Toe-to-Toe with Chicago's Gabriela García
Bianca Marroquín isn't the only Mexican actress lighting up the stage in the hit Broadway musical Chicago. Dance captain Gabriela García is another big reason why Latinos should check out the uproarious jazz-filled production that boasts some of the most provocative dancing in the business. As Chicago‘s dancers – including the Mexican actresses – shimmy on chairs, kick higher than their heads and even boogie while swinging from ladders that flank the stage, García makes sure they all stay on track.
We chatted with García – whose other theater credits include West Side Story, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and Carousal – on the very stage where she performs night after night. She told us about her role in the musical, her acting inspirations and what she hopes to see from Hispanic actors.
What does it feel like to be out here onstage?
It's an amazing feeling. Coming here every night, you can just sit on the stage, and you see the lights, and everyone's getting ready, and we have the orchestra onstage, so you can see them warming up as well (the orchestra starts warming up behind us). It's a beautiful experience. I feel very, very lucky that I'm one of those who is working. There are so many dancers and actors out there, and we are a very small percentage of people right now who are working actors.
What are your responsibilities as a dance captain?
Dance captains basically take care of the choreography of the show. We have three dance captains. If there are new dancers coming in, we teach them the choreography. We're a very good team. I make sure everyone's doing what they're supposed to do. After you do a show eight times a week, [people] start enhancing things, so you say, ‘You know what? Bring it down. Remember what the original step was.' You make sure everything is tight.
What happens if someone pulls a muscle in the middle of a show?
If you hurt yourself badly onstage, then that person goes out during the next possible exit. They let stage management know, and stage management calls one of the swings and says ‘get ready for the role of blah blah blah,' and you go on at the next possible entrance.
I love that part of it – the magic of it. Because the audience never knows what's going on backstage.
So have you found your dream job?
I don't know. I'm going through kind of a transition at the moment. I love what I do, I love the show, I love working with people, teaching, rehearsing with them, but I also want to do more. It's like ‘Now what? What else can I do?'
What other things are you interested in?
I do a lot of voiceovers. And I'm actually getting ready to go to Guadalajara, Mexico, to teach a jazz course in late April. It's good that I can always go out and return the favor; give a little bit of what I've learned. That keeps me going. I'm also involved right now with a movement called “Revolución Latina,” which celebrates the Latin community and [teaches] others to be [their] best. There are other people doing so many things that we don't know about in the Latino community. So we want to be present in this community as well, and say we're also here doing our best.
How do you prep for the show?
I actually went to the gym [today] from five to six, so I'm already warmed up. Then I come to the theater, curl my hair and take my time to do my makeup, very quietly. On occasion if I'm the first one in the dressing room, I'll turn on some music, light a candle, just to get myself going. And if I don't make it to the gym and warm up here, I normally just warm up onstage or in the alleyway, do a little ballet, a little yoga and pilates.
Who are your acting role models?
Glenn Close, Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro, Jack Nicholson.
How do you like New York?
I love the city. I lived in Germany for ten years. I love the whole European tradition, and when I came to New York, I felt so at home because you have all cultures in one city. If you want something Italian, you know where to go; something Mexican, you know where to go. I know the places that sell tamales. I love that mix of culture. I feel really at home. Plus, I get to speak Spanish all the time.
What are your hopes for the Hispanic acting community?
To see more of it here, like [the musical] In the Heights. To be able to open up our world for other people to see. Our world is many colors, many experiences. It's not just one thing. We need to do things to show that, because that's the world we live in. That way we can learn and collaborate with each other.