilitates programs throughout Clark-Fulton alongside community leaders and organizations. This includes wraparound programs in local schools, community events, and the commissioning of the short Spanish-language play for children, A Las Nubes, which was performed by students from Clark-Fulton in July 2022.
Across these endeavors, the team has partnered with Comité Mexicano de Cleveland, La Mega, the Hispanic Police Officers Association, and more to help empower neighborhoods through collective action. Producing American Mariachi is a natural extension of these efforts, as CPH has made a commitment to presenting stories which better reflect the experiences of all Northeast Ohio residents. Featuring an all-Latinx cast, the mariachi musical amplifies a story from a vibrant culture seldom presented in the American theatre industry.
González says, “For most of the artists in the production, it’s often the first time they’ve worked with a full company of Latinx artists. That’s a big discovery [to them], that this is possible. That’s been an amazing experience, to see what that creates in the theatre.”
CPH is pleased to partner with Alabama Shakespeare Festival to co-produce this production to underscore the importance of increased representation across the arts.
KeyBank is the 2022-2023 season sponsor for Cleveland Play House.
Tickets to range from $15 to $95. Student tickets are $15. Ohio Direction/EBT cardholders receive $5 admission to any performance. Military personnel and their immediate families receive 50% off tickets. Groups of 10 or more can save up to 33%. Tickets can be purchased by calling 216.241.6000 or by visiting clevelandplayhouse.com.
GLORIA VIVICA BENAVIDES (Soyla) has appeared regionally in Somewhere Over the Border (Syracuse Stage and Geva Theatre Center); American Mariachi (Goodman and Alabama Shakes); Real Women Have Curves, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit (Dallas Theater Center); Scrooge in Rouge (Stage West); A Doll’s House, A Soldier’s Fugue (WaterTower Theatre) and more. She voices Scarlett on “One Piece with FUNimation.” She has a BFA from the University of North Texas.
GIGI CERVANTES (Amalia) previously played Amalia in American Mariachi at Goodman Theatre, Dallas Theater Center, and Alabama Shakes. She appeared in Dallas Theater Center’s Our Town. Other theatre credits include A Christmas Carol, The View Upstairs, Glorious!, so go the ghosts of méxico, The Last Night of Ballyhoo, and Cowgirls.
LUCY GODÍNEZ (Boli) appeared as Boli in American Mariachi at Goodman Theatre, Dallas Theater Center, and Alabama Shakes. Regional: Man of La Mancha at Fulton Theater; Oliver! and Footloose at Marriott Theatre; Little Red Riding Hood in Into The Woods at Writers Theatre; and In The Heights (Nina) with Porchlight Music Theater. A Chicago native, she is a graduate of Northwestern University.
RICARDO GUTIERREZ (Federico) was seen in American Mariachi at Goodman Theatre and Alabama Shakes, and in Mother of the Maid at Northlight Theatre. Regional: Ah, Wilderness! (Goodman); In The Heights (Paramount); world premiere of Song For The Disappeared and Fish Men (Goodman). Other: South Coast Rep, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Denver Center Theatre, Dallas Theatre Center, Steppenwolf, and Lookingglass. TV: Chicago PD, Chicago Fire, Chicago MD, Sirens, and Boss.
MOLLY HERNÁNDEZ (Isabel) is a graduate of the Actors Gymnasium Professional Circus Training Program, and has a BA from Loyola University Chicago. Regional: Alice Through the Looking Glass (Lookingglass Theatre), American Mariachi (Goodman Theatre, Dallas Theater Center), Into the Breeches (Northlight Theatre), Masterclass (TimeLine Theatre), The Buddy Holly Story (American Blues Theatre), and Carousel (Timber Lake Play House). TV: Power: Book IV (STARZ), Chicago Med, Chicago PD (NBC), and APB (FOX).
ERÉNDIRA IZGUERRA (Tía Carmen) is an instrumentalist and educator who graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She formed Illinois’ first collegiate mariachi, UIC Mariachi Fuego, and co-founded Chicago’s first all-women mariachi, Mariachi Sirenas. Izguerra has performed and recorded with Grammy-nominated Sones de Mexico Ensemble, Emmy-winning Orbert Davis, and Jalisco’s Mariachi Femenil Nuevo Tecalitlán. She debuted as Tía in American Mariachi at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.
