A Quarter Century of Summer Theater
Cabrillo Stage and Shakespeare Santa Cruz celebrate 25 years of amazing productions
By Laura Mattingly
Forget the Thomas Wolfe adage about not being able to go home again: Tommy Marquez is taking a month out of his fast-paced costume-designing career in L.A to come back where he got his start: Cabrillo Stage.
"It's still the same company that a Mexican boy from Watsonville came up through," says the celebrated costume designer as the company celebrates its 25th year of recruiting community talent for top-quality musical theater productions. "It hasn't changed for me; I came home."
Marquez also dismisses the conventional wisdom about who can succeed in the entertainment industry. "You don't have to come from a rich family, or be from New York or L.A.," he says. "You can come from Prunedale!"
Indeed, Marquez has gone from dancing in the chorus line at Cabrillo College (before it was called Cabrillo Stage) to designing costumes for The Wonder Years, Third Rock From the Sun, That Eighties Show, and What I Like About You.
"I really feel the Cabrillo Stage and the dancing is important for poor kids in poor neighborhoods to experience something else. They get a chance to dream and have it come true."
Marquez came back to his hometown especially to participate in Cabrillo Stage's anniversary celebration production of the classic Broadway musical Guys and Dolls, performing July 7 through Aug. 13 at the Cabrillo Theater in Aptos.
And Marquez isn't the only big fish hopping back to the pond this summer. Also working on the production are Broadway veteran Janie Scott and set designer Skip Eperson, collaborating with a new face at Cabrillo Stage: Jon Nordgren as producing artistic director and music director.
"Janie Scott and Jon decided to do a take on Dick Tracy, the movie, and a more cartoonish look for Guys and Dolls," says Marquez, describing the visual components of the show. "The costumes have bright colors and patterns; they're a little over the top."
"Skip Epperson's set is beautiful and colorful. Again, just visually 'whoa,'" says Marquez.
Marquez feels optimistic that the performance will be impressive. "I think it's going to be a beautiful show. People are really going to leave their troubles outside, enjoy the show and walk out singing the songs."
Marquez far prefers working on musicals to dramas, and feels passionately about what his role is in the industry.
"I'm here to entertain, to make people laugh and forget about their troubles for a while. All the dramas have a message, not that the musicals don't ... but I'd rather have tears of joy from a production than get depressed by it, and tears of joy can come from a beautiful skirt that flows when someone's dancing."
It was during his days at Cabrillo that Marquez developed and cultivated the talent and craft of costume design that have served him rest of his life.
"Whether it's for a film or television, or whether it's for my god-daughter's little hot-pink party dress," says Marquez, "I'm still sweating over it: 'Is it good enough, is it good enough?'"
Shakespeare Santa Cruz (SSC) will also be celebrating its 25th year this summer with three productions: Shakespeare's comic As You Like It and tragic King Lear, as well as George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.
Mike Ryan, actor for Shakespeare Santa Cruz since 1997, says, "All three plays factor women who, through personal strength and force of will--because none of them have any power in their society--manage to challenge the patriarchal systemin the plays."
According to Ryan, "The patriarchal systems of the three plays are stifling, and not conducive to growth or creativity." But in all three plays, the revolutionary female characters ultimately bring about change. "By the end of the plays, those old systems have really been overthrown," says Ryan.
One of SSC's objectives is to bring Shakespeare and other classic texts into the here-and-now of Santa Cruz, by linking the political and social themes and tensions of the time to more contemporary contexts.
"Very often, most of the time, SSC productions are set in contemporary settings," says Ryan, "This summer's As You Like It will be set in the Western U.S. at the turn of the century, the San Francisco miner-era days."
For more information on the two theater companies' 25th anniversary summer seasons, visit www.cabrillostage.com and www.shakespearesantacruz.org.
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