January 20, 2003
Actress/professor to direct award-winning Mexican
play at UCSC
By Scott Rappaport
Between Pancho Villa and a Naked Woman, a play by one of Mexicos
most vital modern playwrights, has been a huge success story for Mexican
Its premiere production earned seven awards from the Mexican Critics
Association in 1994, including Best New Play of the Year, and the show
was eventually made into an award-winning film.
Stage, screen, and television actress Alma Martinez, who joined the
UCSC theater arts faculty in 2001 as an assistant professor, will direct
this witty, provocative, and highly acclaimed work for a two-week run
at the campus Mainstage Theater, February 20 through March 2.
"Its a contemporary, romantic, feminist comedy," Martinez
observed. "The play is about gender issues and very Mexican. The
reason I chose it was that it offers a different approach to understanding
gender roles and feminist issues in Mexican culture."
The play centers on the relationship between Gina, a single widow with
a son in college, and Alberto, a college professor who sees himself
as a liberal, democratic activist. However, Albertos politics
are not represented in his personal life. In his relationship with Gina,
he is sexist, self-centered, and not at all democratic.
|Alma Martinez led the cast of Mummified Deer, written
and directed by Luis Valdez, in a recent world premiere production
at the San Diego Repertory Theatre. Photo
courtesy of Alma Martinez
"Gina is madly in lust with Alberto," explained Martinez.
"She thinks shes in love, but the relationship is based purely
on sex. As the play opens, Gina begins to want more from the relationship
like marriage and children. But Alberto wants to keep the relationship
as it is. He prefers to come and go as he pleases."
Alberto has been married twice and has four children. He is also a
historian who is totally obsessed with Pancho Villahes writing
a biography of the revolutionary hero who courageously fought for the
working class. Scenes of Gina and Albertos Mexico City relationship
in 1998 overlap with scenes from Pancho Villas revolutionary days
in 1910, which are recalled as Gina types pages of Albertos historical
"Pancho Villa had five wives and numerous children," Martinez
noted. "Alberto is trying to emulate his politics but he also ends
up emulating his personal relations with women.
"Its an allegory for the bigger issue of corruption in the
Mexican government, which is patriarchal, sexist, and not democratic,"
Martinez added. "The playwright equates democracy with femininity.
Both women and men admire Pancho Villa because their lives are shaped
by the history of their country. But according to the playwright, we
have to look deeper and see what it really representsthe domination
of women by this patriarchal system."
A professional actress for 25 years, Martinez was discovered by renowned
writer/director Luis Valdez who cast her as the romantic lead in his
Los Angeles hit play, Zoot Suit. She has appeared in a number
of feature films including Under Fire opposite Gene Hackman and
Nick Nolte, Barbarosa with Willie Nelson and Gary Busey; Zoot
Suit with Edward James Olmos, and Cheech Marins Born in
On the stage, Martinez has performed with Academy Award-winner Dianne
Wiest in In the Summer House at Lincoln Center and with Tony
award-winning actress Nell Carter in Hello Dolly at the Long
Beach Civic Light Opera. She recently appeared in the world premiere
of Luis Valdezs Mummified Deer at the San Diego Repertory
Theatre where she received a BackStage "Garland" Award for
Martinezs television career includes guest-star appearances on
Nash Bridges, The Twilight Zone directed by Wes Craven,
and General Hospital. She also costarred in several movies for
television, working with Alec Baldwin, Bruce Dern, John Lithgow, Kate
Jackson, and James Woods.
When she completes her doctorate, Martinez will hold the distinction
of being the first Latina to graduate from the Stanford Drama Department
in its 50-year history and only the second Chicana in the country to
hold a Ph.D. in drama. She said she enjoys working in all forms of entertainment,
but prefers theater the most.
"They say that theater is for the actor, film is for the director,
and television is for the producer," she explained. "In film,
the director calls the shots, in television, the producer pushes the
buttons and edits. But theater is where the actors have the most freedomits
more of an actors medium. But its always fun to do the others."
Now in her second year of teaching at UCSC, Martinez said she hopes
to eventually offer courses in Chicano and Latin American popular political
"As a theater arts professor, you stay connected and working,"
she said. "And Im using the experience I have to get students
excited about theater and working in the arts.
"Of utmost importance to me is pursuing diversity, but the best
way to achieve this, from my perspective, is to expose our community
to Chicano and Latino theater," she added. "After all, by
2010, Chicanos and Latinos will be the majority population in the state
Tickets for the play are available from the UCSC Ticket Office, (831)
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