We had the good fortune of connecting with Silvia Gonzalez Scherer and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Silvia, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
In 2016 I received a call from a friend who wanted to recruit me into a playwright master’s program at her university. I knew it was a good opportunity and it would be a boost to my theater career. As I started the registration process, I looked at the diversity in the area, and the lack of opportunities in the performance arts for the community. Especially for people of color where the arts seem to be lacking in their lives. Then a flashback to where I grew up and how I hungered to be in acting classes, but my parents had financial struggles. I knew there had to be others in this community who may be hungering for acting classes like I did when I was a kid. I felt compelled to make performance arts available. I decided to decline the university master’s program invitation and start a theater company offering free acting classes to all who wanted the experience. It is an all-inclusive theater company and it is growing leaps and bounds. We offer acting classes, improvisation, and puppetry classes. We are now a big part of the community. We live by our statement, ‘Theater for all people.’
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a playwright. I started in the theater world as an actress in community theater in Yuma, Arizona. Theater at that time was for fun. I was a bilingual all-day kindergarten teacher at that time. I enjoyed using puppets and ventriloquism to teach students. There was a historical prison that I would pass every day to my teaching job. Mysteriously, my gut told me that if I entered that historical building, called the Yuma Territorial Prison, something there would change my life. For three years I drove by it every day. Then, I went in. The first thing I saw was a wall with women prisoners on display from the 1800’s. I was astonished on how there were women of color in the west. It never occurred to me until then that the west had people of color. It’s not what you see in TV or history books. I decided to write a play about those women. It is called Waiting Women. Midway of the writing of the play, a tragedy occurred in Sierra Blanca, Texas. Eighteen men died in a sealed boxcar on their way to jobs. I wrote about this tragedy. The play is called Boxcar/El Vagon. This play propelled me into envisioning myself as a playwright. This play has won awards and has been produced by theater companies. The two plays above propelled me to focus on women and people of color issues in my plays. It is what I see lacking in the industry. I have come to realize that my art is guided by gut. If my gut tells me I must write a play, I write. If my gut tells me to take an opportunity I go forth. This is how I started the idea of Hanford Multicultural Theater Company. I co-founded it with my daughter Camia Scherer.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I would absolutely take people to the La Brea tar pits! It is the most interesting thing to me in the world! The museum is wonderful and there is active excavation. It is in the middle of downtown Los Angeles. In the middle of high rise buildings. To think it was just swamp land with prehistoric animals many years ago.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I want to recognize Lilia Chavez, the Fresno Arts Council director, for her encouragement and help in establishing the theater company. I also thank the California Arts Council for their support. I thank my daughter Camia Scherer for co-founding the theater company with me. I thank my husband for his patience. My son for helping me put up lights. I thank the participants for making me smile every time I teach classes. I thank the Kings County Historical Society for giving us a spot to do theater.
Website: www.SilviaGonzalezS.com and www.HanfordMTC.com
Other: podcasts https://redcircle.com/shows/hmtc-behind-the-scenes https://silgo86.wixsite.com/mysite/podcast