MERIDEN — Cin Martinez has been living a double life since she was a teenager. In her first life, she works full-time as a talent development specialist in the Manchester school district. In her second life, she is an actor and playwright.
“I’ve seen firsthand the cost of really giving your 100% to the arts world when it’s so unstable, and the couch surfing and the crappy jobs. And I told myself, ‘I’m going to have to take this world a little differently,’” Martinez said.
Martinez is performing in a full-length production of “Water by the Spoonful,” a play written by Quiara Alegría Hudes that won the 2012 Pulitzer. The play opened on Wednesday in the University of Saint Joseph’s Hoffman Auditorium in West Hartford. It is part of a Contemporary Classics Conversations Series hosted by Capital Classics that allows the audience to participate in a moderated conversation about the play before and after the performance.Water by the Spoonful
“Water by the Spoonful” focuses on Elliot, an Iraq veteran with Puerto Rican heritage who struggles to find his place in the world after his tour of duty. Martinez plays his mom Odessa, who also has a double life as a member of an online chatroom under the username Haikumom
“[Haikumom] is caring and motherly to these people that she has only met online,” explained Director Christopher Andrew Rowe.
“That differs when we meet Mami Odessa in the real world and we start to see a different side to her. We start to see the bite that Odessa has. We start to see the uncensored version of Odessa and how that kind of evolves when we explore the relationship between her and her son Elliot.”
Capital Classics is mostly known for outdoor summer Shakespeare shows, but started to bring more contemporary work for the conversation series –starting with a 2022 production of “Sweat.”
“It was definitely a pivot, but a pivot in a good way – especially given that [“Water by the Spoonful”] deals with so much,” Rowe said. “All in all, it’s about recovery and humanity.”
Rowe added that directing Martinez was a “dream.” Since “Water by the Spoonful” is a very text-centric, poetic play, he said Martinez’ experience as a playwright was reflected in the way she approached Mami Odessa.
“She handles the text in such a smart and poetic and beautiful way. So it’s really been a dream just getting to work with her from day one,” he said. “She’s brought so much to the table, especially when we’re looking at the text specifically and just talking about the emotion and the intention of these characters.”Working as aplaywright
Martinez echoed Rowe’s sentiment as both a playwright and performer. Sharing some of Hudes’ Puerto Rican heritage and craft, she said her own writing practice allowed her to understand performance from a different angle.
“There’s such a strong connection to the writer. Once you’ve been on that side, you can hear the rhythm easier as a performer,” she said.
Nevertheless, Martinez has not always been fully confident under the title of “playwright.” Her family moved from Puerto Rico to Hartford in the 70’s and she studied Theatre at the Center for Creative Youth at Wesleyan University and the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts.
“I was always the adventurous, rebellious, super imaginative and careless type of kid,” she said. “[My parents] sort of just allowed me to just figure it out. And then they were very supportive when I did figure it out.”
Despite gains for diversity, minority theatermakers are still vastly underrepresented. Even though Latinos made up about 18% of the population in 2020, only 15% of the degrees awarded in General Drama & Theater Arts in 2020 were earned by Latinos, according to a 2020 statistic from Data USA.Balancing life and art
Martinez earned a Bachelor’s degree in Communications with a specialization in Video Production from Southern Connecticut State University. She became a member of the HartBeat Ensemble for more than 15 years ago, bought a multifamily home in Meriden and moved in 2018.
“[Puerto Ricans] are taking over Connecticut, slowly but surely,” she said, laughing. “It was a very easy decision to seriously consider Meriden as another home.”
While managing other work, Martinez wrote plays like “Riding the Turnpike,” “Pegao’,” and “Moonlighters.” In 2013, she received the Connecticut Latino De Oro awards in the Arts. In 2016, her play “Frog Hollow State of Mind” earned Martinez a citation of official recognition by the City of Hartford’s Court of Common Council.
“It’s very easy for to be swaddled up in the world of capitalism when you have to do, to do, to do to eat, to eat, to eat, to live, to live, to live, and it’s very easy to get suffocated or get bogged down and tired and exhausted, that you have no space in your being to even be creative.”
Martinez said she is most creative during the spring and fall, but acting in “Water by The Spoonful” brought a new creative energy to the winter. Moving forward, she is looking forward to revisiting some of her earlier work from her current perspective.
“There’s a lot of gatekeeping, but that doesn’t stop me from trying,” she said. “I’m looking forward to workshopping my plays around after I’m done with this performance.”
Performances of “Water by the Spoonful” will be held Jan. 25–29, 2023, at the University of Saint Joseph’s Hoffman Auditorium, 1678 Asylum Avenue in West Hartford, Connecticut. Tickets start at $14 and can be purchased at the door or at https://www.capitalclassics.org/upcoming
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Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re, To learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.