AMANDA RAQUEL MARTINEZ (Gabby) appeared regionally in Somewhere Over the Border (Teatro Vista); American Mariachi (Goodman Theatre, Alabama Shakes); American Bottom, (Red Orchid Theatre); Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (The McCarter Theatre with Lookingglass Theatre); La Ruta (Steppenwolf); Big Lake, Big City (Lookingglass Theatre); Pirates of Penzance (Pasadena Playhouse, Skirball Theatre Center, Olney Theatre); Kitty Hawk (Adrienne Arsht Center); As You Like It; Love, Loss and What I Wore (First Folio Theatre).
BOBBY PLASENCIA (Mino) has appeared at Syracuse Stage, Geva Theater, Goodman Theater, Dallas Theater Center, Denver Center, Old Globe, Humana Fest, San Diego Rep, South Coast Rep, La Jolla, Interact Theater, ISCLA, Mark Taper Forum, MITU580, BRIC Brooklyn, Working Theater, INTAR, LaMama, Drilling Co. Film & TV: House of Cards (Netflix), General Hospital (ABC), Fidel (Showtime), Maria, Full of Grace (Sundance, HBO Films). MFA from NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.
CHRISTOPHER LLEWYN RAMIREZ (Mateo) is a resident acting company member at Dallas Theater Center and director in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Regional: American Mariachi (Goodman Theatre, Alabama Shakes); In The Heights, Twelfth Night, HOOD (Dallas Theatre Center); and Stede Bonnet: A F*cking Pirate Musical (Theatre Three). He co-wrote and directed a Mexican pro-wrestling play, Lucha Teotl, at Prism Movement Theatre and co-directed Luchadora! at Cara Mia Theatre. He voices Seth on Radiant with Crunchyroll.
ELIZABETH ROMERO (Lucha) appeared regionally in American Mariachi (Goodman Theatre, Alabama Shakes); Beauty and the Beast (Paramount Theatre); Ragtime (Park Playhouse); and Into the Woods and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Rose Center Theatre). She is a graduate of Northwestern University.
JULIAN DIAZ (Understudy) has appeared in Chicago: It’s a Wonderful Life: A Radio Play (Oil Lamp Theater); Richard III (Eclectic Full Contact Theatre); As You Like It (CenterStage Lake Forest); California: Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Great Nome Gold Rush, King O' the Moon (North Coast Rep); Noises Off! (Welk Resort Theatre); Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Torrance Theatre); Big Love (Complex Theatre); A Midsummer Night's Dream (Shakespeare by the Sea). TV: Days of Our Lives.
MELINETTE PALLARES (Understudy) is an NYC-based actor, singer, and entrepreneur. Regional: American Mariachi (Goodman Theatre, Alabama Shakes. Festival); Evita (Lyric Stage Dallas); Man of La Mancha (Lyric Stage Dallas); A Chorus Line (Riverside Center); West Side Story (Newport Music Festival); In the Heights (GALA Hispanic Theatre). Education: UT: Austin, The Folster Studio, Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and CAP 21.
DIEGO LUCERO (Guitarrón) is an interdisciplinary multi-genre artist. He plays eight instruments including the guitar, keyboard, and guitarrón. He makes all sorts of music like mariachi, rock, rap, and EDM. He's performed on Nickelodeon, won Chicago's Rising Star Award, and most recently played at Lollapalooza. He also loves to work on psychedelic visual art. To check out his work, please follow @iamdiegolucero on Instagram and follow his Spotify, Diego Lucero.
DANIEL OCHOA (Vihuela) is a Mariachi, Rock, and Pop musician born, raised, and based out of Tucson, Arizona. Originally starting out as a pianist, he took to Mariachi music playing guitar, vihuela, and guitarron. He also performs frequently in Spanish rock bands as an electric guitarist, bassist, keyboard player, and vocalist.
AYAN “YAYA” VASQUEZ-LOPEZ (Violin) is a transfemme Latinx mariachi musician, drag artist, and online media producer based in Los Angeles, California. Through her work, Yaya strives to create authentic representation for queer, brown, gender non-conforming Latinx people in online media and in real life. You can find Yaya performing online and IRL as The Makeup Mariachi. @themakeupmariachi
RICARDO VEJAR (Trumpet) most recently worked as the primary trumpet player and singer for Tucson's own Mariachi Sonido de México. Over the years, he has also worked with several Mariachis including: Mariachi Tapatío, Mariachi Sol Azteca, Mariachi Herencia de Cuco Del Cid. He plays trumpet and sings for Ballet Folklórico Tapatío and Compañía de Danza Forlklórica Arizona.
