Cristo Rey Q&A: Fall Play 2021
with Ms. Rocio Juarez ’10 & Lizette G. ’24
Each year, Cristo Rey’s Drama Club puts on two productions, with the fall play performed entirely in Spanish. This year’s play was “Ana en el Trópico,” by Nilo Cruz, a story about workers at a tobacco factory, revolutionized by reading Tolstoy. Sophomore Ricardo J. interviewed Drama Club Director Ms. Rocio Juarez ‘10 and actress Lizette G. ‘24 about this fall’s return to the stage, the importance of culturally relevant arts programming and the process of creating a production in just 10 weeks.
In addition to Drama Club Director, Ms. Rocio Juarez ’10 primarily serves as Cristo Rey’s Service Coordinator, overseeing the service and social justice programming at the school. Lizette is a sophomore at Cristo Rey; she is always looking for new opportunities to volunteer and help at the school.
Ricardo: What was the reason for choosing this play, and what inspired you?
Ms. Juarez: The main reason there is a Spanish play at Cristo Rey is because six years ago, [teacher and alum] Mr. Rex Ovalle ’08 thought it was a missing piece at Cristo Rey. As an alum, I totally agree; Spanish is so deeply rooted in our lives and our culture. Another reason why the fall Spanish play tradition persists is because I would love to see more of our students involved in theatre and the arts in general. I hope that one day, one of our students will become inspired by the work they do in drama club (English or Spanish) and for it to become a career option.
Ricardo: What was the reason you joined the Drama Club?
Lizette: I joined the play because it seemed like a fun opportunity to do something I liked. Since I was little, I would pretend I was in a telenovela and was always curious on how they did it. I thought that joining the fall play would bring out my inner childhood dream.
Ricardo: How long ago did you start preparing to do the play?
Lizette: We started preparing for the play around the beginning of September. We had about 2 months to prepare but it all started coming together around the last 3 weeks.
Ricardo: What were your expectations when making the play?
Ms. Juarez: I knew from the beginning that rebuilding drama club was going to be a challenge, since the pandemic did not allow new students to experience drama last year and cut the spring play short in 2020. Without the participation of students, we can't move forward! I am so lucky that our students showed up and had faith in themselves to audition and try something new.
Ricardo: How did the 10 weeks of rehearsals look for the cast as they prepared?
Ms. Juarez: During our rehearsals there were times that we had fun and got to know each other. There were other times where students understood the importance of learning their lines and taking feedback from the directors. I give major kudos to the cast because on top of all their academic work they were able to be committed to the success of the play by staying late and studying the play and their feedback. I can't wait to see what comes next for them!
Ricardo: Did you have faith in the students that they would learn everything and be ready to perform?
Ms. Juarez: Even though there were rough practice days, I will have to say that I always had faith in the cast and their performances. This play brought me back to our first play in Spanish, as we were starting with a new cast altogether. No one had experience with a Cristo Rey play before, so it is always hard to start without students that can show new students the ropes. Our sole returning member was senior Fatima R., Backstage Crew Manager, who made the process much easier for us.
Ricardo: How did you feel when performing?
Lizette: When the day arrived, I was so nervous I wanted to cry, but as soon as I entered the stage my mind went on autopilot. I became Conchita on stage and really felt the emotions of my character. I felt so proud listening to the audience’s laughter and applause. I felt as if all our work paid off.
Ricardo: Did you like your role and why?
Lizette: Yes, I loved my role. Conchita is such a funny and loving character which is why I loved playing her. Her fights with her sister and her sarcasm reminds me so much of me and my own sister. Conchita is also in search of ways to love, and it almost reminds me of all the novelas I’ve watched growing up. Overall, Conchita and I have a lot in common.
Ricardo: Are you happy with how the play turned out?
Ms. Juarez: I am completely elated at how magnificent of a job our cast and crew did! It took so much to get to opening night and get to share with the community our love and dedication to the play.
Lizette: Yes, I am so proud of myself and all my friends. I am glad that a lot of people enjoyed the plot. I’ve gotten a lot of good feedback from teachers and students, and it makes me happy that we were able to captivate our audience and provide them Ana en el Trópico.
Ricardo: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Ms. Juarez: I am so grateful to Ms. Maria Elena Juarez, Mr. Taylor Fulkerson, and Mr. Dennis Moller for also helping me put the play together. They had a lot of faith in the students and loved the play when they first read it.
Lizette: Being in Ana en el Trópico was a great experience. I loved being with the cast and the teachers. We all became a family just like in the play. I greatly appreciate Mr. Fulkerson, Ms. Juarez, and Ms. María Elena Juarez for never giving up on us and pushing us constantly to do our best. I also want to thank Mr. Moller and stage crew for making all the props, getting us ready, and setting up the scenes. Ana en el Trópico is such a wonderful and very well plotted story, and I am glad everyone enjoyed it.
In addition to Drama Club, Cristo Rey offers additional arts programming, including a freshmen music course to learn the traditional zampona instrument, a senior fine art course focused on Chicago’s street art, Ballet Folklorico group, Broadcasting club, Film Club, Improv Club, and a Latin Music Ensemble.
Cristo Rey’s spring play will premier in April 2022, we hope to see you there!