April 12, 2012
Sue vs. Luz
“Sometimes I catch myself feeling emotions I would never feel back in my neighborhood. Stuff where you realize you are in the real world.”
Sue Montoya plays Luz in Café Vida, a character whose shyness belies her strength. But unlike the character she plays, Sue thinks of herself as someone whose self-assurance is unmitigated. She is confident about her acting skills, and has a positive attitude about the possibility of pursuing a career in law. She auditioned for the play “out of curiosity”—curiosity about how well she could do and what the process of making a play is like. She has not acted before, but has done short skits as part of school. “I can change my personality around,” she says, “But [acting] is much harder than I thought.”
That skill of shifting personalities helps her move between worlds of the streets, of the arts, and of work. Sue appreciates the art of acting because “it lets you live a lot of stories and at the same time be yourself. And we all live a lot of stories. I live different worlds. Everyone does. Sometimes I catch myself feeling emotions I would never feel back at home in my neighborhood. Stuff where you realize you are in the real world. There are situations I’ll never come across, like what playwrights live. You could put yourself in that situation [through acting].” The hard part, she says, is communicating your emotions effectively. “I’m not good at displaying emotions. I have to be told how to make my face. In real life I block out a lot of emotions.” But despite her desire to stay pokerfaced, her body betrays her, “I get red, my face feels hot.”
Although she confesses to trying to hide her feelings, she doesn’t deny having them, and when they are passionate enough, she can’t help but letting it show. Her eyes light aflame, for example, when she voices her indignation at gender inequality, “I don’t like the fact that boys and girls have different roles in society. I don’t know the difference between a guy’s mind and a girl’s mind.” Sue seems invincible, but she has enough insight into herself and human nature to admit vulnerability. “I know what I hunger for. I hunger for the father I never had,” she confesses.
Only 18, Sue is in the midst of undergoing an emotional education. Through this experience, she is learning how to negotiate her place in relationship to her fellow cast members, whose guidance she is still trying to learn how to hear. Sue is ecstatic to be acting and although she sometimes becomes frustrated in rehearsals when the big picture is not yet clear, she admires the work that is taking place. She thinks community members telling their story is the way theater should be. “I like that idea that they use people who are actually working [at Homeboy Industries in the play]. A play consists of a lot of teamwork. When the play is done, I will feel a sense of accomplishment. If something doesn’t go like we expect, it’s okay. It’s just the experience, the journey to get to that big day. I pay more attention to the journey. I don’t like things to end.”
Sue has all the fixings to make a great attorney, one of her many ambitions: presence, intellectual acuity, and most important, a ravenous hunger for justice. Law entices her. As a minor, she was in foster care, a situation that often teaches children of the cruel, crushing forces of fate that take control right out of ones hands. But the experience was also a fruitful one for Sue. The judge assigned to her case was someone whose air of authoritativeness she respected and admired. She saw in him something of a father figure, wishing to emulate his distinction and success.
But whereas the judge’s authority is derived from his position, Sue’s authority is all her own. It is the kind of fire-in-the-belly, self-constituting authority that consumes any slight, offense, or injustice and uses it as fuel to propel her forward. When her laptop was brazenly stolen by her roommate’s boyfriend, an incident she finds hard to forget, she calculated the risk of reacting violently, decided against it, and instead chose to seek out resources that would offer her the support in those times when sheer will is not enough. During a chance encounter with her old roommate, where her hunger for revenge went unsatisfied, she made a friend out of a stranger, who recommended she check out Homeboy Industries. She’s worked with them since November and spends her time going to community college, working at Homeboy Industries, and now, being part of Café Vida.
BUY TICKETS to Café Vida.
Maria Guerra is Cornerstone’s Administrative Assistant.