THE CREATIVE TEAM
JOSÉ CRUZ GONZÁLEZ (Playwright) has written numerous plays including If by Chance; The Extraordinary ZLuna Captures the World; Under a Baseball Sky; The Astronaut Farmworker, Sunsets & Margaritas; September Shoes; The San Patricios; Among the Darkest Shadows; The Long Road Today; The Magic Kite; The Sun Serpent; Super Cow Girl and Mighty Miracle; and Tomás and the Library Lady. González was selected as one of the inaugural 2022 Kennedy Center’s “Next 50”. He was also a grantee of the 2021 ReImagine: New Plays in TYA, a joint effort of the Children’s Theatre Foundation of America, The Kennedy Center, TYA/USA, and Write Now to support the development of Pia’s Wondrous Adventures in Tlaxlandia. He is a Professor Emeritus at California State University Los Angeles, a member of the College of Fellows of the American Theatre, The Kennedy Center, The Dramatists Guild, TYA/USA, and a board member of the New Harmony Project.
HENRY GODINEZ (Director) is the Resident Artistic Associate at Goodman Theatre, where he recently directed Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer, by Cheryl West. Godinez has also directed the works of Luis Valdez, Charise Castro Smith, José Rivera, Karen Zacarias, Regina Taylor, Luis Alfaro, Cheryl West, and Nilo Cruz. Regional: O’Neill Theatre Center, Yale Rep, Signature Theatre, Dallas Theatre Center, Chicago Shakes, Children’s Theatre Company, Studio Theatre, and Denver Center. He is a professor at Northwestern University.
CYNTHIA REIFLER FLORES (Music Director) began as a classical violinist but has played with mariachis, ranging from bar bands to the Grammy Award-winning Mariachi Divas, but is best known as the leader of Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, the first all-female mariachi of international import. She performs with the female group Trio Corazón. Flores edits a column on women in mariachi in The International Journal of Mariachi Education & Performance, and directs the mariachi programs at UC: Riverside, and California State University-Los Angeles.
LINDA BUCHANAN (Scenic Designer): Regional: Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf, Court Theatre, Paramount, Arena Stage, Alley Theatre, Indiana Rep, Rep. Theatre of St. Louis, Kansas City Rep, Idaho Shakes, Milwaukee Rep, Seattle Rep, Oregon Shakes, Syracuse Stage, Yale Rep, Great Lakes Theater, and more. Recent: Gem of the Ocean (Goodman), Murder on the Orient Express (Resident Ensemble Players), You Can’t Take It With You (Indiana Rep), and Having Our Say (Goodman). She is Professor Emeritus, DePaul University.
DANIELLE NIEVES (Costume Designer): Regional: for Clean/Espejos (South Coast Rep), Beauty and the Beast (5th Avenue Theatre), The Winter's Tale (Seattle Rep), American Mariachi (Alabama Shakes, Dallas Theater, Goodman), and Real Women Have Curves (Dallas Theater), among others. Off-Broadway: Pity in History, No End of Blame, Gertrude – The Cry, and Lovesong of the Electric Bear. Nieves holds an MFA from UC: Irvine and a curatorial certification for Japanese and Western costumes from the Kyoto Costume Institute.
MARÍA-CRISTINA FUSTÉ (Lighting Designer) Broadway: Jagged Little Pill. Regional: American Mariachi (Dallas Theatre, Goodman, Alabama Shakes); Airness (Geva Theatre); Children of Eden (Aurora Theatre); Sweat (People’s Light); Anna in the Tropics (Colorado Springs PAC); In The Heights (Westport); Fur, Mud, and The Conduct of Life (BOUNDLESS). Opera: Cecilia Valdés,Tosca, Bluebeard’s Castle, Madama Butterfly, Don Pasquale, and L’Elisir d’Amore. Fusté is the founder and Executive Artistic Director of BOUNDLESS Theatre Company. Training: BA, University of Puerto Rico; MFA, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.
RAY NARDELLI (Sound Designer): Off-Broadway: Lookingglass Alice (New Victory Theatre). Regional: Goodman, Steppenwolf, McCarter, Long Wharf, Milwaukee Rep, The Court, Hartford Stage, Alliance Theatre, Syracuse Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Congo Square, Buffalo Arena Stage, Alley Theatre, American Theatre Co., Chicago Shakes, Northlight, Drury Lane, Notre Dame Summer Shakespeare, American Girl Theatre (New York, Chicago), and Skylight Opera. Other: Jersey Boys (National Tour); Billy Elliot; pre-Broadway Addams Family and All Shook Up; as well as over 400 Film/TV and computer game credits. Member: USA #829, ASCAP, and IATSE #2.
