Alumna says UTRGV’s Latino Theatre Initiatives helped set her career path

Cinthia Monsivais, Special to the Star

By Cinthia Monsivais, Special to the Star

Many people are afraid of being on stage.

Not Maria Alvarado.

The stage is home for the UTRGV theater alumna, a place where she can express her love for the performing arts.

Alvarado, of Edinburg, is originally from Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico, and graduated from UTRGV in 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and a concentration in Performance.

She now works at the Pharr Community Theatre, directing acting workshops and doing what she most loves to do.

Her bachelor’s degree let her pursue a career that allows her not only to perform, but also to teach others what theatre and performing are all about.

In December 2017, she started working as a substitute teacher for the Edinburg school district, a position that gave her the flexibility to do as much theatre as she liked. Naturally, getting an offer to work at the Pharr Community Theatre was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

Performing and dancing have always been Alvarado’s forte. During the last semester of high-school, she was in front of the curtains and on stage when the school play called for dancers. After that, she knew performance was something she wanted to do more of and decided that she would pursue a theatre degree.

Finding out that UTRGV had all the programs she was looking for was a game-changer for Alvarado, and she focused on Latinx theatre by majoring in Theatre and minoring in Spanish. She also joined UTRGV’s Latino Theatre Initiatives on campus, eventually becoming president of the organization.

“Latino Theatre Initiatives was a big thing for me. That’s where I got pretty much all of my experience,” Alvarado said. “It wasn’t just doing theatre here at the university, but Dr. Eric Wiley, the advisor for the club took us to New Orleans, New York, to all these theatre festivals that were professional theatre festivals. And I built an amazing resume that opened a lot of doors for me.”

In her hometown of Irapuato, Alvarado’s parents were unable to provide her with Fine Arts opportunities, and it wasn’t something her schools offered. But even then, she always knew performance and theatre what she was drawn to just from watching it on television.

“I wish I would’ve had those things, or at least be exposed to performances,” Alvarado said. “I didn’t watch my first play until I was 18 or 19 years old.”

Not having access to Fine Arts in her own childhood has inspired Alvarado to open doors for children to learn and explore the world of theatre and performing. So, her workshops at the Pharr Community Theatre – which most recently ran from mid-February through April 6 – consisted of sessions in which Alvarado coaches and teaches children ages 9 to 13 about different performing elements, such as improvisation, voice, diction and monologue. She will be doing other workshops there in the future.

“I want children to be able to explore, to be able to express themselves” she said. “I would like for children to explore their creativity, to be more open, to be more confident.”

The workshops are only part of the plan to enlighten others about the Performing Arts. She has been directing a play called “Cadenas Invisibles” (invisible chains), for the UTRGV Department of Theatre. And she is working on another project, “La Piñata Más Grande del Mundo” (The World’s Largest Piñata), which she plans to tour at different schools and events at the end of April for Día de Los Ñinos.

Her plans are to pursue a master’s degree in Creative Writing this fall at UTRGV, and hopefull graduate in 2022. Then, Alvarado said, she wants to create a theater company of her own.

“My focus in theatre is Latinx theatre. There is some out there, but not a lot. That’s why I’m now going for a master’s in creative writing – so that I can write my own plays and know how to create projects. Then I can combine that with theatre, and open my own place to bring Latinx stories to life.”