Calexico native has play on Broadway
Santos De Los Angeles acts out a scene in "La Muerte Vive." The play, produced by Calexico native Gina Linn Espinoza, opened in Los Angeles last week.
Calexico native Gina Linn Espinoza grew up going to theater, not knowing that one day she would be producing a play herself in Los Angeles.
“I’ve always loved theater and art,” Espinoza, 50, said. When she was young her parents took her to plays and concerts in Mexicali because there weren’t such shows in Calexico, Espinoza recalled. “I loved getting dressed up and going to the theater and then dinner.”
She certainly did the same for the opening of the play she produced, “La Muerte Vive,” which premiered in the historic Million Dollar Theater in Los Angeles in front 2,100 people.
But her road to that pinnacle took time and hard work.
Espinoza attended Our Lady of Guadalupe Academy, Calexico High School and Imperial Valley College before transferring to San Diego State University, where she studied business, she said.
She was a Wal-Mart executive for many years and then a life coach before she entered show business, Espinoza said.
This new career started developing six years ago. She had gone through a divorce, the passing of her best friend and was doing “a lot of work in L.A.,” she said.
All the people she knew there were writing, producing or staring in films, Espinoza said. Such input inspired her to move to L.A., she said, adding, “anything is possible in L.A.”
She got into theater by frequenting Josefina Lopez’s theater called CASA 0101, she said and added that Lopez wrote “Real Women Have Curves.”
People started noticing Espinoza and “it happened quite by chance, but not by accident,” Espinoza said adding she eventually became a board member of that theater.
Espinoza’s works led her to have the opportunity to produce last September the 20th anniversary show of the award winning play for Lopez, Espinoza said. “That’s why I say L.A. is such a great place,” she said.
The show ran for eight weeks and after that a bigger endeavor crossed her path when a close friend, writer and director Tony Dominguez, offered her to produce “La Muerte Vive.”
Dominguez had already showed her the script about three years ago, Espinoza said, but it was after both produced a reunion in New York for the survivors of the Hudson River plane crash that Dominguez promised her to be the producer of “La Muerte Vive,” “and take it to Broadway.”
It wasn’t Broadway in New York, but it was Broadway in Los Angeles where the play opened, Espinoza said jokingly; “so he (Dominguez) fulfilled his promise.”
It took them 11 months to bring the production to the Million Dollar Theater where actors like Maria Felix, Tin-Tan, Cantinflas and “anybody who is anybody” has played, she said.
It made sense to make a play about Dia de los Muertos in a venue were such spirits are, Espinoza said, adding that for her the play’s theme is significant because her father just passed away earlier this year.
When asked to describe the play Espinoza said it is “more of a variety show with a play at the end.”
The three-act show features Latin music from the Wiseguys and Wil-Dog of Ozomatli with a burlesque element, she said.
The stage looks like a giant Dia de los Muertos altar, with skulls and Virgin of Guadalupe figures, Espinoza said, adding the play’s main theme is a “celebration of the people that came before, those that paved the way.”
Moreover, the play teaches Mexican culture and addresses the true meaning of success, and encourages the reassessment of life.
For her, such personal assessment happens during the Dia de los Muertos — her favorite festivity, Espinoza said, not at the end of the year like most people.
Her play, which opened Nov. 2 and had a second run last Saturday, is made for touring, Espinoza said.
She has already received offers from theaters in Washington, New Jersey and Texas, she said, adding she is also writing a children’s play.
“I feel overwhelmed with gratitude,” she responded when asked about what’s going on in her life.
“Everything happened to me this year,” she said adding, kids in the Imperial Valley who “think they can’t get out … that’s not true. They can do anything they can dream. Everything, it’s absolutely possible.”
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or firstname.lastname@example.org