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 email@example.com 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 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.
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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