All-Latina cast tackles life's twists, turns in 'Real Women Have Curves'

From left, Rosali (Keymi Guillen), Carmen (Paola Castellanos), Pancha (Isabella Dorrington), Ana (Leslie Apolinar) and Estela (Ruth Ochoa) share a meal together while working at the sewing factory in "Real Women Have Curves," playing tonight to Sunday and Feb. 9-11 at Ethington Theatre.

Photos by Ralph Freso / Slideshow

For the first time at Grand Canyon University, Ethington Theatre will feature an all-Latina cast in its spring 2024 debut production, "Real Women Have Curves," opening at 7:30 p.m. today in Ethington Theatre.

The two-weekend show focuses on women of all shapes and sizes and curves that run deeper than just the physical aspect. This ensemble play tells the story of the common struggles women experience in their lives and how they learn to push past them.

Ethington Theatre has been transformed into a run-down sewing factory, where five Latina women spend most of their days stitching, cutting and ironing clothes, trying to make ends meet while also pushing through life's problems. Although the story is told from the point of view of Ana, the youngest character, the audience gets a glimpse into every character’s life and the one thing that connects them all: womanhood.

“There is a lot of things to relate to in the story,” said play director Bertha Ordonez Cortes. “They are Latin women, but you don’t have to be Latin to understand their struggles. There are people that struggle with infertility, and most women struggle with body image at least once in their life.”

Estela (Ruth Ochoa) and Ana (Leslie Apolinar) are sisters who work in a sewing factory in "Real Women Have Curves," the first production of the spring 2024 semester for the College of Arts and Media's Theatre Department.

Over the span of one working week at the factory, the women are faced with various challenges.

Estela (Ruth Ochoa), the owner of the sewing factory, struggles to keep up with her finances and is constantly worried she will get caught because she is undocumented. She has a big crush on a man working next door, but after he takes her out on a date and makes inappropriate remarks, Estela is left feeling insulted and uncomfortable in her own skin.

On the opposite end, her younger sister, Ana (Leslie Apolinar), fights to break traditional barriers. In the beginning, she is very accustomed to her culture and the life set before her, but she refuses to believe that is all there is. She wants to go to college and become a writer. Resilient and strong-minded, Ana tries to empower the girls in their skin and self-confidence to stand up for themselves -- but not without some resistance.

Carmen (Paola Castellanos), Estela’s and Ana’s mother, challenges the girls in their ways. She is blunt and straightforward, often questioning her daughters' intentions. When things get too intense, Rosali (Keymi Guillen) and Pancha (Isabella Dorrington) will mediate and contribute, despite their own struggles with body image and infertility.

Ana (Leslie Apolinar) retreats to the bathroom to write in her journal.

“Each character has their own story, and we get to see pieces of it,” said Ruth Ochoa, freshman theatre major playing the role of Estela. “In the beginning, everyone is kind of running away from it, besides Ana. Her being the youngest, it’s the older women that think, ‘Oh, shush.’

“We sometimes lose our creativity growing up being shushed all the time. Ana fights and fights and, sooner or later, Rosali and Pancha open up. Little by little, everyone opens up. It definitely is that the younger generation can lead the older generation to really accept themselves. Sometimes we forget that grown-ups go through stuff, too.”

The diversity and importance of listening to other people’s stories evidently becomes the theme here, said Ordonez Cortes, as the women in the play learn more from each other every day they spend together in the factory.

From left, Rosali (Keymi Guillen), Carmen (Paola Castellanos) and Pancha (Isabella Dorrington) laugh over magazine stories.

“Someone told me the other day, ‘Your curves are on the inside and the outside.’ Everything you have gone through, it’s been an uphill or a downhill. Things women go through are not always uphill, but sometimes we have to pretend they are,” said Ochoa.

Cultural barriers, body image, infertility, legal status, finances. These are the type of curves real women have.

While the play was written in a different time and generation, it carries modern relevance. There is great significance in growing culturally and knowing where family roots are planted.

“Real women that are not filtered, not Photoshopped, we all have curves, we all have some sort of something,” said senior theatre major Paola Castellanos, playing the role of Carmen. “It’s been interesting to talk with everyone (the cast). Their experiences with life are very similar to mine, even though we all have a different Latin background.

“Growing up, culture has always been strange in my house. We will eat the food, but then we won’t speak Spanish. Being in this show, I have been able to reconnect with my Latin family.”

The "Real Women Have Curves" cast members take a bow.

Although the play is a fictional story, the aspects of life that playwright Josefina Lopez describes pay homage to real experiences many women face. Fear and the need to hide to a certain extent is something everyone experiences. Because of that understanding, filling the shoes of these characters wasn't difficult, the cast said.

“I am a first-generation Latina woman. I know what it’s like to live in situations like these or hear these same conversations, and it feels like just another day,” said Leslie Apolinar, senior theatre major playing the role of Ana.

“The roles were made for us. They're not roles we feel like we have to fit into or be type casted as. It accentuates who we are as women in real life and women that aren’t afraid to show their culture on their sleeve.”

GCU staff writer Izabela Fogarasi can be reached at [email protected]

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IF YOU GO

What: "Real Women Have Curves"

Where: Ethington Theatre

When: 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, with more shows coming up at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9-10 and 2 p.m. Feb. 11

Tickets: Click here

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