Alyssa Vera Ramos is the inspiring Latina of the week for her strong passion for theater and teaching. The Chicago native and Northwestern University graduate is a facilitator for the non-profit organization, For Youth Inquiry, a performing health collective, which helps inspire and educate inner-city teens. We got a chance to chat with Alyssa about her community work and love for the arts. Check it out below!
What inspired you to pursue a career in the drama arts?
“Through a myriad of classes and through rehearsal processes as an actor, I discovered that I love directing, creating drama lesson plans and teaching. I love theater because it is live, and because the actors are real human beings standing right there in front of you. I believe in its power to affect people, to evoke response. Theater is the way I am going to change the world, and practice new ways of being and thinking.”
What's the best part of acting? What do you find the most fulfilling?
"Working with another person, one-on-one. When you act, you must be in the moment, fully present and honest with another human being. It's difficult. We aren't necessarily called on to do that very often in real, everyday life. But it's made me a better listener, better at relationships, and better at empathizing with others' experiences - to act is to probe and place yourself in someone else's life and soul."
What advice do you have for other young Latinas who want to pursue their training or education in acting and directing?
"Throw yourself into it as much as you can. Actively seek out every opportunity you have to do this kind of work, or any work you love. Use the Internet. Use the library. Take classes, even if you’re not in school. Practice. Most importantly, be in rehearsal - audition for projects (it gets easier when you do it always), or just get a group of friends together and create your own work."
What project/play are you the most proud of and why?
"I adapted and directed Marisel Vera (my mom)'s unpublished novel, The Liberation of Carmela Lopez. She has published a novel and many stories, but I was really taken by Carmela in particular because she was a young Latina, living in Chicago's Humboldt Park, and going through a young person's struggle of reconciling familial values and tradition with her own sense of self. This project was one of my first stabs at scene work that was character-based and it really felt generational collaborating with my mom, sharing ideas, art, and Latina stories and experiences, bringing a very important and beautiful story to life."
Why did you decide to get involved in underserved communities?
"I believe in the power of theater to incite change. It is a meaningful way to explore relationships, conflict, and connections across cultures. In a theater workshop or class or rehearsal, you learn to work with others, you learn more about yourself. You cultivate communication skills and develop tools as a creative problem-solver and team player. I want to impart those skills and the joy and productivity of this work to young people, and to people who have never done theater before. My work with underserved communities is not necessarily "putting on a show" but looking at the world in a different and more active way."
Learn more about Alyssa's work at foryouthinquiry.org.
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