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Interview: Young Actor, Mike Sifuentes Reflects on His Time in AUNT JULIA & THE SCRIPTWRITER at Main Street Theater

Production runs until Sunday, June 5th.

As both a graduate student in a performing arts school and a general fan of theater, it is always exciting to see young actors gain professional opportunities. One of the actors I've had the pleasure of seeing blossom in the theatre world is University of Houston student, Mike Sifuentes. After enjoying his performances in a variety of productions, he continues his brilliant work in Main Street Theater's production of AUNT JULIA AND THE SCRIPTWRITER.

Interview: Young Actor, Mike Sifuentes Reflects on His Time in AUNT JULIA & THE SCRIPTWRITER at Main Street Theater
Armando Gonzalez and Mike Sifuentes in Main Street Theater's Aunt Julie & the Scriptwriter.
Photo by Ricornel Productions

What is (without spoilers) Aunt Julia & the Scriptwriter about?!

Aunt Julia & The Scriptwriter is set in Lima, Peru, during the mid-1950s at the height of radio as a broadcast medium and is the story of Mario, an 18-year-old college student. Mario is trying to discover what he wants to pursue in life. He is currently pursuing a law degree and has a gift for writing stories while also working at the local radio station. Mario meets two people who would change his life entirely at this crossroad: his soon-to-be writing mentor, Pedro Camacho, a writer of dramatic radio plays, and the woman he would marry, Julia Urdiqui. She also happens to be his aunt (not by blood relation). While starting to hone his writing skills with Pedro and exploring a relationship with Julia, Mario is caught in the middle of two different lives he wants to forge for himself.

Interview: Young Actor, Mike Sifuentes Reflects on His Time in AUNT JULIA & THE SCRIPTWRITER at Main Street Theater
Amanda Martinez and Leandro Salazar in Main Street Theater's Aunt Julia & the Scriptwriter.
Photo by Ricornel Productionsa??a??a??a??a??

What is your role and how are you preparing for it?

I play Genaro, the Radio Station Owner in Aunt Julia & The Scriptwriter. This has been a fascinating role because of the world "Aunt Julia" inhabits, both the realism of Mario Vargas Llosa's life and the wacky magical realm that is slapstick and screwball comedy. It is in the latter where Genaro lives. That means I get to play with wild gestures and crazy pitches and all those little elements that make comedy so fun. Many times in rehearsals, Amelia Rico, our director, would allow us to run through the scene in wildly different ways to find those delightful line deliveries and grand gestures that eventually make the craziness that lives on stage. Alongside the many improv games and wild rehearsals, I researched that specific era of television and radio and especially its influence on Central and South American culture and traditions. My dad and mom have told me of vivid memories of getting together with their siblings to listen to the radio dramas or the Sunday Sermon from their local church. That research and the ability to try the craziest ideas in rehearsal really shaped Genaro as a character for me. With that understanding, though, the challenge for me was still discovering what Genaro, as a character, was fighting against/for in the story. Wacky as he is, this is a character who is fighting against a wave of new media that threatens his current way of life, television. He runs a station that employs so many people and allows for the delivery of information and entertainment. Here comes television threatening to uproot all that, so Genaro hires Pedro Camacho, a genius writer of melodrama, to captivate new audiences through the radio dramas present in the play. Now, if you want to see whether or not Genaro's plan works out, you'll have to come to see for yourself

How were rehearsals for Aunt Julia, anything interesting thoughts or moments happen

This rehearsal process has been one of my favorites. It laid the groundwork for everyone in the cast to truly ease into and essentially play around with these characters and the magical realism of the world. Every day for the first week or so, Amelia, our director, would start off with improv games that were so much fun to be a part of. There was never a moment where we weren't laughing like crazy because of our improv games. As we worked through the scenes, we would often go through the scenes 3-4 times in a row, each with wildly different circumstances, such as a Telenovela, a Cantiflas movie, or even a comedic style. Anything was game! It was all in service to shape the story that we as a company wanted to tell and find in that story those moments of authenticity and connection that make this story one that needs to be told. I think that is the beauty of the story that Mario Vargas Llosa and Caridad Svich present to us, that while there are moments in this story that are wildly fantastical and hysterical,at its there is still a story of people trying to navigate their everyday life, and forge their own path the best way they can. Honestly, my absolute favorite part was being a part of this show alongside an entire Latinx Cast. While we all come from different places and countries even, the shared sense of community and culture that we all have was something that truly made this space a beautiful one to be in. I have enjoyed every moment on and off stage, every joke we make, and all the lunches and trips to Starbucks. It is these small moments that I hold close to me. I believe the cast's chemistry has really translated to the chemistry everyone has onstage. Everyone in this cast is pouring their heart out and having fun on stage. I hope that audiences can also connect with that same sense of community and fun.

