Santa Ana's Breath of Fire Latina Theater Ensemble once revolutionized the stage with its daring productions. From its signature work The Mexican OC to providing a home in OC for iconic artists like Cherrie Moraga, the company nurtured the creative spark of Latinas. Breath of Fire unfortunately closed the doors to its space in 2011 and has largely gone dark since then.
But rejoice! There's good news. After a ten week summer playwriting series hosted by the group, Breath of Fire is breathing the breath of life with a weekend reading event to cap things off. Unfortunately, there's also sad news, too. Founding member Gina Davidson died suddenly on Monday. The reading will go on in her memory.
“It's shocking and still really sad,” says Breath of Fire artistic director Sara Guerrero of her friend and colleague's death. “We want to continue honoring her way of inspiring people to explore their creative side.”
The ten week summer playwriting series Breath of Fire hosted is something Davidson wanted to participate in as a writer herself. “A lot of people knew her as a designer, but she's also an incredible storyteller,” Guerrero adds. On hiatus for nearly five years with no real budget, honing the skills of playwrights through workshops seemed like the best way to have Breath of Fire reengage with the community it served so well.
Mostly Latina women from SanTana heeded the call, but some men also got in the mix as well as non-Latinos. Teaching guests from South Coast Rep and elsewhere lent their talents to the summer-long series open to writers of all levels of experience. “It was really exciting to watch a community discover their storytelling skills,” Guerrero says.
Latino Health Access, the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art and Guerrero's own backyard served as rotating spaces among others for the playwright series.
The final products to be read Saturday at the Frida Cinema in Downtown SanTana include explorations of family dramas, gentrification, immigration, coming of age stories, dating and actor Tom Sandoval's solo show about his Vietnam War experience. “There's not one thing that's alike,” Guerrero says.
That's how Davidson would have wanted it. She struggled with time commitments but contributed to the series the best she could. The co-founder of Breath of Fire also wanted to bring back The Mexican OC where she did her best costume designing. Guerrero insists on finding a way to do so in memory of her friend.
“She was the one who got me to see myself as an artist,” Guerrero says. Davidson never sought the limelight but stayed busy making sure Breath of Fire would shine. “This community meant a lot to Gina.”
Breath of Fire Latina Theater's shared reading at The Frida Cinema, 305 E. Fourth St., Santa Ana, Sat., 1 p.m. Free. (Some piece may contain adult language and situations)