Actor Spotlight: Angel Rodriguez
This month, actor Ángel Rodríguez will join SOSS to read an excerpt from Nora Rodriguez Camagna’s debut novel Cinnamon Bread Under the Cherry Tree. Our casting director Jessica Laskey talked to Rodríguez about his involvement in local Latino theater and why playing a character he identifies with means so much.
Jessica: Ángel, as a native Sacramentan, you’ve grown up in the local theater scene. How did you first get interested in performing and where has it taken you?
Ángel: My parents are from Mexico and they settled here in Sacramento — and I’ve never left! I grew up watching a lot of children’s soap operas on Hispanic television. Kids’ dramas are huge on Mexican television, so I grew up watching those and always wanted to be in them. I first got into acting actually in middle school and did my first paid gig at 12. When you get paid $100 as a 12-year-old, the world is yours! I kept doing theater in high school, but when I got to college at Sac State, I started as a computer engineering major. I did that for four years but eventually quit to pursue theater.
Jessica: Was it worth it?
Ángel: Right after college, I was auditioning for organizations in town and nobody was casting me. There aren’t that many parts for Latino actors/actresses in American theater, but I eventually found a home in Latino organizations like Teatro Espejo and Teatro Nagual. They were actually putting up Latino plays and casting me.
Jessica: Tell me more about these organizations.
Ángel: Well, first, these organizations are not just for Latino audiences. Yes, they’re doing plays by Latino playwrights performed by Latino artists, but the stories we tell resonate with any culture — they’re universal. We also don’t have physical homes, we rent space from and collaborate with theaters that are well-known by non-Latino audiences like The Sofia, the Wilkerson at R25 and the Guild in Oak Park.
Jessica: What have been some of your favorite roles?
Ángel: I love dramas, they’re really my favorite genre. I really like the intensity of the human experience, especially when the script has authentic roles. I don’t like caricatured characters. As long as they’re authentic, that’s what draws me. I loved playing Usnavi in the musical In the Heights at Sac State in 2019. It’s my dream role — for a lot of Latino performers, it’s universal and it’s one of the most mainstream Latino roles on Broadway. You get to rap, act, sing, dance and be in an electric show. I also did Lydia by Octavio Solis at The Sofia in July and played Rene, a young Mexican-American man in El Paso, Texas, in the ‘70s who’s gay and closeted. That role resonated with me so much since I also grew up in a Mexican-American family being gay, being closeted. It was such an intense experience to act in something so parallel to me.
Actor Spotlight: Justine Lopez
This month, actor Justine Lopez will join SOSS to read an excerpt from Kate Milliken’s novel Kept Animals. Our casting director Jessica Laskey talked to Lopez about how her extensive experience in improv informs her acting and helps her stay in the moment.
Jessica: Justine, I know you’re a mainstay on the improv scene in Sacramento, but you started in theater, right?
Justine: I did! I studied Theatre Arts at Cosumnes River College and was involved in several plays as an actor, assistant director and stage manager. At Cosumnes, I actually started as a graphic design major. Spring semester we had to choose an art class, so I said, lemme choose a class that just scares me, and that was acting. Performance has always scared me — in high school, I was never the theater kid, I was more into sports. But I took this class and grew to love the theater. After the class was over, I auditioned for my first play and after that I got hooked into the theater world, changed my major, stuck it out and did every role I could. It’s addicting!
Jessica: How did you move from theater to improv?
Justine: After doing a couple of plays, both comedic and dramatic, I loved the laughter and feedback I got from the audience for a comedic play. My improv career started because one of my close friends put together his funniest, wittiest theater friends and started his own short-form, game-based improv troupe. It was super fun, so after that, I wanted to step out of the college realm and started to look for internships in the Sacramento area. I stumbled upon Sacramento Comedy Spot, which was hiring for volunteers in exchange for free classes. I started volunteering there and taking classes and soon after I caught the other bug — the improv bug. I worked my way up through the program and eventually became a cast member in their mainstage shows on Friday and Saturday nights. I also coach and teach Improv 101 and 201.
Jessica: Your improv career has really taken off. You perform regularly with Lady Business (Sacramento’s longest-running all-female improv troupe), Masters of Rap Improv and Anti-Cooperation League and you also co-produce and co-star in Capitol PUNishment, Sacramento’s only monthly pun tournament show. How did doing improv inform your theatrical acting?
Justine: I saw a huge difference in my theater performance after taking improv classes. Before, I felt more robotic on the theater stage — here’s my blocking, 1-2-3 step and then I cry — whereas in improv, once I learned that skillset and applied it to theatrical performance, I was more aware of being present and in the moment rather than looking forward to that next step. It made me become more in tune as a character and really listen to my partner. … The biggest part of improv is you have to be a good listener, be in the moment and expect the unexpected. If something goes wrong, just roll with it.
And we have a whole new way for you to get your ticket: tinyurl.com/DOUBLEFORSOSS
Double the impact of your contribution to SOSS with every ticket you purchase.
Want to buy a 2023 season subscription? Donate $50 through IOBY and we'll get $100! (All donations are tax-deductible, as SOSS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.)
Donate at least $50 anytime between now and December and you'll not only gain free entry to the remaining 2022 performances, but you'll also be a season subscriber and get in for free for all of next season! If you're already a season subscriber, you're set & you can still always check in at the door!
Auditorium at CLARA AUDITORIUM, 1425 24th Street,
Sacramento, CA 95816.
Doors open at 6:30 PM. Performance begins at 7:00 PM.