Nicholas Rodriguez to Lead All-Latino Cast of Karen Zacarias' Destiny of Desire at Arena Stage

Jul 28, 2015
Destiny of Desire

Karen Zacarias' new telenovela-inspired comedy Destiny of Desire receives its world premiere at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater, kicking off the company's 66th season with dramatic storytelling and comic flair. Zacarias, an inaugural resident playwright of the theater's American Voices New Play Institute whose previous credits include The Book Club Play and Legacy of Light, collaborates with renowned director Jose Luis Valenzuela, Artistic Director of the Latino Theater Company, to bring the Latin-American telenovela genre to life on stage. Destiny of Desire runs September 11-October 18, 2015 in the Kreeger Theater.

Arena Stage favorite Nicholas Rodriguez (Mother Courage and Her Children, My Fair Lady, Oklahoma!) returns as part of an all-Latino ensemble playing Sebastian Jose Castillo, in a cast that includes Valenzuela's daughter and son, Esperanza America (Los Angeles Theatre Center's Melancholia) and Fidel Gomez (Denver Center for the Performing Arts' Just Like Us), as Pilar Castillo and Dr. Diego Mendoza, respectively.

The cast also features Oscar Ceville (Gala Hispanic Theatre's House of Desires) as Dr. Jorge Ramiro Mendoza, Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey (Studio Theatre's Water by the Spoonful) as Fabiola Castillo, Rayanne Gonzales (Arena's Mother Courage and Her Children) as Hortensia del Rio, Marian Licha (Arena's Anna in the Tropics) as Sister Sonia, Geoffrey Rivas (CBS's CSI) as Ernesto del Rio, Elia Saldaña (South Coast Repertory's Jane of the Jungle) as Victoria del Rio and Rosino Serrano, who plays Augustin Lara, Jr. in addition to serving as music coordinator and providing original music for the production. Casting for the role of Armando Castillo will be announced at a later date.

"Karen Zacarias is definitely one of my favorite playwrights to work with, and when she had the idea for creating a play in the style of a telenovela, I was hooked," shares Artistic Director Molly Smith. "Then I read a draft-and was thrilled by her virtuosity. Arena has had a strong relationship with Karen for many years, and it's been a distinct pleasure to experience her ripening as a playwright and her ability to take on subjects no one in the American theater has thought about before."

The play opens on a stormy night in Bellarica, Mexico, when two baby girls are born-one into a life of privilege and one into a life of poverty. When the newborns are swapped by a former beauty queen with an insatiable lust for power, the stage is set for two outrageous misfortunes to grow into one remarkable destiny.

Valenzuela adds, "Destiny of Desire gives me the opportunity to work with the talented Karen Zacarias and an amazing group of actors and designers to create a new play about a world of ambition, betrayal, lust, romance, assassinations and misconceptions and try to find the beauty, the humanity and love within the characters and ourselves and question how we determine our destiny."

Adds Zacarias, "What happens when you take the telenovela, one of the most popular forms of storytelling in Latin America, and merge it with daring and playful theatricality? You discover a different type of drama, full of music and plot turns, that is epic, outlandish and funny, yet at its core, tragic, human and true."

Arena Stage is one of the seven originating theaters of the Women's Voices Theater Festival, and Destiny of Desire is produced as part of the citywide Festival, which will feature over 50 productions in the nation's capital region, September through October 2015. For additional information on the Festival please visit

Karen Zacarias (Playwright) has written award-winning plays including The Book Club Play, Legacy of Light, Mariela in the Desert, The Sins of Sor Juana, the adaptations of Just Like Us and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent and many more. She collaborated on the libretto for Sleepy Hollow and Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises for the Washington Ballet. The 2016 season will see world premieres of her plays Destiny of Desire at Arena Stage; Native Gardens at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park; Oliverio: A Brazilian Twist at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Ella Enchanted: The Musical at First Stage and Into the Beautiful North at Milagro Theater. She is one of the inaugural resident playwrights at Arena Stage and is a core founder of the Latino Theatre Commons. She is the founder of Young Playwrights' Theater, an award-winning theater company that teaches playwriting in local public schools in Washington, D.C. Karen lives in D.C. with her husband and three children.

