When sexual allegations in Hollywood started making headlines, student director Vanessa Cortez turned to a play she read in high school, “Real Women Have Curves,” and decided to bring it to Cal State Fullerton.
“It really made me feel like women need voice and a higher representation than what they are getting now,” Cortez said.
Her production will kickoff the CSUF theatre and dance department’s B.A. Showcase season on March 9. The series which consists of semimonthly performances put on entirely by students and also include a few original shows.
When Cortez decided she wanted to submit her work to the B.A. Showcase, she knew she wanted to lead an all-female cast, particularly focusing on the strong, hard-working, full-figured Latina women represented in “Real Women Have Curves.” Producer Lesley Aguirre and stage manager Iliana Solorzano accompany Cortez in the completely female crew.
The play is inspired by playwright Josefina López’s life in East Los Angeles in the 1980s and follows five Latina women who work in a sewing factory. Cortez said the show has themes of self-acceptance, immigration, family and the pursuit of the American dream.
From the moment she read the title of the play, 19-year-old acting major Paige Taylor, who plays Pancha, jumped at the opportunity to be a part of “Real Women Have Curves.”
Taylor said the play emphasizes how a woman’s weight can affect her through small comments here and there from others that can impact a person.
Nineteen-year-old freshman Amanda Zaida Hansen plays Carmen, mother of Ana and Estela (played by freshmen Victoria Castillo and Sabrina Lynn Lopez). Carmen reminds Zaida Hansen of her own mother from the things she says. Zaida Hansen’s grandmother migrated from Nicaragua and raised her mother in San Francisco.
“My mom passed away this year and just thinking about her has brought me a lot of joy, and I know she would really just love this (play) so much,” Zaida Hansen said.
Victoria Faith Montoya plays Rosali, who is the skinniest woman of the five, yet she said she still battles with her body image. Montoya appreciates the opportunity to play a character that can uniquely touch upon the shame in how one looks. Rosali has anorexia, and despite her lightweight figure, is concerned with packing on pounds if she eats. In one of the scenes, she even faints as a result of her food deprivation.
“That’s happened to me because working and going to school full-time is really hard, and there was this one week where I didn’t eat,” Montoya said. “That hit home because I was like ‘Oh crap, I’ve worked that hard before.'”
Cortez said she instantly thought about casting Montoya when she decided to direct the play because she felt Montoya perfectly embodies its message. They have known each other since their freshman year at CSUF and work full-time while pursuing theater education.
“Not a single woman in this play has a weak spot. It gives women an empowerment to keep pushing forward no matter what the stakes or circumstances may be, and that giving up is not an option,” Cortez said.
The character Estela is an undocumented worker who works hard at the sewing factory to earn a salary out of fear of being exposed and deported. Cortez said she knows a few students who are DACA recipients and was additionally inspired to tell a story that puts immigration at the forefront.
“Seeing them not know what’s going to happen for them next in life is terrifying and it’s scary,” Cortez said. “To show undocumented workers, or even people who have migrated here that are legal, that no matter where you come from, or what your status might be or what your dreams are, it is possible.”
She hopes the play’s message will promote acceptance for immigrants in their pursuit of the American dream like the characters in “Real Women Have Curves.”
“This play is very special because you don’t have to be Hispanic, or female, or speak Spanish to understand it,” Cortez said. “Anyone who comes into the Arena Theatre and watches will know what this story is.”
“Real Women Have Curves” will be free to attend and will be showcased on March 9 at noon. Arriving early is recommended as the seating is first come, first served.