Marcela Paguaga taps her laptop keys as she puts the finishing touches on the script for her upcoming one-woman show. The 28-year-old actress moves her hands to her temples to concentrate. Inspiration returns once again, and her fingers resume their dance across the keyboard.
Miami audiences will recognize Paguaga from her performance at The Amparo Experience, which took over Villa 221 in April and will end its run later this month. For the immersive theater production, the young actress played cabaret singer Margarita Maria Mendoza. Now Paguaga is gearing up for her own cabaret-style one-woman show, Oye: Starring Marcela Paguaga.
“I would describe Oye as a Cuban cabaret,” the actress says with a laugh, now able to speak more freely after tinkering with her show just a bit more.
“I wanted to showcase myself in a way that not everyone has gotten the chance to see," she adds. "Yes, you’ve seen me in Amparo, and, yes, you’ve seen me in other local productions, but you’ve never seen me like this.”
The Hialeah native is incorporating a live band and several auxiliary dancers into Oye’s production. “I’ll be singing; I’ll be acting; I’ll be dancing. It really is a cabaret-style performance, but like a Cuban version,” she explains.
The event's name comes from her opening number, a cover of Gloria Estefan’s 1998 hit “Oye.” Paguaga has a simple, succinct answer for why she chose that song and title: “I wanted to call it something where you hear the name and it makes you want to go and see it.”
She also toyed with the idea of naming it Cojelo Suave, for the Instagrammable neon sign inside the restaurant La Mesa, where her show will take place.
While studying at Miami’s New World School of the Arts, Paguaga had to write, direct, and star in a one-person show as part of her college thesis. The final product, Reality Check, was inspired by her love of reality TV, particularly the Kardashian klan. This was the first time the actress got a taste of commanding the stage by herself, and she found it exhilarating.
Paguaga would go on to perform Reality Check more than 200 times between 2015 and 2017, including a stint at the Fort Lauderdale Fringe Festival and at the Chicago Fringe Festival.
“People don’t do one-person shows as much as they should,” she says. “A lot of people do it in New York and Chicago, but you don’t see it as much here in Miami,” she says. She hopes Oye will do its part to change that fact.
Describing the pace of the 60-minute show, Paguaga rattles off its structure at a speed that would make her Cuban ancestors proud.
“I’ll be onstage; I’ll be offstage; I’ll be interacting with the audience. You’re also gonna get some improv. That’s going to be the magic of the show," she says. "I want to make it a show that screams, 'Marcela.'”
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But don’t scream “Marcela” during her set, and if you do, be prepared to get called out: She’s quick on her feet, and she’ll be the only one holding the microphone.
“I really also want to get behind the bar and make some shots,” she adds with a sly, Grinch-like smile. “So maybe you’ll get a specialty shot that night mixed by yours truly.”
Summarizing her ambitions for Oye, Paguaga says, “We’re going to sing, we’re going to dance, and we’re going to talk shit.”
Oye: Starring Marcela Paguaga. 7 p.m. Tuesday, November 19, at La Mesa Restaurant, 8872 SW 24th St., Miami; 786-703-3907. Tickets start at $25 via eventbrite.com.