Summer Arts pick: Sandra Marquez, a powerhouse Chicago actor and proud Fresno State alum, returns for Latinx theatre public performance

Theater lovers won’t want to miss the Summer Arts public performance on Wednesday, July 5. That’s when four of the professional actors teaching the workshop titled ”Latinx Voices On Stage: Community, Lineage, and Performance” will perform.

Pictured above: Sandra Marquez, seated on the left with legs extended, teaches at Summer Arts.  Photo: Nayeli Flores

One of those guest artists is Sandra Marquez, who graduated in 1988 from Fresno State’s theater program and has gone on to an illustrious professional career as an actor, director and educator, mostly in the Chicago area. She was the first Latinx company member of the prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre Company, and she’s been instrumental as a member of Teatro Vista, the largest Latinx theater company in the Midwest.

Here are 5 Things to Know about Marquez and Wednesday’s performance (7 p.m. at the Concert Hall at Fresno State):


Marquez went to Fresno High School but didn’t get bitten by the theater bug until Fresno State.

She was close at Fresno State to such well-known professors as Terry Miller, Kathleen McKinley and Brad Myers. Her first role at the university was in a show titled “Mrs. California.” Other memorable shows included Simon Gray’s “Butley” and Noel Coward’s “Fallen Angels.”


“I would say those really stand out because they were my first three shows I did and I just learned so much,” she says.

After Fresno State, she got her MFA at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and wound up making Chicago her base. She hates the weather and will take the dry heat of Fresno over the humidity of Chicago any day, but the theater scene in Chicago grabbed her and never let her go.

However, she knows where home is. “I’ll always be a Fresno girl,” she says.


She hesitated on her career choice. Sister Sandra, anyone?

“I did have a slight detour when I tried to join a convent,” she says.

It was at her local Fresno parish, and the sisters there were progressive and didn’t wear habits. They would get arrested for protesting nuclear arms and ran a shelter for abused women. She loved their mission and values. So Marquez asked to join.

“It sounds dramatic to say I got rejected, but really what it was is they were, like, ‘You need to finish college and date a lot and then decide,’ “ she says.

One reason for the convent flirtation was that she didn’t think being an actor seemed noble, somehow. She thought she should be doing something “bigger” with her life.

“But I found there are stories you can tell that actually help to uplift unheard voices. And so that, for me, became my own personal mission, which is eventually what led me to join Teatro Vista, and it definitely informs and infuses the work that I’ve done at Steppenwolf and everyplace else. So I kind of found my own mission through my artistic work.”


She loves the classic Greek roles.

One thing she’s known for is playing such roles as Clytemnestra in works by Aeschylus, Euripedes and Sophocles. (She played Clytemnestra for a four-year arc at the Court Theatre.) She’s also been deeply involved with Luis Alfaro’s Chicano adaptations of the Greek classics. Marquez originated the roles of Clemencia in Alfaro’s “Electricidad” (based on “Electra”) at the Goodman Theatre, and Armeda in “Mojada” (based on “Medea” at Victory Gardens Theater.

“It’s been interesting to have those different renderings and conversations,” she says.


She just finished co-directing a play titled “The Dream King” for Teatro Vista in Chicago.

It’s about a man who falls in love with the woman of his dreams but can only be with her when he sleeps.

The creator of the project, Marvin Quijada, is a big fan of silent movies. The play is billed as a “silent musical” and does not feature any audible dialogue. Instead, title cards (in English, Spanish and Polish) are used, along with musical effects and lots of “eye-popping visuals” (as described by the Chicago Sun-Times). It closed June 18.

“It did incredibly well, and I’m really pleased with it,” Marquez says. “We’re hoping it has a continued life.”


The performance at Fresno State will be eclectic.

The theme of the “Latinx Voices on Stage” workshop performance is lineage, and each of the four participating artists (Marie Ramirez Downing, Cynthia Santos DeCure, Andrew Sianez-De La O, and Marquez) will explore that topic through text and possibly music.

For Marquez, it’s always a memorable experience to return to Fresno State, especially when she’s doing her teaching in the same space – what is now called the Woods Theatre – that she made her own theater debut.

“When I got there and met the students in the room where I did plays and classes, I felt really kind of emotional,” she says.

A couple of added Fresno State notes:

The course coordinator is Marie Ramirez Downing, who graduated in 1999 from Fresno State with a theater degree. She is now an assistant professor of Theatre Arts at Sonoma State University. A Fresno State memory: She played Mary Warren in “The Crucible,” directed by Brad Myers.

One of the guest artists is Gina Sandi Diaz, an assistant professor at Fresno State specializing in Latinx theatre, devised theatre, acting and directing.

The Munro Review has no paywall but is financially supported by readers who believe in its non-profit mission of bringing professional arts journalism to the central San Joaquin Valley. You can help by signing up for a monthly recurring paid membership or make a one-time donation of as little as $3. All memberships and donations are tax-deductible.

Covering the arts online in the central San Joaquin Valley and beyond. Lover of theater, classical music, visual arts, the literary arts and all creative endeavors. Former Fresno Bee arts critic and columnist. Graduate of Columbia University and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Excited to be exploring the new world of arts journalism.

Leave a Reply