Interview: Young Actor, Mike Sifuentes Reflects on His Time in AUNT JULIA & THE SCRIPTWRITER at Main Street Theater
Mike Sifuentes and Cast in Main Street Theaters Aunt Julia & the Scriptwriter.
Photo by Ricornel Productions.a??

I know you go to the University of Houston, how has attending UH been vital to your success as an actor?

It has. This is one of my first shows outside of school, so this time around, I could not solely rely on my mentors/professors or even my classmates to guide me, as they were not in the rehearsal room with me. I was able to rely on the many lessons I have learned during my time at UH to craft my own process and really figure out my own approach to acting. I think that there is what I appreciate about UH's School of Theatre and Dance; the fact that while I am learning about various acting from Meisner to Adler and how to break down a script analytically, to even Shakespeare. It is the knowledge to bring all those different methods and mold them into my own craft and technique; that is my biggest takeaway. This last school year was one filled to the brim with Shakespeare. I learned so much, ranging from the history of Shakespeare, the rhetorical devices used in his plays, and even researching the references found in his plays. That level of research and implementation really helped me make sure that as an actor, I understand every aspect of the character, not just my lines and how I say them, but what role my character plays in the greater scope of the story.

Interview: Young Actor, Mike Sifuentes Reflects on His Time in AUNT JULIA & THE SCRIPTWRITER at Main Street Theater
Ricardo Hernandez-Morgan and Leandro Salazar in Main Street Theaters Aunt Julia & the Scriptwriter.
Photo by Ricornel Productions.

Main Street Theater is a staple in the Houston theater scene, how is it working with such an exciting company?

It has been a great experience! When I first started doing theater in high school, I looked up every local theater to know which ones existed in my own backyard. Main Street Theater has always been one of the theaters in Houston that has excited me when I hear about the fantastic productions they put on. I had the chance to see their production of Eliot: A Soldier's Fugue in Early 2020, right before the pandemic hit, and I just loved everything about the production, from the story to the cast, to the direction, and wondering to myself about how I would enjoy a chance to create art with such a great company. A couple of years later, I get to fulfill that wish of mine. Everyone at Main Street has been a joy to work with. You can tell that they are all passionate about making theater that truly not only entertains but pushes the boundary of what theater can be here in the City of Houston.

Interview: Young Actor, Mike Sifuentes Reflects on His Time in AUNT JULIA & THE SCRIPTWRITER at Main Street Theater
Amanda Martinez and Leandro Salazar in Main Street Theaters Aunt Julia & the Scriptwriter.
Photo by Ricornel Productions.

Any other plans for the future from Mike, any other productions?

As to what the future holds? As of right now, I am getting prepared for my senior year of college over at the University of Houston, which I am so excited about! I am working on a few short films with some students from the Valenti School of Communication throughout the summer. But after a long semester, a nice summer break sounds like the perfect thing to recharge my batteries. I have been learning more about theater as a whole, I have realized that as much as I love acting as an art form, I am also discovering a passion for directing, seeing the bigger picture of a play, and putting all the pieces of sound, lighting, set design, and acting altogether to create a world in which artists to showcase their craft. I am looking forward to what my last year of college brings. Still, I am equally ecstatic about the beginning of my artistic career. For now, I am going to replenish my energy, then eventually hit the ground running soon enough.

Interview: Young Actor, Mike Sifuentes Reflects on His Time in AUNT JULIA & THE SCRIPTWRITER at Main Street Theater
Mike Sifuentes and Armando Gonzalez in Main Street Theaters Aunt Julia & the Scriptwriter.
Photo by Ricornel Productions.

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter is written in English by Caridad Svich and is based on the original novel by Mario Vargas Llosa. This production runs until Sunday, June 5th. Evening performances are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 PM, with matinee performances on Sundays at 3:00 PM. Tickets can be bought at the link below, or at https://mainstreettheater.com/aunt-julia/ or at the theater located on 2540 Times Blvd, Houston, TX 77005 in The Rice Village. Vaccinations are no longer required but masks are strongly encouraged.



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