61. Elena Garcia

In honor of our MasterMind genius awards, Cultist proudly presents "100 Creatives," where we feature Miami's cultural superheroes in random order. Have suggestions for future profiles? Email with the whos and whys.

61. Elena Maria Garcia

Like thousands of their compatriots, actor Elena Maria Garcia's parents fled the oppressive communist regime that took over Cuba and made for the land of opportunity. But unlike most displaced Cubans, Elena's family "landed under the Liberty Bell" in Philadelphia where Elena was born. And though she and her family would eventually make it to South Florida, being a Cuban out of water would be a theme repeated throughout her life. And one she uses to cull extensive comedic material from.

After fleeing the "plantain famine" in Philly, her tribe relocated to

Miami, but being part of the official exile community didn't stick. So

they packed up for what they thought would be the comfy confines of

Broward County. Elena became one of, "if not the only" Cuban-American in

her Davie school. This led to a major transformation for Elena, one

that would decide her destiny. She found that being a comedienne and

raconteur were better options than "scraping the Miami accent" off her

tongue or "getting her ass kicked again."

Elena realized that acting was her true calling and went on to earn her bachelor's and master's in Fine Arts. She is now a professor at the New

World School of the Arts. But don't mistake her for one of the "those

who can't do, teach" brood. In between nurturing the next Gary Oldman or

Zooey Deschanel, she still finds time to act, direct, and win awards.

Elena has directed over 50 productions and performed as an equity actor

in over 25. She has also been awarded the Carbonell for Best Supporting

Actor in 2009 and was nominated in 2010.

After her prior nomadic existence, Elena finally settled down in the Magic City--bringing some of her magic to us.

1. List five things that inspire you.

-My children

-My students (New World/ Bluedog Acting School for kids)

-Wanting to make a positive change

-Throw people off their tight rope

-Creative people/ Improv!

2. What was your last big project?

Well, there were two simultaneous projects: Zoetic's South Beach Babylon

and New World School of the Arts' Animal Farm. I'm a proud company

member of Zoetic and was cast in its show SBB where I played the role of

Semira Mann. This role kicked my ass, but it challenged me and my

process like no other role has. I loved every minute of it. I had the

opportunity to direct Animal Farm at New World School of the Arts with

an amazing group of young artists (27 to be exact). We were told we had

no budget and to a Cuban all it does is pose a challenge that I will

win. Not only were we able to create a beautiful, fierce and thought

provoking production, we won the competition, but it cost $78.

3. What's your next big project?

I hope to continue to work and produce my one person show, Do You Speak

Mexican? a touching, yet insane, point of view of a Cuban-American

living in Broward when Broward was just a two-way road and four cows.

Back then, we were all Mexican.

4. Why do you do what you do?

(Laughs) It's the only thing I know how to do. There's a sense of

accomplishment that is so deep and fulfilling when I can make someone

laugh or connect with a student and help him or her with his or her

gift. Sorry, dude, nothing else can compare to this deep connection of

ones gift and the opportunity of using it all the time. My father always

said, "Love what you do, do it well and respect it and it will love you

back." I've been given a gift and I use it. And creative people are

compassionate, tolerant, funny, energetic people who view the world a

bit tilted to one side. Who doesn't want to be around that? Sweet Mary! I

can't imagine me doing anything else... well maybe being a cop, but I'd

shoot first then ask questions.

5. What's something you want Miami to know about you?

I don't like Latin food.

What's something you don't want Miami to know about you?

I buy some of my clothes in the boy section at Target (a lot cheaper and they still fit great).

The Creatives so far:

62. Summer Hill
63. Autumn Casey
64. Juan Navarro
65. Serge Toussaint
66. David Rohn
67. Diane Brache
68. Spencer Morin
69. James Anthony
70. Jim Drain
71. Claudia Calle
72. Kevin Arrow

73. Andrew Hevia
74. Ana Mendez
75. Michael McKeever
76. Diana Lozano
77. Ricardo Pau-Llosa
78. Agustina Woodgate
79. Tarell Alvin McCraney
80. Jennifer Kronenberg
81. Farley Aguilar
82. Colin Foord
83. Karelle Levy
84. Matt Gajewski
85. Antonia Wright
86. Allen Charles Klein
87. Christy Gast
88. Gustavo Matamoros
89. Shareen Rubiera-Sarwar

90. Kyle Trowbridge
91. Clifton Childree
92. Jessica Gross
93. Danny Brito
94. Nektar de Stagni
95. Anthony Spinello
96. Vanessa Garcia
97. Justin Long
98. Rosie Herrera
99. Rick Falcon

100. Ingrid B

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ily Goyanes
Contact: Ily Goyanes