Steven Dominguez, a director at the Collaborative Theatre Project, has recently produced the first play of the Act Out Children’s Theatre, with a bilingual English/Spanish adaptation of the book by Maurice Sendak, “Where The Wild Things Are.” The production, with child actors, bilingual narrators and papier-mache monsters, was delightful.
Dominguez received a bachelor’s degree in acting from City College of New York and went on to a 20-year acting career in New York. He worked with Joseph Papp in the Public Theater and performed on Sesame Street. We visited on Zoom.
EH: How did you first get interested in theater?
SD: I found it in high school. It was a high school musical. It saved me, because I was not sure what direction to go in my life. Then I ended up spending most of my adult life training and acting.
EH: What’s the philosophy of Joseph Papp?
SD: With the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, he had this passion to bring Shakespeare to the people, and he wanted to do it for free. He actually made that happen. That’s one thing that I adhere to as well.
EH: What was your most rewarding work in the theater?
SD: My favorite work was original works. A lot of times, it was a group of actors who said, “Let’s choose a theme and create a play around it.” We did that quite a bit, and that was the most gratifying. And here, I am doing that now, taking these books and saying, “Let’s create a play out of these books.”
EH: What is the benefit for children who participate in live theater?
SD: There are so many life skills that a person participating in theater can use in their lives, even if they don’t pursue acting. Things like: public speaking, being in the body; developing a certain awareness; it’s a learning tool. There’s a whole education about — whatever play you’re doing — to learn about the history of that play, and learn about the customs of that particular culture. It’s an endless education.
EH: What’s the mission of the bilingual theater?
SD: The overall concept is to create theater specifically for the Latin community in our area. It’s all about inclusion. We want to cultivate that audience to let them know that we’re here for them.
It’s wonderful to begin with children’s theater. It’s great working with children; having children in the audience is always a thrill. We’d like to find Latin American children’s stories and translate them into English.
EH: Is admission free?
SD: Yes, it’s free. All of the plays will be in English and Spanish, outdoors, and free. We’re asking people to wear masks. We’re asking people to socially distance; and we’re also asking people who want to sit to bring folding chairs or whatever they want to sit on. We are doing this in the age of the pandemic, so please be sure to do what you can to protect yourselves and people around you. Come down, bring the kids and have a little fun. We’re going to move on with “Curious George” by the way, and do that outside as well. In time, we’ll have a library of stories that we could bring anywhere that wants to have us.
The reason I got into theater in the first place, is that I bought into the idea that theater holds up a mirror. To this day I hold that to be true. It can be a catalyst for change.