University of La Verne
Dept. of Theatre Arts
May 10th, 2021
SUBJ: Statement in Support of SB 805 / “Save the Performing Arts Act of 2021”
TO: The California Legislature
I write to strongly urge you to vote in support of SB805. As an actor currently appearing in the Netflix series Gentefied, now nominated for a 2021 George Peabody Award, a professor of theatre, a Mexican immigrant and first‑generation college graduate, I owe the entirety of my achievements and success to California’s 99-seat /small nonprofit theatre companies including, and most especially to me, El Teatro Campesino (ETC).
I hold a Ph.D.in Drama from Stanford University, an M.F.A. in Acting from U.S.C and a B.A. in Theatre from Whittier College. l am a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Television Arts and Sciences, Actors Branch. For over 40 yrs. I’ve been a working professional actor having received my first union card (Actors Equity) in 1978 when | performed in Luis Valdez’ iconic play Zoot Suit. Soon after, I received my SAG and AFTRA cards and in 2013, I joined the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society. My list of theatre, film and television credits are extensive. (imdb.me/almamartinez)
In 1977, I was a young, eager and trained actor with no opportunities to work on any professional stage in Los Angeles and California because of the color of my skin, Mexican origin, and Spanish name. My world changed when I was cast by the small nonprofit theatre company El Teatro Campesino founded by Maestro Luis Valdez, I toured with ETC for a year and in 1978, myself and dozens of other Chicanx-Latinx actors, were cast in the Center Theatre Group’s production of Zoot Suit. This was finally the professional gateway that had eluded countless of theatre artists of color throughout the history of theatre in Los Angeles and the nation.
Twenty-five years later, in 2004 and a Ph.D. candidate at Stanford I never forgot the power of the small nonprofit theatre that changed my life. I titled my dissertation, “The political dialectic for a united Chicanx and Latin American popular political theatre front, Mexico City, 1974”.The research argued for the recognition by American Theatre, of the vital contribution and transnational influence of the hundreds of small nonprofit Chicanx-Latinx theatre companies that gave a platform and empowered tens of thousands of theatre artists of color.
To close, I add that countless theatre artists of color who were given the opportunity to work in small nonprofit theatres have used this “gateway” to open their own theatres, enter other creative professional fields and earn advanced degrees in theatre, drama, design, acting, directing, etc. To this day, these “progeny” of 99-seat / small nonprofit theatres, teach K-12, as professors in the UC and Cal State system, community colleges and in private institutions across the country. On May 20th you will not only be voting for the funding of small theatres but also, to uphold and sustain the longstanding legacy of a dynamic grassroots movement that has launched, supported and dare I say saved the lives of tens of thousands of young people of color for whom theatre is the very air they breathe.
We are counting on you.
Dr. Alma Martinez
SAG AFTRA, AEA, SDC
Emerita Faculty, Theatres Arts Department, UC Santa Cruz