Jose Luis Valenzuela (Director) is the Artistic Director of the Latino Theater Company (LTC) and the Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC) and is also the head of the MFA directing program at UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television. Jose is an award-winning theater director and has been a visionary and an advocate for Chicano/Latino theater for over 29 years. He has directed critically-acclaimed productions at major theaters both internationally and nationally including the LATC, where he created the Latino Theatre Lab in 1985, and the Mark Taper Forum, where he established the Latino Theater Initiative in 1991. Jose also serves on the national steering committee of the Latina/o Theatre Commons and produced the historic national Latina/o theater festival Encuentro in 2014.

Cast Biographies (in alphabetical order) Esperanza America (Pilar Castillo) was born and raised in East L.A. and completed her BA at UCLA's School of Theater Film and Television. Her most recent theater credits include Habitat, The Vault: Bankrupt and The Vault: Unlocked by The Vault Ensemble; Faith, Hope and Charity and Dementia by Evelina Fernandez; and Melancholia at the LATC and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela. Her television credits include Southland and Single Ladies. Her movie credits include Cry Now, directed by Alberto Barboza; Water and Power, directed by Richard Montoya; Gino's Wife, directed by Aaron Lee Lopez; and, most recently, 31, directed by Rob Zombie.

Oscar Ceville (Dr. Jorge Ramiro Mendoza) makes his Arena Stage debut. D.C. credits include The House of Desires (Don Juan), The Young Lady from Tacna (Cesar), Anna in the Tropics (Juan Julian) and The Knight From Olmedo (Don Fernando) with Gala Hispanic Theatre; Zorro (Constellation Theatre); The New World Order and Other Plays (Scena Theatre); and Host & Guest (Synetic Theatre). Oscar is a company member of Factory 449. Regional credits include Jesus Christ Superstar (Caiaphas), The Royal Hunt of the Sun (Atahualpa), Corpus Christi (Matthew), The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told (Adam) and Jeffrey (Steve). In Panama, he received the Escena Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Play for his performance in Alan Ayckbourn's How the Other Half Loves. He has also voiced TV and radio programs.

Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey (Fabiola Castillo) makes her Arena Stage debut. Other D.C.-area credits include Uncle Vanya, The Lyons and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents at Round House Theatre; Mockingbird at the Kennedy Center; Detroit, Gruesome Playground Injuries and Stunning at Woolly Mammoth; Water by the Spoonful and The Motherf--ker with the Hat at Studio Theatre; and After the Fall at Theater J, for which she won a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress. She is a Woolly Mammoth Company Member and graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.

Fidel Gomez (Dr. Diego Mendoza) was born and raised in East L.A. and is a proud graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts where he received a BFA in theater. His stage credits include the national tour of Placas; Just Like Us at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts; the national tour of Solitude; Melancholia, The Vault: Bankrupt and The Vault: Unlocked at LATC; and The Merry Wives of Windsor and Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare Festival LA. His film and television credits include HBO's Walkout, NCIS, Undercovers, Grey's Anatomy and 7th Heaven.

Rayanne Gonzales (Hortensia del Rio) returns to Arena Stage following her appearances in Mother Courage and Her Children, My Fair Lady, The Music Man, Damn Yankees and Señor Discretion Himself. She was also recently in Man of La Mancha at Shakespeare Theatre Company. Broadway credits include The Phantom of the Opera and Hands on a Hardbody. Rayanne's other credits include South Pacific (North Carolina Theatre and Casa Mañana), Porgy & Bess (Natchez Festival), the first national tour of In the Heights and NBC's The Sound of Music Live!. An alumna of Boston University, the Longy School of Music and The Banff Centre, her honors include the National Federation of Music Clubs, Metropolitan Opera Auditions and Placido Domingo's Operalia.

Marian Licha (Sister Sonia) returns to Arena Stage. Her favorite roles include Ofelia in Anna in the Tropics, directed by Jo Bonney at Arena Stage, and Ferula and Count Satigny in The House of Spirits at Gala Hispanic Theatre. Other stage credits include Roundhouse Theatre, Provincetown Playhouse, TOMI Theatre, Repertorio Espanol and the Kennedy Center, where she played Elena in their national tour of Maggie Magalita. She portrayed Imelda on television's Homicide and Mrs. Serrano in the film Step Up 2. She received an MCAC Theatre Fellowship in 2000, and in 2010, the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artists Award for her solo performance in the title role of her solo show Frida Vice-Versa (director Jessica Lefkow, co-writer R. Dennis Green), seen at The Chautauqua Festival and other sold-out venues.

