2018 TRUE WEST AWARDS, Day 23
Tony Garcia may be the engine of Su Teatro, but his daughter is the one who puts the oil in the engine
It’s been long settled that Managing Director Mica Garcia de Benavidez will one day succeed her father as Executive Artistic Director of Su Teatro, Colorado’s only and enduring Chicano theatre. It will be a seismic change for the company given that Tony Garcia has been rattling theatre cages around Denver and beyond for the past 46 years.
But de Benavidez has been part of the daily life of Su Teatro for all but the four years she attended Claremont McKenna College. She was born into the company in 1979 and met Public Theatre founder Joseph Papp when she was performing for Su Teatro in a national Latino theatre festival in New York. … She was 7. One might say her destiny has been fixed since birth.
“What can I say? This is a family business,” Garcia said with a laugh. “She should be happy I’m not a butcher. Then she’d have to be at my side cutting meat at 4 o’clock every morning.”
Speaking of birth: For years, the start time for Su Teatro’s mainstage shows was officially listed as 8:05 p.m. Why not straight up 8 o’clock?
“Because I was born at 8:05 p.m.,” said de Benavidez, adding in jest: “That and because everyone knows Chicanos are always late.”
De Benavidez was born with activism in her blood. Literally. Su Teatro grew out of protest against the displacement of the Latino community to make way for what is now the Auraria campus. De Benavidez’s mother is Adrienne Benavidez, since 2016 a Democratic member of the Colorado House of Representatives.
“Mica is a fighter,” her father says with pride. “She feels like she has a responsibility to her community, and her work with children is the forum for her activism.”
De Benavidez manages Su Teatro’s mainstage acting company and is also director of the company’s Cultural Arts Education Institute. She essentially supervises all administrative duties for Su Teatro, which exists to promote and preserve the cultural heritage and traditions of the local Chicano and Latino communities.
Her responsibilities include all financials and staff management. She founded the Cultural Arts Education Institute, which offers free afterschool theatre programs for ages 12-18. That includes theatre, poetry and music classes; touring school productions; workshops, and in-school residencies. Su Teatro’s youth performing company, open to ages 9-21, is called El Teatro VolARTE. A group of those students just won the Global Award from the annual Denver Mayor’s Awards for Excellence in Arts and Culture after bringing the Auraria origin story to the largest theatre festival in the world, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. De Benavidez supervised fundraising efforts to cover the $85,000 cost of the trip.
“It’s amazing to watch her work with these kids,” Garcia said. “She does a really good job of nurturing these students into becoming teachers themselves.”
The lead instructor for the youth company that performed in Scotland was Jozer Guerrero. De Benavidez met him a decade ago when she arranged for a classroom visit to his school, La Academia at the Denver Inner City Parish. De Benavidez encouraged the 15-year-old to take a class, and soon Guerrero was starring in one of Su Teatro’s most significant mainstage productions, Enrique’s Journey. Garcia and De Benavidez recommended Guerrero for a Daniels Fund Scholarship, and he graduated from the University of Denver in 2014. Now a parent, he gives back by teaching classes to the next generation of Su Teatro youth.
“I owe so much to Mica,” Guerrero said. “She has been like a sister to me.”
Currently more than 400 participate in de Benavidez’s youth programs, which makes it equal in scope to Su Teatro’s mainstage theatre season. But you’d never know it from her.
“She pushes herself away from the spotlight,” Garcia said. But she does not, he emphasized, shy away from telling him what to do. In fact, he said with a laugh, “Mica has been telling me what to do since she could talk.”
He jokes. Sort of. Su Teatro would not exist in its present form without De Benavidez’s consistent energy, leadership – and pushing. While Garcia focuses on presenting stories of the history and mysticism of the Chicano culture, along with essential tales of social injustice, de Benavidez keeps the organization moving forward.
“She is providing new leadership for this organization,” Garcia said. And she is tia to the children of Su Teatro. “Our kids have a tendency to migrate to Mica’s office between classes and rehearsals,” Garcia said. “She takes them to the movies, to eat or just to run errands with her. Her time is always available to them. They trust her, which was one of the big reasons they were willing to work so hard for the Scotland trip.”
Father and daughter seem to be the perfect complement. Garcia revels in speaking on behalf of the organization, while de Benavidez never really felt the call to perform. ” She is as obsessed with numbers as I am with words,” Garcia said. “When we travel together, I do crosswords and she does Sodoku right next to me.”
Garcia may be the engine of Su Teatro but, as Guerrero sees it, “Mica is the one who puts the oil in the engine.” Or, as Garcia puts it: “I’m the one who sees where the shore is – and Mica is the one who gets us there.”
Mica Garcia de Benavidez/At a glance
- Managing Director, Su Teatro
- Graduated from Claremont McKenna College in May 2001, with a BA in International Relations
- 2004 Colorado Trust Fellow
- Earned her master’s degree in Nonprofit Management at Regis University in 2007
- Recent graduate of the Circle of Latina Leadership program
- Past participant of the NALAC Leadership Institute
- Member of the Denver Center for International Studies Foundation Board of Directors
- Represented Su Teatro at the 2018 Theatres of Color Gathering in St. Louis
Su Teatro: Upcoming mainstage productions:
- March 14-31: Fire in the Streets: 1969
- June 13-30: Northside
The Su Teatro Performing Arts Center is located at 721 Santa Fe Drive. For information, call 303-296-0219 or go to suteatro.org
About The True West Awards: ’30 Days, 30 Bouquets’
The True West Awards, now in their 18th year, began as the Denver Post Ovation Awards in 2001. DCPA Senior Arts Journalist John Moore — along with additional voices from around the state — celebrate the entire local theatre community by recognizing 30 achievements from 2018 over 30 days, without categories or nominations. Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre magazine in 2011. His daily coverage of the DCPA and the Colorado theatre community can be found at MyDenverCenter.Org