Arlene Martínez-Vázquez on ‘Native Gardens,’ Latinx characters and imagination

Illustration by Tom DesLongchamp

Theater director Arlene Martínez-Vázquez worked and trained all over the world before arriving in Seattle. On top of a full-time job as education director at Seattle Repertory Theatre, she’s growing her own theater company, Thriving Artists, and juggling a full director’s dance card.

What show(s) are you working on this fall?
Native Gardens opens at the Jones Playhouse, produced by Intiman, on Sept. 6. Next, The Proof Porch Project (the first bilingual/outdoor version of David Auburn’s Proof) has its public performance at the Annie Wright School in Tacoma on Sept. 29. Last but not least, my theater company’s Juan Palmieri opens at ACT (as part of the Lab) on Nov. 1. All three shows showcase Latinx characters in positions of power and tell relevant stories spanning from the private/familial to the public/political.

What fall show that you’re not involved with are you most looking forward to seeing?
In the Heights at Seattle Rep. I’ve been grieving for my country for a few months now, so I need a show that will celebrate my culture and talk about it in a joyful way.

What do you wish civilians knew about your job?
That it takes an insane amount of time, people and money to put on a play. That it takes time, money and resources to train as a director (be it in practice or through academia). That it takes a lot of skill to make things look seamless, natural and realistic on stage. That they are allowed to react vocally.

I would give anything to work with:
Seattle Children’s Theatre. I love the imagination in their plays and I absolutely love sitting in the audience with 100-plus entranced kids. I have a background in children’s theater, physical and mask theater and I would love nothing more than working to give children their first experience of the magic of theater.

Biggest non-theater inspiration:
Juan Muñoz. He was a Spanish sculptor who passed away in 2001. His work is deeply theatrical. I would love to use some of it in a play, one day, somehow.