Faces of the arts shutdown: actress Andréa Agosto: “I want to rediscover this feeling of normalcy”


Andréa Agosto has had a difficult year in all respects.

In March, she not only lost all the acting work she hoped to do in 2020, she also lost the teaching job she loved at Chula Vista Middle School, where she ran a thriving theater program. Then, six weeks later, the murder of George Floyd plunged her into despair both over the tragedy itself and why it has taken so long for white Americans to recognize the injustices facing people. Black Americans like her.

But if the 33-year-old North Park resident’s roller coaster life journey is any indicator of what’s to come, she should emerge in 2021 in a more positive and insightful place. Since being a young “army kid” who grew up in Kansas City, Kansas, Agosto has found creative inspiration under difficult circumstances, although she didn’t recognize him at the time.

It started when she was only 7 years old and her parents divorced. Her mother remained in Kansas and her father returned to his native Puerto Rico. Agosto spent six months a year with each parent, traveling alone with each other by plane. What most children might find scary, she found exhilarating.

“I wanted to know more about people, and because I never knew how long I would be in one place, I would collect their stories wherever I went,” she said, adding that this habit of childhood of collecting and telling stories had inspired her. to study film at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

But his college years were not carefree. In the first semester of her freshman year in 2006, her 33-year-old sister died of a long illness, leaving behind three children, aged 6 to 14. Agosto and his mother took full custody of the children, and Agosto remembers juggling college classes. with a job and the responsibility of dressing the children and getting them ready for school every day.

“It was one of those torrential downpours,” she said, although the experience also taught her the discipline of multitasking and showed her how well she can mentor children.

Agosto also made lemonade from lemons in his film classes at UMKC. When a teacher encouraged her to make a ‘black version’ of an existing film for her class project, she got angry and instead directed a documentary on racial identity in media which won a premier. awards at the 2009 Kansas City FilmFest International.

After college, Agosto couldn’t find a job she liked in marketing or filmmaking, so she got a job as a bilingual teacher in the Kansas City School District. Working with students from Nepal and Eritrea rekindled her love for collecting stories. A year later, she moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she became involved in Native language revitalization programs and earned a master’s degree in Languages, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies with a specialization in teaching English to speakers of other languages.

But the only thing missing in his life was performance. In college, she had studied classical vocal music with the goal of becoming a singer. When that didn’t work, she started auditioning for acting roles. When her fiance, Damiaan Gallegos, moved to San Diego five years ago to work in her family’s hospitality business, she followed, knowing that she could both work here as a teacher and be a part of the city’s large theatrical community.

She immediately landed a role in the provocative drama “Cell” by Mo’olelo Performing Arts and since then has worked regularly at the Diversionary Theater, La Jolla Playhouse, Moxie Theater, InnerMission Productions, Blindspot Collective and Circle Circle Dot Do, among others. She was preparing for audition season in March when all theaters closed.

“I didn’t know how long to keep my hopes up. I became very disillusioned and very sad, ”she said. “I don’t like not having this outlet. This is what I use to stay focused and be present. I want to audition again. I want to get nervous and excited to see familiar faces in the waiting room again and take a nap afterwards because I’m so exhausted. I want to regain that feeling of normalcy.

After losing her teaching job in Chula Vista due to layoffs across the district, she got another job in September teaching performing arts online to sixth-graders at High Tech Middle Mesa in Clairemont. With no theater program to organize and hardly any acting work available, Agosto embarked on other creative pursuits like TikTok, where she daily videos attracted over 1.6 million views and sold his paints black women online. This has helped her supplement her reduced income, which she says causes her to constantly “scare, worry and recheck all the lender’s lines to live within my new ways.”

Agosto also started volunteering last spring at the Diversionary Theater, where she completed graphic art projects and helped organize roundtables on intersectionality and social justice. In September, Diversionary hired Agosto to become the company’s first Art Fellow. The job’s parameters are still being worked out, but she said she will produce play readings and do dramaturgy whenever the theater reopens.

“My dream for 2021 is that I would like us to open by spring, if not June,” she said. “I hope to do a few small performances in the house, even if it’s outside. I would love to produce something next year with Diversionary and with my school. And I need to see something and digest some art.

Andrea Agosto, pictured at the Diversionary Theater in University Heights on November 24.

(KC Alfred / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

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