‘Electricidad’ premieres in Fresno for the first time with all-Latino cast

Jennifer Rodriguez as the lead character in 'Electricidad.' (Courtesy of Miguel Gastelum)

University Theatre is bringing its fifth production of the season, “Electricidad,” to Fresno for the first time through April 2.

“Electricidad,” written by Luis Alfaro, re-imagines Sophocles’ “Electra,” an ancient Greek story of revenge,  as a “Chicano tragedy” in east Los Angeles.

Jennifer Rodriguez as ‘Electricidad.’ (Courtesy of Miguel Gastelum)

The all-Latino/a cast helps emphasize and embody the Chicano culture with sporadic use of Spanish throughout the play. 

“I needed a cast of actors that was familiar with a culture and familiar with the language, and Fresno State is a great place for that. We have a lot of actors that have connections to Latino culture, and specifically Mexican culture,” said director and Fresno State faculty member Gina Sandí-Díaz.

It’s Sandí-Díaz’s fifth play for Fresno State, and she reflects on her continued efforts to highlight Latin American voices in her production choices, according to the director. 

“It digs really deep into Aztec roots and how our cultures – you know, Chicanos, Cholos – also have a robust and millenary culture that is sustaining us, and we don’t get to see that every day. So, I think it’s beautiful to have a story that represents Chicano culture in that way,” Sandí-Díaz said.

The story is about Electricidad, played by Jennifer Rodriguez, a young girl who wants revenge after her mother murders her father, but is waiting on her brother’s return from Las Vegas for help. 

‘Electricidad’ is the story of the aftermath of the murder of Electricdad’s father by her mother. (Courtesy of Miguel Gastelum)

“[Electricidad] is fiercely loyal and is very proud to be a chola. Throughout her life, she was surrounded with the machismo, toxic masculinity, and throughout this play we watch her try to navigate it and eventually pave a path for herself,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez is a junior from the College of the Sequoias transferring to Fresno State to pursue a bachelor’s degree in theatre arts. This is her debut performance on the main stage, and she said she is “really honored to be a part of an all-Latinx cast.”

“‘Electricidad’ brings to Fresno State culture an understanding of Latinx theater, which is often not seen within the Central Valley,” Rodriguez added.

Ellie West, a theatre arts major in her final semester at Fresno State, plays Electricidad’s mother Clemencia and described the character as a “warrior feminist chola.” 

Ellie West as Electricidad’s mother, Clemencia. (Courtesy of Miguel Gastelum)

“‘Electricidad’ is a good choice to bring to Fresno State because it is a Latinx retelling of a Greek tragedy and a female heavy show, giving more opportunity to our own community here at Fresno State,” West said.

The cast and crew has not been as impacted by COVID-19 compared with previous productions during the pandemic. Although Fresno State no longer enforces a mask mandate, it remains careful with Zoom rehearsals by continuing to encourage masks. 

“We stayed masked until we began our tech rehearsal. Though the mandate is lifted, as a cast, we have to be extra careful to make sure no one gets sick so we can share the story we have been working on,” Rodriguez said.

Sandí-Díaz said that, while no cast members tested positive for COVID-19, general sickness did affect production. Ensuring understudies are cast and precautionary measures are being taken is a necessary step toward protecting theatre participants from sickness, according to the director. 

‘Electricidad’ is the first time the lead actor, Jennifer Rodriguez, has been on the main stage. (Courtesy of Miguel Gastelum)

“I think that one of the valuable lessons of this is that, as artists, as a collective art form in theater, we need to start paying attention to this. We shouldn’t keep pushing like we were pushing before the pandemic,” Sandí-Díaz said. 

“I hope that moving forward, we keep some of those precautions in place,” she said.

Performances began on March 25 and continue this week March 29 – April 2 from 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. Doors open 30 minutes before curtain time, and latecomers will not be permitted.

Tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for Fresno State faculty, staff, alumni and military and $10 for all students. The production is intended for mature audiences, so children under 12 are not allowed entrance. 

Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative result from a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of the performance day is required for entrance.

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