For Mariana Montes, acting is more than a career choice: it is a chance to continuously grow as a person with each role she takes. She has conquered the stage both domestically and internationally, both in Spanish and English, both in comedy and drama. Whether it is as a small role or a leading lady, this versatile actress is doing what she loves, and giving audiences performances to remember.
Originally from Mexico City, Montes is completely bilingual in both English and Spanish. She has worked in successful plays, such as Second Chances directed by Connie St. John from No Weapon Productions, Oedipus Machina at the prestigious Odyssey Theater Ensemble directed by Ron Sossi, and starred in Uterine Affairs by French writer and director Celine Nyanga. Uterine Affairs was nominated as Best International Ensemble, and won for both Best Original Playwright, and the audience-favorite Encore Award at the Hollywood Fringe Festival last year.
Her Mexican heritage and love for language and travel is something she brings to her work as an actress. When starring in the play Too Many Tamales, she performed with The Bilingual Foundation of the Arts (BFA). The BFA has a 42-year history of commitment to all people in the greater Los Angeles area, presenting the finest Hispanic literary culture for both Spanish and English speaking audiences. BFA’s presence is an integral part of the Los Angeles cultural scene, and provides an added dimension of understanding between the diverse cultures of the area by emphasizing the similarities of the human condition, which serve to unite us.
“I am able to identify natural talent, and Mariana is one of those gifted artists, overflowing with beauty, charm and charisma,” said Cecilia Garcia, the Director of Too Many Tamales and the Artistic Manager at BFA.
Based on the story by Gary Soto, Too Many Tamales tells the story of the young girl Maria, who well helping her parents make the tamales for Christmas dinner, she sees her mother set her precious diamond ring to the side. Although only trying it on for a brief moment, Maria loses the ring. In a panic, she corners her favorite cousins, and the four of them secretly eat the 24 tamales in a goal to find the ring in the dough. After eating all the Christmas Eve dinner, Maria learns a lesson and witnesses a Christmas miracle.
“Being in this production was fantastic. I was surrounded by a great team of professional actors. I thought it was going to be hard to work with kids but I was mistaken. They taught me a lot actually, and it was always fun to have them around,” said Montes.
Montes played Maria’s Aunt Rosa, a middle class hard-working woman who is dedicated to her family and brings the rest of the characters together. For Montes, who does not often get to play fun roles like Rosa, the change was welcome.
“Rosa is the perfect Latino mom who has everything under control. She knows about her niece’s secret, she can talk to the puppets but she is supportive about it because she once knew how to do it too, it’s a matter of faith,” said Montes.
While Too Many Tamales is a comedic musical, Montes typically is cast in dramatic roles. The actress is a true triple threat, as her acting, singing, and dancing abilities shine.
“Everything was full of charm and love. We did this show in Plaza De La Raza at Margo Albert Theatre that holds almost 300 people. It was amazing when we had full house and we could hear all the audience members singing our songs,” described Montes. “At the end of the play, we would invite them to come and join us for a final dance. It was great to see how much they love the show. I was sad when it was over. People would come to me and congratulate me and the rest of the cast for our performances and you can see how happy they all were.”
The true highlight of the experience for Montes was working alongside such a great cast and crew, saying they became a family from the experience. The production starred child actress Tiffany Galaviz, who was recently seen on television show The Voice: Kids, as well as Gloria Laino, known for the hit shows American Horror Story: Asylum and Weeds.
“Mariana is an incredible talented actress. I have had the opportunity to work with her in both film and theater, and I can tell you about her dedication and passion,” said Laino.
Too Many Tamales is a Christmas classic, but it is so much more than that. For Montes, the message the play communicates is extremely important, especially in the divided nation that we see today.
“It’s all about family and love. It’s a play that leaves you with the desire to communicate how much you love and care for your friends and family. It is a play about friendship, love, and tolerance between cultures,” concluded Montes.