When Maria was starting college, she could not make up her mind on what field to study.
When I was concentrating in theater and literature, I felt great. This were my gifts and my sweet spots… BUT there was something missing. I wanted a creative expression that generated instant, powerful transformation.
For this reason, she also studied psychology. But when she was concentrating in psychology, there was something missing too.
I ran from one department to the other, and my teachers and friends begged me to make up my mind, to specialize. But I could not. Either field by itself was not enough.
Even before graduating, Maria was already experimenting with placing theater within the context of education, activism, personal growth and transformation.
But it took more than 20 years of experimentation before Maria finally understood what she came here to do; the type of theater and reading experience she wanted to bring into the world.
It was not until I accepted the invitation to become a shaman and began to use my art as healing ceremony that I realized what was missing.
Art has been the tool of shamans, medicine people and alchemists for centuries for its power to bring the invisible into visibility, the abstract into 3D form and the intangible into a solid manifestation. Through art we can transform anything.
It was during this time that Maria was finally able to develop the theater she had envisioned for years. It was a theater deeply embedded in shamanic tradition applied to current situations.
Healer, heal Thyself
in 1993 Maria got sick and her guidance was contained in three words:
“Healer, heal thyself”
Maria plunged into a deep healing process that lead to a transformational art laboratory with a handful of people and later to seven years of initiation as a shaman or Woman of Power.
During all this time, she used art in its many forms to heal the wounded aspects of her being, including physical illness and emotional trauma and to break free from learned limitations and tap into her brightest potential.
When her initiation was finished, she was taken to Mexico and then to South Africa where she worked with healers, shamans and sangomas and realized that she had become a Spiritual Teacher.
At some point, everything became clear. The design had been perfect!
Maria realized that not until she engaged in her own deep healing journey could she had then accepted the call to be a shaman and only through that choice could she have understood how to create the theater methodology she had envisioned.
Theater of Transformationtm was born. This is the methodology that Maria uses to generate shamanic performances that are highly interactive, explore delicate topics safely and engage the audience in ceremonies of transformation that bring them together as a community.
This methodology was documented in Puro Teatro: A Latina Anthology, edited by Alberto Sandoval-Sanchez and Nancy Saporta-Sternback and published by University of Arizona Press in 2000.
The first performance Maria created using this methodology was “Temple of Desire” —one of the first AIDS prevention and education theater pieces in the United States— created with Corazon Tierra.
This performance included an interactive installation where Maria used the tradition of writing messages to the dead in bottles hung from trees to allow people to write messages to those who had died from AIDS.
She also created a clown character who did a bawdy dance while giving out condoms, thus allowing people to both laugh and get the message of protected sex encounters.
To this date, Maria uses the Theater of Transformationtm methodology to create contemporary performance pieces that include experiential, interactive environments, storytelling and ceremony. In her performances, the spectators become SpectActors and assume the agency of transformation as individuals and as a community.