30 Jun Senior in Action – Christine Avila
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Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
Former County of LA Public Library Administrator is having the time of her life as a retiree; meeting fascinating people who are active seniors, and volunteering for Soroptimist International of Norwalk and other women’s groups.
Re: photo taken in front of the waterfall:
The waterfall picture was taken at Mendenhall Lake in Alaska when we took our boat up
Senior in Action – Christine Avila
by Marilee Marrero Stefenhagen
This month, I had the honor of speaking to actress Christine Avila, currently appearing in Death of a Salesman, presented by CASA 0101 Theater and Brown Fist Productions through July 16, 2023 in the newly dedicated Gloria Molina Auditorium at CASA 0101 Theater. Set in late 1940s Brooklyn, NY, the two-act tragedy follows the central character of Willy Loman, who is experiencing an epic battle against time, exhaustion and encroaching mental and psychological debility. He desperately must find a way to reconcile his life and the deep pain it has caused his family. In this production, Christine Avila plays Willy Loman’s wife, Linda Loman. Tickets for the play are available for Friday and Saturday nights at 8:00 pm, and on Sundays at 3:00 pm. CASA 0101 Theater is located at 2102 East 1st Street (at St. Louis Street), Boyle Heights, CA 90033. Tickets may be purchased for $30 General Admission ($27 Student or Senior) online at www.casa0101.org or by calling the box office at 323-263-7684. Free street parking is available, or limited free parking may also be available in the Boyle Heights City Hall parking lot, 12130 E. First Street, entrance at Chicago Street.
Christine Avila, age 76, is a veteran actress, singer, and professor. She is delighted to be part of the talented cast in the classic drama, Death of a Salesman. To Christine, it feels refreshing to perform with a primarily Latino cast in this production: Vance Valencia as Willy Loman, Eddie Diaz as Biff Loman, Adam Hollick as Happy Loman, Jack Bernaz as Uncle Ben Loman, Daniel E. Mora as Charley, Jared Treviño as Bernard, Lea Verrill as The Woman, Jeff Blumberg as Howard Wagner, Chloe Diaz as Jenny, Gore Leo Babakhanyan as Stanley, Kriss Dozal as Miss Forsythe and Mariana Campos as Letta.
When Christine Avila started auditioning in the 1970s, she was primarily cast in Latina roles in Zoot Suit at the Mark Taper Forum; playing Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar (National Tour); and as Rosa Gonzalez in Summer and Smoke. To stretch her ability to portray other cultures, and to deal with so-called “ethnic ambiguity,” she took classes at Santa Monica College (Musical Theatre) and joined the Classical Theatre Lab. She performed a one-person show on the life of Cesar Chavez called La Causa for Living Voices for over ten years.
Christine: “Margarita Galban was a big influence in my life fifty years ago. As Director of Bilingual Foundation for the Arts, she provided contracts for Latina/o actors in the ‘70s and a variety of roles in Spanish classical literature (Lorca, and moderns). I still use Manuel de Falla: Siete canciones populares españolas when I’m warming up for a show.”
Christine Avila: “I want to express my appreciation for Josefina López, the Artistic Director behind the non-profit theater, CASA 0101 which she founded with Emmanuel Deleage. Ms. Lopez’ vision is to bring art and live theater programs to Boyle Heights to nurture future Los Angeles storytellers. She transformed a former bridal salon into a leading arts venue for LA’s East side offering year-round theatrical productions, and classes in dramatic writing and acting for youth and adults. Then in 2011, CASA 0101 moved one block away into its present location which now includes a 99-seat theater, art gallery and classroom. My hat’s off to Josefina for all she has done for the arts!”
If you’ve heard the phrase, “It takes one to know one,” you won’t be surprised at Christine Avila’s praise for Josefina López’ vision and mentoring. Ms. Avila herself was recognized as “Teacher of the Year” from UCLA Extension for her work at Fred C. Nelles School for Boys, where she taught theater arts to teen boys in detention. Ms. Avila also worked for 25 years with children’s and adult choirs as Director of Music at St. Clements Church in Santa Monica, and cantor at St. Joan of Arc Church. A UCLA graduate, Christine Avila inspired many college students during her career teaching in the Department of Theatre Arts at USC, UCLA, Loyola Marymount, and at UC Santa Barbara in the Department of Chicano Studies.
Christine Avila believes in the power of words, and enjoys telling a good story. She utilized her acting voice on numerous audiobooks, and won awards for audiobook titles including The Book of Unknown Americans and Where Stars are Scattered, both of which share the voices of immigrant families. Christine’s father was born in Chihuahua, Mexico and emigrated to the United States before she was born. Christine said, “My father was a man of few words, but he was a great listener. I learned from him the importance of listening. He was an obstetrician, at a time when few Latino men went into that field. He understood that women needed him to pay attention, really hear them, and he did. After raising my brother and me, our mother graduated with a Master’s Degree in Spanish Literature at the age of 50 and became a teacher. I am very proud of both my parents.”
Married to Mark Bramhall in 1995, Christine became part of his family which has grown over the years to include six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Christine shared, “Mark wooed me with sonnets.” They love to travel when work allows, and are planning a trip to Europe in summer 2023. She is also a UCLA basketball fan and stays fit doing yoga, dance, bicycling and swimming.
Christine: I know audiences will enjoy our production of Death of a Salesman. It is a timeless classic which never gets boring due to the complexity of the script. Come see it before July 16th.”