Theater Director Crosses Spanish Divide

By Tim Pompey


Film and theater director George Sandoval is currently directing the play The Dinosaurs at the Teatro de Las Américas at 880 Wagon Wheel Road in Oxnard

George Sandoval has grown up with a cultural quandary. “I’m Mexican-American, pharm ” he said. “This means that here in Ventura County, treat a lot of people seem to think I should speak Spanish.”

While he does speak some Spanish, it’s not his first language. “My mother came to this country when she was one year old in 1919,” he explained. “My father came in 1923. They both came from Mexico. I’m the fifth of seven children, so by the time it came down to me, very little Spanish was spoken.”

For Sandoval, who has spent his professional life in film and theater, his journey back to his parents’ native language has come through his latest work with the Teatro de Las Américas in Oxnard.

At the invitation of executive director Margaret Cortese, Sandoval is directing The Dinosaurs, one of three plays in the current series Three Faces of Love: Three One Acts About Love. The plays are in Spanish, but include English subtitles for their English-speaking audience.

Teatro began more than 20 years ago when a group of actors and crew from the Santa Paula Theater Center staged the play A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen in Spanish. “We had so much fun,” said Cortese, “that the group decided to create its own theater. That’s where Teatro was born.”

Today, at its current location at 880 Wagon Wheel Road, the board, cast, and crew at Teatro make it their mission to stage plays that cross cultural boundaries. Featuring works in Spanish, the theater group strives to bring a rich literary tradition to their local Spanish and English-speaking audiences. “We go the extra step,” said Cortese, “of making the translation available so that people who don’t understand Spanish can understand the language as it’s spoken.”

Cortese has long pursued Sandoval to be one of their featured directors. “I like George,” she said. “He’s a good director. George said his Spanish wasn’t good enough, but I’ve been around a long time and I knew George could do this.”

Sandoval has a long history in local and professional theater arts. Dating back to 1977, he worked with the city of Oxnard and the Brittell Theater to direct plays and to teach drama to kids. He helped found the Oxnard Performing Theater and directed such notable plays as Sleuth, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and Play It Again Sam. Eventually he went to L.A. and established a career in the film business.

Sandoval feels that one of the strengths he brings to Teatro is his experience and his ability to work with actors. “I bring to this a sense of professionalism,” he said. “From all my training from feature films in L.A. to my own company in Ojai, there’s a certain sense of credibility that I bring to the Teatro.”

But for Sandoval, working with a Spanish language play has its own set of unique challenges. The theater group speaks Spanish. He has to direct in English. “I can speak a little bit of Spanish,” he said, “but I can get lost real quick. Fortunately, I can give directions in English because the cast is bilingual.”

Sandoval believes that this is his chance to reconnect to his own cultural and literary roots and to work with some excellent plays whose language just happens to be Spanish. He’s also happy to help Spanish-speaking actors learn more about their own theater history. “This is a chance for people who can speak Spanish to jump into these roles and to be exposed to the theater,” he noted, “and also, to give people who can’t speak Spanish a chance to observe and be exposed to these playwrights.”

And Sandoval notes one other personal advantage. “I’ve always wished my Spanish was better,” he said. “This kind of forces me to get with it a little more.”

The series The Three Faces of Love will be performed at the Teatro de Las Américas through March 22. For schedule and ticket information, go to or call the box office at (805) 983-2876.



perilousPaintingsTim Pompey, a freelance writer who has done lots of local affairs and entertainment/cultural writing, lives in Oxnard. Tim is also a fiction writer (Facebook Page). See chapter from his upcoming new book  ”The Perilous Paintings of Lily Day.”  3-2-14: Book now out on KINDLE.

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