My first name is Cecilia and my last name is Garcia.
We are located in the area of Lincoln Heights by the LA River. We're north of Chinatown and north of Broadway, but still in the city of Los Angeles. The building where we're stationed is the old jail of Los Angeles. They used to call it the Lincoln Jail. The company of Bilingual came into the picture forty years ago, and hopefully it will survive some more years. Carmen Zapata, who is the founder as well as actress, and many other titles, has had the privilege of founding this place with Margarita Galvan who is an actress and the artistic director.
We have the stage and serve the community because we keep up the arts of the Lorca, Lope de Vega, and the golden age of Spain. We also try to do plays from South America and Mexico. We conserve the art of theater and performing arts. We do it in Spanish because there aren't many theaters that have Spanish productions, and it is something to educate our youth. We want to help younger people to culture themselves. We do not want them to stay back and live in the past. No. Forward.
We hold onto our art, but the art helps us move forward. We have memories of our art from the past, and we endure it like we will endure the next things that come along.
I think theater is my pathway. It is calling me and filling my life. My mother always said, "If you are not happy, don't do it." I was happy doing what I was doing and it was mostly behind the scenes work. I love singing, but I didn't want to do it as a profession. I'm bossy, so when I started doing stage managing it worked for me. It gives me challenges and that is basically how I started getting into theater.
My mother passed away in 1998, and at the time I was working in Philadelphia and New York. I was jumping back and forth and decided on coming back because a friend of mine who was working here kept calling me. They asked if I was coming back and it felt like my mother was giving me a signal. I'm very spiritual and have these types of coincidences. He started telling me he's working at Bilingual as the tour stage manager, but now he had to do the main stage.
I had done a tour with Tony Plana's group, the East LA Classical Theater, and they asked if I would come do theater for Carmen. I said, "Do you really think Carmen is going to hire me?" They said, "Don't worry. If Tony Plana had trust in you, you know Carmen will too." So I said, "Ok."
I came here, they made me an appointment, and I got hired on July 15th, which was also her birthday.
Our company really focuses on college and high school education, and sometimes on elementary school and middle schools.
It is a small world. We get interns and we help them by giving them experience and hands on training. It gives our local actors and singers a chance to explore. They want to be able to make it out there. They want to be able to work at places like the LA Opera.
One of the plays we are doing right now is Lorca. It is an operatic. We don't have a big fancy theater with musicians because we can't afford it. We are a non-profit. We do what we can so we get a pianist to record our music and sometimes we do it live.
We want things to change, we want people to get along with each other, we want diversity, we want people to accept each other no matter where you are from. Not everybody can communicate that. You shouldn't feel out of place talking to an African American, Italian American, Irish American, Polish or French. We are comfortable talking to anybody. It doesn't matter where you are from, everybody is welcome. Everybody can share something with each other. We are a multi-culture.
The above interview is transcribed and edited from the following interview:
Northeast Los Angeles