Geoffrey Rivas (Ernesto del Rio) makes his Arena Stage debut. A native Californian, he graduated from UCLA in 1985 with a Master of Fine Arts degree with a concentration on acting. He received a 1999 Ovation nomination for his role of Martin in Sam Shepard's Fool for Love at the Madrid Theatre in Canoga Park. His numerous film and television credits include Foto Novelas for PBS, for which he won an ALMA award in 1998. Geoffrey worked for 10 years on the original CSI as Detective Vega and recently wrapped playing Police Chief Hernandez on Murder in the First on TNT. He is a founding member of the Latino Theater Company created by Jose Luis Valenzuela at LATC.

Nicholas Rodriguez (Sebastian Jose Castillo) returns to Arena Stage where his credits include Curly in Oklahoma! (Helen Hayes Award, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical), Eilif in Mother Courage and Her Children, Freddy in My Fair Lady (Helen Hayes nomination), Fabrizio Nacarelli in The Light in the Piazza and the cabaret The Power of Two with Eleasha Gamble. On Broadway, he performed the title role in Disney's Tarzan. Off-Broadway, he's appeared in The Toxic Avenger, Almost Heaven, Bajour and Collete Collage. Tours include Jesus Christ Superstar (Jesus), Evita (Che) and Hair (Claude). He participated in Guys and Dolls at Carnegie Hall and I Am Harvey Milk at Lincoln Center. Regional credits include The Ten Commandments (Kodak Theatre), Mothers and Sons, Jesus Christ Superstar, Beauty and the Beast, Damn Yankees, Cinderella, South Pacific, Master Class, Love, Valour, Compassion! and The King and I. He was in the film Sex and the City 2 and featured on the film's soundtrack. For TV, Madam Secretary. He's perhaps best known for his portrayal of Nick Chavez on ABC's One Life to Live (GLAAD Media Award). Nicholas is the artistic director of the Broadway Dreams Foundation. His debut album, The First Time..., is available on iTunes and at He holds a BM and MM in Vocal Performance from the University of Texas at Austin.

Elia Saldaña (Victoria del Rio) hails from Los Angeles and makes her Arena Stage debut. Regional credits include the musicals Ivy & Bean (Bean) and Jane of the Jungle (Kayla) at South Coast Repertory (the latter with book and lyrics by Karen Zacarias); The Anatomy of Gazellas (Alex) with Playwrights' Arena; Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Maria Elena) with Theatre League; and Family Planning (Jilly) at Chalk Repertory, for which she received an Ovation Award nomination. She has also worked with Denver Center Theatre, The Pasadena Playhouse, Latino Theater Company and National Theatre for Children, among others. TV/film credits include Jane the Virgin, Criminal Minds, The Cleveland Show, The LeBrons and Bella and The Bulldogs. She received her BA in theater from The University of California, San Diego.

Rosino Serrano (Augustin Lara, Jr.) was born in Spain and has been part of the musical scene of Mexico since the early 80's. For the last two decades he has shared his professional life between New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City. He has served as a composer and musical director for a large number of theatrical productions, including credits with Thalia Spanish Theatre and Central Park Summerstage in New York and Mexico's Organización Secreta and Compañia Nacional de Teatro. Since 2012, he is a regular collaborator with the Latino Theater Company in LA. A renowned film composer, Rosino has scored iconic features such as the Oscar-nominated The Crime of Father Amaro, Santitos and Walkout, directed by Edward James Olmos. Either as a pianist, musical director, composer, arranger, orchestrator, conductor or producer, Rosino has worked with some of the most prominent artists in the Hispanic arena, including Eugenia León, Armando Manzanero, Santana, Ivan Lins, Camila, Tania Libertad and many others. He has produced over 30 albums for both independent and major labels. A graduate of Manhattan School of Music, Rosino is currently a faculty member at ITESM in Mexico City.

The creative team for Destiny of Desire includes set designer Francois-Pierre Couture, costume designer Julie Weiss, lighting designer Pablo Santiago, sound designer John Zalewski, wig designer Anne Nesmith, original music/music coordination by Rosino Serrano, stage manager Kurt Hall and assistant stage manager Trevor Riley.