JASON P. HAYES (Wig and Hair Designer) returns to CPH where his work was last seen in The Three Musketeers. Hayes is a Drama Desk Award Nominee for Outstanding Wig & Hair Design for his work on The Legend of Georgia McBride and The View Upstairs. He was the Hair Supervisor for The Present, starring Cate Blanchett. Broadway: Casa Valentina, The Realistic Joneses, Spring Awakening, Blithe Spirit, 13 The Musical, and The Radio City Christmas Spectacular (10 years). Film/TV: iMordecai, The Mysteries of Laura, Smash, Hostages, 30 Rock, Mercy, Gossip Girl, Saturday Night Live, Transamerica, Camp, The Savages, and Party Monster.
ANA MUÑOZ (Stage Manager) is a native of Montgomery Alabama and stage-managed American Mariachi in Alabama. She is a Seasonal SM at TheatreSquared in Arkansas, working on shows like Matilda, American Mariachi, The Heart’s Desire, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, and Miss You Like Hell. Other credits: HGTV’s Home Town Takeover, and Trans Theatre Fest Madison. Ana is a graduate of the University of Montevallo.
CASSANDRA WHITT (Assistant Stage Manager) comes to CPH with American Mariachi from Alabama. She earned a B.S. from the University of Montevallo. Credits: Stop Kiss, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, and Chicago.
MARK CUDDY (Interim Artistic Director) joined Cleveland Play House as Interim Artistic Director in July 2022. He served as Artistic Director of Geva Theatre Center in Rochester, NY for 27 years. He led Geva through a renaissance of artistic and institutional growth with a diverse repertory, topflight artists, wide-reaching educational programs and a commitment to new play development. Mr. Cuddy is a founding member of the Board of Directors for the Rochester Fringe Festival that just concluded its fourth year, and served on the Board of Directors of the only national service organization for non-profit theatres, Theatre Communications Group. As a director, Mr. Cuddy is known for his productions of musicals, contemporary comedies and premieres. He also directed the CPH/Geva co-production of Clybourne Park. His Geva productions include Once, The Humans, Ring of Fire, Good People, To Kill a Mockingbird, You Can't Take It With You, Superior Donuts, A Midsummer Night’s Dream co-directed with Skip Greer, and Company, as well as his adaptation of A Christmas Carol with music and lyrics by Gregg Coffin. Among his many other Geva credits are The Music Man, Sweeney Todd, Fences, Five Course Love, A Christmas Story, and Pride and Prejudice (co-adaptor), and the world premieres of Convenience (musical) by Gregg Coffin, Theophilus North by Matthew Burnett from Thornton Wilder (also at Arena Stage), Splitting Infinity by Jamie Pachino, Famous Orpheus by Oyamo (choreography by Garth Fagan), House and Garden by Alan Ayckbourn (East Coast premiere), and That Was Then (American premiere). Mr. Cuddy has also served as Artistic Director of Sacramento Theatre Co., Producing Director of the Idaho Shakes. Festival and on the directing staff of the Denver Center Theatre Co. He has served on the review panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts. He received his BA in Theatre/Honors from the University of Massachusetts where he was a Commonwealth Scholar.
COLLETTE A. LAISURE (Managing Director) joined the Cleveland Play House leadership on February 15, 2021 partnering with Board Chair Anne Marie Warren and Artistic Director Laura Kepley to support the Board and Staff with overall business operations. Previously, Laisure served as Vice President and Executive Director of the PNC Fairfax Connection from 2012 to 2017, spearheading the strategic and operational direction of the thriving community resource center located in Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood. Collette served as the President and Executive Director of The Presidents’ Council and has held board leadership roles at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Foundation, Cleveland Public Theatre, Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation and Karamu House. Laisure also served as Director of The City of Cleveland’s Office of Equal Opportunity, where she managed a budget of $1 million and was responsible for administering and monitoring compliance with the Female- and Minority-owned Business Enterprise program. She is a member of Leadership Cleveland’s Class of 2008, and a 2008 Crain’s Cleveland Business Woman of Note.
ABOUT CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE
CLEVELAND PLAY HOUSE, founded in 1915 and recipient of the 2015 Regional Theatre Tony Award, is America's first professional regional theatre. Throughout its rich history, CPH has remained dedicated to its mission to inspire, stimulate, and entertain diverse audiences across Northeast Ohio by producing plays and theatre education programs of the highest professional standards. CPH has produced more than 100 world and/or American premieres, and over its long history more than 12 million people have attended over 1,600 productions. Today, Cleveland Play House celebrates the beginning of its second century of service while performing in three state-of-the art venues at Playhouse Square in downtown Cleveland. Cleveland Play House is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Cleveland Play House is supported in part by the residents of Cuyahoga County through a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. To learn more, visit: www.clevelandplayhouse.com.