As Broadway begins to reopen its theatres, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Mauricio Martínez, who played Emilio Estefan in the Broadway production and national tour of On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio & Gloria Estefan. He subsequently starred in the world premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical memoir Unmasked at the Paper Mill Playhouse and can be seen in NBC Universo’s Emmy-winning TV series El Vato on Netflix. The Mexico native also appeared in the Mexico City stage productions of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Saturday Night Fever, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Sweet Charity as well as the premiere Spanish versions of Off Broadway’s The Last Five Years and Songs From An Unmade Bed.
Martínez will return to Feinstein’s/54 Below July 21 at 7 PM with a brand-new show entitled Back on 54th Street. He will be joined by special guests Michael Longoria (Jersey Boys) and Claudia Mulet (On Your Feet!). Click here for ticket information.
What is your typical day like now?
I usually wake up around 8 AM and make some coffee, meditate for 15 or 20 minutes. Sometimes I write in my journal; it really depends on the day and if I have something to do (work-related) in the mornings. The weather in NYC is so nice right now that I like to go to the park to run and then go to the gym, make some breakfast (Mexicans eat breakfast later than Americans). Once I’ve done all that, my day started off right. I just got a new apartment, so I’ve been busy decorating it and making it my new home.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
I’ve binge watched so much this past year. Veneno is a wonderful Spanish series that I think everyone should watch. And the In the Heights film. I know it’s been controversial, but it truly is a beautiful film. I see it as a labor of love, and it’s so incredible to see so many Latinos shining. If you haven’t watched it, watch it. It lifts your spirits up. Plus, you’ll be able to see and listen to one of my dearest friends, Doreen Montalvo, who sadly passed away last year. They do a beautiful tribute to her.
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of?
I think this past year there has been an awakening of some sorts for many of us, myself included, in regards to the power of the BIPOC community. I think it’s very important for the people in power to fully understand that this is just the beginning in the much-needed shift and that our voices need to be heard more and more each time. We need to be represented in all areas, not only up on stage but behind the curtain, directing, writing, casting, producing, composing… The time is now. We’re literally in the point of no return.
What do you want them to consider further?
It wasn’t really until I moved to this country that I realized I was also part of the BIPOC community as a Mexican immigrant, even though my skin is white. So I think it’s very important for everyone to understand that the BIPOC community comes in many colors. But it is so important to know that those who have been marginalized, oppressed, and silenced in the past are not going to take it anymore. I believe in dialogue, in relearning and letting go of old habits and preconceived notions. One needs to open up their eyes, their hearts and their minds, check their egos at the door, and let love in. That’s the only way forward.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation and/or the current unrest?
I have been struggling on and off with both depression and anxiety ever since I was diagnosed with bladder cancer for the first time 11 years ago. I’m now a four-time cancer survivor, and if it weren’t for my therapist, my support group of friends, family and loved ones, I wouldn’t have been able to come out of it as strongly as I did. You also need discipline to do the work (like really confronting your demons, and being honest about how you’re feeling, learning how to ask for help if you feel there’s something wrong, and listening to your body). So my advice would be to take it one day at a time and know that it’s okay not to be okay. We’re all going through collective trauma after over 16 months of this pandemic that changed our lives forever. Be easy on yourself. We’re all going through a hard time, in one way or another. Make sure to have a great support team of family and friends. And go to therapy. I know people immediately hear that word, and they think it’s expensive, which it normally is. But there’s so many places where you can get counseling for an affordable rate…or even for free. It’s a game changer.
How, if at all, are you keeping your creative juices flowing?
I have been writing for over a year now. It started as homework from my therapist, and it quickly evolved into a journal, which then turned into a memoir. It’s been so therapeutic to go down memory lane and put it all in writing. That has definitely helped me maintain my sanity throughout all this. I’ve also done so many virtual concerts and that has definitely helped me stay creative.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
My dear friend Jaime Lozano and I have been developing a musical called Present Perfect that is very exciting. I’m also working on my third album with Broadway Records, and that definitely has to do with theatre. And, of course, there’s been workshops, readings, and work sessions that will hopefully turn into a new project soon.
How do you feel about returning to live performance?
I feel like a little boy on Christmas Eve waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. That’s literally how I feel. It’s effervescent. It also almost feels like a miracle. To return to such a beloved stage at 54 Below on July 21 is definitely a wonderful way to come back to live performance. It’s a much-anticipated light at the end of this tunnel.
What would you say to audience members who may be feeling uneasy about returning to a theatre?
We all feel the same. We’ve gone through so much, and it’s not easy to trust again, especially after wearing a mask and maintaining social distance for so long. Trust me when I say that this return has been very carefully thought in order to secure the safety of every audience member as well everyone working on stage and backstage. We’re here.
What organization would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
The New York Immigration Coalition. It’s truly remarkable what they do advocating for the rights of all immigrants in New York State.