The Story Behind the Photo: "American Mariachi"

Tania Thompson
 | Nov 12, 2020
American Mariachi
Alicia Coca, Gabriela Carrillo, Luzma Ortiz, Marlene Montes and Satya Jnani Chavez American Mariachi by José Cruz González (2019). Photo by Jordan Kubat.

About American Mariachi

In this big-hearted comedy with live music, Lucha spends her days caring for her mother and yearning for more. But it’s the 1970s and women can’t be mariachis…or can they? Defying tradition, Lucha and her spunky cousin hunt for bandmates and take up instruments. A loving gesture for a mother becomes much more as the young women dream big and embrace the transcendent power of music.

Christopher Acebo is most readily known to South Coast Repertory audiences as a scenic designer—think La Posada Mágica, The Countess, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, Cloudlands or Culture Clash (Still) in America. But to kick off SCR’s 2019-20 season, he wore a different hat: director of American Mariachi by José Cruz Gonzales, which The Los Angeles Times said was “A joyous blast of music ... inspirational ... exhilarating.” Acebo selected the photo above to tell us about the play.

What moment does this depict?

Christopher Acebo: Oh, this image brings me so much joy! This moment depicts the first performance of the female mariachi group, Las Coronelas, at a twins’ Quinceañera celebration. Over the course of the play, we’d been watching these women go through their personal challenges at home and also learning to be musicians and this is their “Opening Night.”

How did you work to make this moment happen?

CA: To me, the scene was clear in how it needed to be executed: we had to move from a place of fear to joy in the course of just one song. We had to hit the right tone in terms of humor, trepidation, the growth of confidence and the exuberance of success. But each character was entering this situation with various layers of self- doubt or fake-it-‘til-you-make-it energy so that was a fun path to navigate. I loved working with the cast on this moment and balancing all those multiple levels to reach an exciting performance within a performance and having the audience experience that same rollercoaster of emotion, which always ended with a powerful ovation to experience these women's triumph!

What’s the power about this moment?

The power of this scene lies in that joy of taking a giant step in moving closer to realizing a dream. We can all relate to taking risks—and when those risks pay off, they represent a very special happiness in realizing your own potential.

Anything else you’d like to say about American Mariachi?

This production represents the highlight of my own work in the theatre. I have had the immense privilege to work on this play with many extraordinary artists and friends in two productions and this experience holds a very special place for us. I hope we get to do it again and again!