Erlina Ortiz and Gabriela Sanchez said that it wasn’t always easy getting roles in plays during their time at Temple.
“I wasn’t the easiest character to cast,” Ortiz said. “Especially with me being almost 6 feet tall, [I couldn’t] really show my talent.”
After graduating from Temple, Sanchez said she decided she wasn’t going to “whine about getting roles,” so she decided to develop a theater company that would not only showcase the talents of Latin Americans, but that could also give way to other cultural talents.
The company she created, Power Street Theatre Company, is run by women from a multitude of cultural backgrounds, and aims to be relatable to all kinds of people.
The Philadelphia-based company was featured in the 2014 Philly Fringe Festival at Taller Puertorriqueño for the second year in a row. Its play, “Morir Sonyando,” was about “family and the grace we must choose to bestow on another every day to keep alive,” according to its press release.
The play was written by Erlina Ortiz, the company’s playwright and artistic director. The show was somewhat focused “on the Latin community,” said Gabriela Sanchez, company founder and executive director, who added, “people of all colors can relate to it.” Both women are Temple graduates.
Sanchez said the company does a “talk-back,” after every performance, allowing the members of the company to hear feedback from the audience on their performance.
Sanchez said the talk-back segment after every performance gives the company an opportunity to be “the face of social and political change.” Ortiz added that the FringeArts Festival gave them a chance to advertise the company and a higher chance of people from the community to come see their work.
Showing the festival at Taller Puertorriqueño, which is located at 2257 N. 5th St., was a different choice from locations the “Fringe people,” as Sanchez referred to them, had opted for in years past. Community members who aren’t always able to see theater performances were given the opportunity to come see the show and try to relate to it due to the increased accessibility.
“It’s beautiful to witness North Philadelphia people who’ve never seen a theater show give their feedback,” Sanchez said. “All different ages, races, genders, etcetera.” She added that the festival allowed them to create the most diverse audience members in the city.
Sanchez and Ortiz both agreed the common assumption that “all-woman-ran businesses aren’t as successful as those with men as leaders in their companies.”
“We’ve been like the dream team since the beginning,” Ortiz said. “We’ve kept friends stuff friendly and business stuff business.”
“Communication [plays a big part in it],” Sanchez added. “We both have different personalities, but are clear and respectful of each other. We both have a common goal [that we want to reach].”
Sanchez and Ortiz agreed that the company seeks to bring stories to the stage where members of the community can relate and meet characters that they wouldn’t be able to in other theatrical platforms as well as in the real world.
Sanchez and Ortiz mentioned last year’s participation in the FringeArts Festival as their first professional show titled, “MinorityLand.” The play tackles what it means to be a minority for the women, what it means to be a community and how words and actions can affect others.
The play specifically focuses on how African Americans and Latinos are affected by a local university purchasing community properties that force them to relocate, according to Power Street’s website.
Ortiz said she was very grateful and happy when Sanchez approached her about joining the company.
“[Sanchez] said, ‘Hey, I have this opportunity or idea to develop a theater company, would you like to be a part of it?’ Ortiz said. “I initially came on as an actress. No one knew I could write. Then I decided to start writing.”
Sanchez and Ortiz said for the most part, their company aims to produce universal content that can reach people all across the board.
“These plays can speak to anyone,” Sanchez said. “It’s beautiful to me to see it reach groups of all colors.”
“Don’t wait,” Ortiz said. “Create the opportunity yourself.”
Ashley Caldwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org