Q&A With Sandra Delgado: Actress, Writer, Producer & Mom
5 hours, 3 intermissions, 15 actors and 80 characters - this is the torrential play that is 2666, the Goodman Theater's latest hit that has people raving. Based on the post humous novel by Chilean born Roberto Bolaño, 2666 is an emotional experience for those who step foot into the theater. 2666 is Bolaño's greatest work that globally portrays our world and the artists's role within it. Time Magazine notes that 2666 is “as bravura a display of novelistic mastery, and as devastating a reading experience, as you are likely ever to encounter.”
Modern Brown Girl was thrilled to sit down with one of the stars of 2666, Sandra Delgado, to talk about her theatrical journey, diversity in theater, and how she manages it all.
MBG: So tell us about your childhood and your journey into acting?
I grew up in a very musical family, my mother and her sisters were always singing. There was always music playing. My family is Colombian, and were were a part of the La Casa de la Cultura Colombiana. I was around 4 or 5 years old and I was involved in the Colombian folkloric choir and dance troupe. I loved doing musicals, I loved singing. I was a bit intimidated of doing more dramatic roles, as I saw myself as more of a singer.
I got a full ride scholarship at University of Illinois (UIC) – I was going to be a doctor! I got halfway through school and it didn’t feel right, so I dropped out...twice. It was then I met my future husband. He had a finance degree from Notre Dame and he was doing the corporate thing in Chicago, but he had artistic ambitions as well. He asked me one day, “What do you want to do in your life?” I didn't even have to think about it. “Perform!” I said. And it was then I knew I had to fully go after it. I just started auditioning for everything.
Chicago such a nurturing theater community. I started working with Collaboraction, where I am a founding company member, when I met the assistant casting director of the Goodman. He brought me in to be a reader for Zootsuit and from there I met Henry Godinez (who's also in 2666). While doing the readings he asked me, “Why don’t I know you?” From there, I ended up being in the show, and my relationship with the Goodman started. 2666 is my 11th show at the Goodman.
MBG: You have a daughter, Stella. How do you balance motherhood and work?
I get so much help from family and friends. We just take it one day at a time. My husband is an artist too, and Stella loves hanging out at the theater. It's such a cool environment for a kid to be surrounded in. I think she has writing or directing aspirations. We rely on my parents, our network of friends, it really takes a village. My family and friends have really given me a chance to do what I love to do
MBG: Did you have any acting role models growing up?
No, not really. Rita Moreno, of course. My mentors were actresses that I met from the theater who have become lifelong mentors and friends. I have enjoyed being a mentor and friend to the younger generation. There is this new, fierce young generation of Latina actresses in town now and everyone is working. It’s such a different world from when I started doing this 20 years ago.
MBG: What is your take on diversity in the acting world? Is it getting better?
It’s slowly getting better. It’s very much an issue in the theater world. The Goodman is a prime example for supporting diversity. The shows they produce are a great indication of how important diversity is for them. 2666 is revolutionary – cross casting – it doesn’t matter what you look like. Right now they are in tech for The Matchmaker, which is traditionally a white show, but the lead is black, and that’s a mixed cast too, that’s exciting.
My daughter is very light – she doesn’t look stereotypically Latina, but she is, and the thought of someone questioning that, questioning her, that’s really why I want to educate people on what it means to be Latino. It’s slowly getting better.
MBG: If you weren’t an actress, what would you be?
I would be a psychologist – I really like listening to people and helping them work through stuff. It comes naturally to me and many of my friends come to me for stuff
MBG: If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would it be?
Oprah, on vacation somewhere fabulous!
MBG: Top 5 things you can’t live without
1. Family - I can’t imagine being without them.
2. Smashbox Primer Water, it sets my makeup extremely well and takes me through a long day.
3. Apple cider vinegar, I make tea with it every morning. It's my morning ritual - hot water with lemon.
4. Pashminas – I’m always cold. My brother lived in India for a while and he gifted me a couple of beautiful pashminas that sent me down this road of collecting them. I can just throw one on, it dresses up an outfit and keeps you warm.
5. Pizza –Lou Malnati’s
MBG: Tell us about your future projects
I'm working on La Havana Madrid, my first full length play & documentary film. La Havana Madrid was a nightclub that used to exist on the corner of Belmont and Sheffield in 60-70’s. My parents went there to listen to music and dance. I thought, what a cool setting for a play! I've been interviewing that generation and filming them. So it's a multi-pronged monster that I’m working on right now. I'm part of the Goodman’s Playwrights unit this year where I am developing La Havana Madrid for a Spring 2017 and Teatro Vista production. I really want to recreate the club, I want the audience to feel like they are in the 60-70’s.
MBG: Any advice for young women who want to follow their artistic dreams?
I can only stress the importance of creating your own work. Nothing is really going to change until Latinos are the content creators, until we are the producers, the writers, the directors. It’s so important for us to add our point of view into the spectrum of the stories being told out there – everyone has a story – also it keeps you sane while you’re waiting for the phone to ring, to keep your creative juices flowing.
MBG: Who are your beauty and style inspirations?
Gwen Stefani, I love her style - all the different fabrics and textures she incorporates into her outfits. She uses very vibrant colors and cuts and I loved watching the Voice just to see what she was wearing.
Frida Khalo as well. I’m such a chameleon. Sometimes I feel more bohemian, sometimes more feminine and sometimes more classic. I also love going back, Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn, Marlena Dietrich. I love how Marlena was so androgynous but could still pull off the most glamorous gowns.
Tickets for La Havana Madrid are now on sale at Steppenwolf Theater. To keep up with Sandra and her latest projects, including a guest stint on FOX's Empire, click here.