How Marcela Muñoz Is Advancing Latino Theater In Chicago
Marcela Muñoz is a powerhouse Latina who is making ambitious strides in the Chicago theater scene and positively illuminating the Latino discourse. She's the Co-Artistic Director and Managing Director of Aguijón Theater and she's currently directing “Lolita de Lares” at the Urban Theater Company. MBG was delighted to talk to Muñoz and learn about her career, her views on Latinas in the media, and what she can't live without.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where were you born/raised and what led you to the theater?
I was born in Cartagena, Colombia. I've lived in Chicago since I was eight, though, so I feel very much a Chicagoan. I think, like many immigrants, there's a bit of a sense of being from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. And I mean that in the absolute best way possible. Theater, I think, was an inevitability. My mother, Rosario Vargas, is an actress and director and I grew up going with her to rehearsals and shows. She founded Teatro Aguijón in Cartagena and then Aguijón Theater here in Chicago. I've had the pleasure of working at her side for many years now.
You’re currently directing “Lolita de Lares” at the Urban Theater Company. Tell us a little about it.
It's a wonderfully complex play about a wonderfully complex woman, Lolita Lebrón, who, depending on who you ask, was a ruthless terrorist or a nearly canonized heroine. I don't have a brave bone in my body so I was very interested in exploring her commitment and unwavering conviction in the face of so much loss (of freedom, family, health, etc.). It's also been a great opportunity to work with the folks at Urban Theater on a piece that, although 21 years old, is still so very relevant in light of Puerto Rico's current political and economic climate.
You’re also an accomplished actress. Which do you enjoy more, acting or directing?
I enjoy both very much. The main difference, for me, is what to do with all that opening night energy when not acting in the show. As an actor, there's that wonderful release and the magical exchange with the other actors and the audience. As a director, you can only sit there on pins and needles. Directing feels very lonely on opening night.
What is one thing you’ve accomplished that you are most proud of?
Artistically, I'm very proud of the work I've done with Aguijón Theater and what we, a company dedicated to Spanish-language theater, have contributed to Chicago's vibrant theater scene.
Who are your style & beauty role models/muses?
For style, I bow down to Solange Knowles and Waris Alhuwalia. Jennifer Lopez, Ming Na Wen, and Angela Basset have found, bathed in, and drunk from the fountain of youth and they need to leave some for the rest of us, damn it!
What does success mean to you?
Enjoying the work you're doing and the people with whom you're doing it.
Any advice for young Latinas looking to get into the theater?
As per Rihanna: Work, work, work, work, work. Train, read, go see shows. Acting is an ongoing education.
What do you think the mainstream media gets wrong about Latinas?
The mainstream media shapes a lot of the expectations of what it means to be a Latina and often those expectations are boiled down to the cliché of the loud, sexy, spitfire. It's a very narrow mold and one that can't possibly accommodate too many human, relatable layers.
If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be and what would you order?
Well, if I could figure out some kind of space and time warp, I'd love to share a pizza with Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Barring that, there are very few things I enjoy more than great sushi with my hubby.
What are 5 things that you can’t live without?
Eyebrow pencil, hand lotion, lip balm, toothbrush, did I mention my eyebrow pencil? I can't stress this enough.
Modern Brown Girl looks forward to seeing how this amazing Latina shapes the theater landscape in Chicago and beyond.