October 25, 2012
Amateur to Fully-Fledged Artist
Maria Cano joined the Cornerstone family when she was cast in the first play in the Hunger Cycle, Café Vida. While working at Homegirl Café, she was approached by a Cornerstone staff member who encouraged her to audition. At the time she never thought anything of it, but these days acting is Maria’s favorite subject.
This fall Maria has brought her talent and infectious personality back to Cornerstone, as part of the cast of the second Hunger Cycle play, SEED: A Weird Act of Faith. Once again facing the challenges of working with professional actors, Maria is self-admittedly moving past her amateur ways into awareness of her craft. “With Café Vida it was kind of a challenge for me to see, ok, so how are you going to react with other professional actors because there are actresses that are professional and I’m not.” Now, with SEED, Maria continues to surround herself every night at rehearsal with other talented actors and pushes herself to work to the next level.
Although she may not be a professional actor, Maria definitely understands the trials and tribulations that reap wonderful rewards. “I work 8 or 10 hours a day [at Homeboy Industries] and then I come tired to rehearsal and just being there and just interacting and acting and taking direction and giving direction. I go home refreshed. I think acting does that for me, it cleanses me, it purifies me, and I’m able to continue with my day and that’s a beautiful thing.” No doubt she truly understands why she continues to seek the arts as part of her life.
Maria’s enthusiasm around her experience during Café Vida is palpable. Her complete reverie about the entire experience is heartfelt and touching. She finds herself still astonished at how the project came to be. “The population that Homeboys works with has been mostly abused and neglected and judged and shamed…it blew my mind. Why would people do that for us? That’s so selfless.”
Possibly the greatest moment in speaking to Maria about Café Vida comes when she talks about her mother’s attendance: “Inside of me I’m still that young kid that is very impressed by her mom and she wants her mommy to approve of what she’s doing.” Maria’s mother was able to attend and most definitely approved of her daughter’s wonderful accomplishment.
Café Vida was undoubtedly a great experience that allowed Maria to look at herself in a different light. “Maybe I wasn’t even aware that I was an artist, but I realized what Café Vida did for me. It gave me nourishment to my soul to my very bruised, damaged soul. Café Vida allowed me to embrace that and to heal and it was such a beautiful nourishing moment that I realized, I love art. I love performing.”
When asked what compelled her to continue working with Cornerstone after her experience with Café Vida, she lights up and responds quickly. “Wonderful people doing wonderful work. I just want to do anything and everything to put my little grain of salt in that.”
After finishing the amazing experience that was Café Vida, Maria found herself hungry for more. However, once she auditioned for SEED: A Weird Act of Faith she came to a realization. “This time around, I find myself out of Homeboys; it’s just me. It’s a great responsibility.”
No Longer A Lonely SEED-ling
The family of SEED has quickly blossomed into a new and exciting chapter in Maria’s journey as an artist. Coming in as an outsider, without her Homeboy community at her side, she felt nervous, but with the help of past cast members and director Shishir Kurup Maria quickly found her feet. The message of Café Vida, Maria felt, was very close to her and her family. However, there is no doubt that she has found ownership of the message of SEED.
“The message that we want to convey with SEED is one of unity. If we unify as people – as humble, hardworking people – and we could organize, there’s no telling what we could do.”
Maria shows her passion for the script when she describes one of her favorite moments. “I love one of my lines in the play: I am afraid it is going to be taken. That we are going to work this land, put love and care into it, and someone is gonna see it’s beauty and usefulness, see our power and they’re gonna take it. That’s such a beautiful line because sometimes we don’t even realize the power that we have within ourselves.”
Maria holds a great power in the rehearsal space and on stage by finding a way to bring herself to the character of “Mom.” Maria’s role is a little further from her personal story than her previous role, however she’s quickly found a very personal connection.
“I think I’ve always been a revolutionary inside of me. I think I have that as a woman and as a Mexican woman… I think that’s what Mom has. She’s been a fighter all her life and I think that the proof of that is that she’s still standing. In that sense, I think that we’re very much alike in that we both are strong and we both have had to do whatever in order to survive.”
No One Knows What the Future May Hold
Maria has done much better than survive; she continues to thrive since first encountering Cornerstone. She talks about how her work has changed her perspective and her family’s everyday life.
“I realize that I’m more willing to look at issues that because of time or because I’m busy with my every day life, I don’t really care to go out of my way to listen to. And I can see that change is not only in me, but I think it ripples onto my kids and my family.”
Grateful hardly describes how Maria feels and when asked if she had anything else to add, she humbly adds, “I just would like to take this opportunity to thank Cornerstone and all the wonderful people that are a part of Cornerstone for giving me this opportunity. God only knows if this is the last play that I’m going to do with them, who knows? But I know that I’ve discovered a whole new side of me.”
Written by Lea Blair, Cornerstone’s Theater’s Ticket Coordinator for SEED