The Department for Culture and Creative Development has selected Anna De Luna as the Creative of the Month for February 2016.
Posted 5 years 79 days ago ago by Javier Flores (WHO)
Anna De Luna is an actor, writer and HIV prevention activist. She received her training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, has toured the United States with the National Theater of the Performing Arts and also acted/directed for the American Theater Company in Brussels, Belgium. Anna has performed in leading roles at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in the productions, Milagritos as the Virgen de Guadalupe, Ay Pedro, Posada Majica and Surcos de Oro and co-wrote/performed in the original production of Reunion for the Festival Libre Enganche and Latino Odyssey at the Jump Start Performance Co. She has also performed for the Renaissance Guild Act I Series, Bat Boy - The Musical at the Majik Theater, Attic Rep, Northwest Vista College, SAC, UTSA and the 24th St. Experiment at Our Lady of the Lake University. In addition, she appeared at the San Pedro Playhouse in the production of Electricidad as Clemencia and in Anna In The Tropics as Conchita for which she received a San Antonio Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama. Anna also wrote/acted and directed her one-woman shows, Chicana Atheist which premiered at Teatro Fest 2006. In 2015 she was a recipient of a stART Place grant from the City of San Antonio Department for Culture & Creative Development and produced My Arab Fall, a play based on her experiences traveling in Egypt with a focus on the violence female protesters have faced during their Arab Spring. Ms. De Luna was recently awarded a grant NALAC NFA grant to continue pursuing the full production of The AIDS Lady, a piece she created from her experiences working as an HIV Tester/Educator at the San Antonio AIDS Foundation.
How did you get involved in art?
As a kid I used to watch child actors on the PBS show Carrascolendas and thought, 'I really want to do that'! But, I never told anyone and there were very limited opportunities for Mexican-American youths in my rural community. I was also extremely shy, so that didn't help. Finally, in college, I couldn't take it anymore and tried out for a campus production of Arsenic and Old Lace. It was a TERRIBLE audition. All of a sudden, I couldn't speak and started shaking uncontrollably. Surprisingly, they didn't cast me - but I caught the bug, got better and haven't stopped since.
What is one of the most memorable moments/projects you have been a part of?
In 2002 I was cast in Milagritos, a play based on short stories from Sandra Cisneros and adapted by Marisela Barrera. I got to portray a tortured artist who gets transformed into the Virgen de Guadalupe. Everything was just right on. We had a great script, set designer, cast and awesome musicians. It was my first lead role at the Guadalupe Theater and the beginning of a great comadre-ship with the extremely creative Ms. Barrera.
Our cast party also rocked and somehow earned the nickname Flying Virgen.
Why do you think the art industry is important to San Antonio?
Art is a good way to learn about your culture. Theater can especially be helpful making us feel connected to our identity. Art is important anywhere you live. We are so boring and lost without it.
What do you find most gratifying about the work you do in your current role?
I have spent the past 10 years writing my own solo shows on issues that are somewhat controversial but important to me. It's been a challenge but I also like being able to share my personal experiences on stage. I've always heard monologues in my head – especially when I'm pissed off about something (anger is a great motivator). It's empowering to be able to put these thoughts into a script. My boyfriend/writer Doyle Avant has been a tremendous mentor in this department. These pieces have also given me the opportunity to hire and collaborate with my favorite artists and designers in this city.
Which artists personally inspire you?
In 1989 I saw Ruby Nelda Perez perform her solo play A Woman's Work and immediately wanted to be her. I recently partnered with Monessa Esquivel in my show, My Arab Fall and was blown away. Girlfriend is a freakin' time bomb! My good friend and Argentinean actress Marisa Varela is also a power house. They train them well in Argentina! I'm going local because we have so much talent in San Antonio - Lisa Suarez, Marisela Barrera, Jose Ruben DeLeon, Joel Settles, Janie Sauceda, Maria Ibarra, Melissa Marlowe, Amalia Ortiz and Jesus Alonso have also inspired me with their original stories and performances.
What advice do you have for young or up-and-coming creatives?
Go get some training. All your family and friends will tell you how awesome you are...but a good theater program will truly improve your natural skills. Learn how to sing and dance. Those gigs are more likely to pay. If you are Latino/a, then learn Spanish. Those gigs usually pay too. I also recommend traveling to poor countries. It will open your eyes to the human experience and make you a better person/actor. Lastly – read, write and create a group of artist friends that you can vent, drink and gossip with.
What would you say is one of the greatest challenges for the local arts community?
I am member of SALTA – The San Antonio Latino/a Theatre Alliance and we talk about this all the time. The main concern for us is the lack of plays produced that speak to our community. San Antonio has a Latino population of 63 percent, however you do not see this represented in plays produced, or in casting, directing and arts administration. We don't like to be sour grapes but the gap is appalling. There are many solutions to this problem but we need support and everyone can play a role to rectify this.
Where would you like to see San Antonio's creative community by the year 2020?
I would like to see at least two Latino specific theater companies producing shows consistently in San Antonio. Many other major cities have twice as many with much smaller Latino populations, so we can do it. San Antonio also needs an MFA theater program - we are the seventh largest city in the United States so it's about time. I have been very fortunate to receive two grants from the City of San Antonio Department for Culture and Creative Development and would like to see more funding opportunities, private and public for individual artists.