Long Beach State’s Studio Theater will bring Boyle Heights, Los Angeles to the stage with Luis Alfaro’s “Electricidad: A Chicano Take on Sophocles’ Electra,” running now until Oct. 8.
The play is about a young girl who convinces her brother to murder their mother to avenge their father, the king.
“Electricidad is writing about girl gangs, cholas. I grew up in that culture,” Alfaro said. “I wanted to write about what happens if you don’t forgive. You destroy yourself, but then you destroy your family, and then you destroy the community.”
“That’s really what the play is about, a woman who can’t forgive.”
He was inspired to bring a modern adaptation of “Electra” after holding a poetry workshop at a state prison in Tucson, Arizona, where he met a young girl who murdered her mother.
“The mom had put a hit out on the dad who was a drug dealer from the southside of Tucson,” he said. “I thought, ‘Oh my God, this is Electra… 1,700 years later, have we not learned anything?’”
Sara Guerrero was invited to direct the play and teaches introduction to directing at CSULB.
Guerrero was blown away at the “Electricidad” auditions when she noticed how diverse the CSULB student body is and saw how it reflects the Southern California community.
“Specifically, in the Latinx community, I have not seen that many actors and I had a great pool to pull from,” she said.
General theater major Stefanie Chavez plays the lead role for her last semester at CSULB. She didn’t plan on auditioning at first, but considering it was a play about Latinos in Los Angeles, as a Latina herself, she couldn’t resist.
“I think representation is so important, and I wouldn’t have felt right without giving it a shot, especially considering that there hasn’t been any recent Latino representation in a Cal Rep (California Repertory Company) production that I could recall,” Chavez said. “From what I’ve been told, people put up an argument to even have this play be staged. The fight for representation is so heavy and I’m very honored to be able to be a part of that fight.”
She started her acting career as a child when she appeared on commercials. Her experience also includes starring in different musicals and plays such as Millie in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Golde in “Fiddler on the Roof,” and more.
While playing the role of Electricidad, Chavez learned how important forgiveness is. She understands that her character’s pain and suffering could have been avoided if Electricidad let go of traditions and made a change.
“I think that’s a common issue in various Latino households, especially amongst first generations, where the typical machismo and misogynistic ideologies are a normality, when in reality it’s something of the past,” Chavez said. “This is expressed in the play a lot and honestly, at the end of the day, this old Greek tragedy turned-into-a-cholo-story still proves to be quite accurate today.”
She takes this role at a more personal level that involves her family.
“I love the fact that this play also takes place in Los Angeles during the early 2000s. At that time, I was a little toddler while my parents were in their 20s, and now I think it’s so crazy how I’m now in my 20s playing a character that would’ve been them,” she said. “This entire play is all stuff that my parents grew up around. I just love that by inviting my grandparents and parents to see me, they are able to see themselves on stage.”
Those involved with the production wore masks and tested for COVID-19 twice a week as a precaution, said Guerrero. Actors were the only ones allowed to be unmasked.
The experience of loss and how people cope with it drew Guerrero to this play.
“We really explore this through women’s voices within this specific world,” Guerrero said. “There’s some really beautiful moments that are funny, that are sad, that are tragic.
“I think with theater we often look in the mirror… where do we see ourselves in this? I think that opens itself to conversations.”
Alfaro met Guerrero years ago when she played the role of Abuela at the old LA City jail.
“I’m really excited because she’s now become this director who is directing all over the county. You kind of go full circle and I love that, it’s really cool,” Alfaro said. “I love that Sara took it on (the play) because she understands the world of it.”
“Electricidad “ runs on Sept. 29, 30, Oct. 1, 6,7, 8 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct.1, 8 at 2 p.m.