HOW WE GOT STARTED:
Biography of Silvia Gonzalez Scherer, Executive Artistic Director and Co-founder
(AKA Silvia Gonzalez S. [pen name])
and The Beginning of Hanford Multicultural Theater Company
I am the first daughter of Mexican immigrants. I look back and see how poor we were but that is not vivid in my mind. What is vivid is my entering a public school having a language the school didn’t understand. A school official came to my house and told my parents not to speak Spanish to me or let me speak Spanish. What happened was, we did not communicate very much. As well, my parents were always fighting, and I believe now it had to do with finances. I became very insecure at home where I felt rejection from parents not communicating with me, and a school silencing me. At school, kids made fun of me when instead of a sandwich for lunch I brought a chorizo burrito. My English improved. I began to like school. I particularly enjoyed the summer school playground program. The coaches had some theater experience for the kids. I liked that. I even wrote my own version of Cinderella and we performed it. At some point in my schooling, a teacher saw the gusto I had for the arts and sent me home with a brochure. My parents looked at the costs and said it was not going to happen. Living in the San Fernando Valley, I was close to production studios, so it was natural that I found a notice of a company seeking kids to be in educational films. I wanted to audition and begged to go. My dad was a backyard mechanic on weekends and worked in the assembly line at General Motors during the week. It was Saturday and he said he would take me after he was finished working on a car. I waited and waited. The audition was over, and it was too late to go. I remember my heart aching from not going. In junior high I signed up for a drama class. I found it incredible that the classroom had a stage. As the semester went on, I was never chosen to go on that stage. Then, I realized that I was too brown to be Lady McBeth. I felt rejected. In high school, I wanted to be in plays and asked about it, but the drama teacher stopped doing shows because she was worried about being at school in the evenings in our barrio/ghetto neighborhood. School plays were cancelled permanently. I asked if I could write a script for a school Christmas show assembly. They said I could. I wrote about what I observed at Christmas time. I had a scene where a police officer arrested a father for shoplifting a teddy bear. I was pulled aside by the vice principal and told never to write again. I became student body president in my senior year and one perk was to go on tv and be on a student program about certain subjects. As I entered the tv studio in Hollywood, I was told to step aside. They did makeup on the other girls and I noticed I was being ignored. I asked if I was going to get makeup, too. The makeup artist reluctantly put me in the chair and then started telling me how ugly I was and just powdered me. I felt humiliated and rejected. In college, I saw there was a student radio program. I said I wanted to be part of it. The students there did not welcome me, and I sat around doing nothing for long periods of time. So, I stopped going. I got into MECHA, a Latino college organization, and we did a skit in the middle of the school. I was the bell tower representing the university. After we did the skit, the MECHA students painted the three letters of the school on the hill red, green, and white. I noticed no more skits after that by MECHA. I transferred colleges and got the urge to write poetry and I thought I’d like to write a novel. I told the university professor my goal and she immediately said that I was not a writer. She said if I insisted, I needed to take a lot more English lit classes. I did that thinking that if I was that bad, how can I be a teacher? I was leaning on that as a career goal. Later, while living in Yuma, Arizona, I took a night class for radio at the community college. The professor at the community college was excited by my work and voice and told the department head about me. The department head wanted to test me. In the test session, he didn’t have the dials correct on the sound board and made me shout into the microphone. He then gave me a look that I was terrible. The professor that recommended me was disappointed. A few months later, I walked past a community theater. I decided I would call and see about it. I was cast in four consecutive shows. I had awesome reviews of my acting. One actress, with a theater degree, remarked that the newspaper reviewer was ‘in love’ with me and that was the reason I had good reviews. Then there was other drama, and I made the decision that being with Prima Donnas was not fun and decided to write plays. My first submitted play became a winner of a national contest and I went to Seattle. I had embarked in a new career as a playwright! Then a phone call to be part of a New York playwright residency. That was seven years of pure joy.
In 2011 a move to Hanford, California was awesome because I was three hours from where I grew up and from family members. I continued to write. Not long after, I was asked by a prestigious university, impressed with my playwriting and my subject matter of Latino experience, to get a masters in playwriting with their university. That would be a great boost to my career and allow me to teach at a university. Then I looked around and saw children needing a little extra. I couldn’t help but see myself in them. That was when I decided that I would be more driven to start a multicultural theater company in Hanford. I set out to do that with my daughter’s assistance. We are called Hanford Multicultural Theater Company. We opened our doors officially February 1, 2017 offering free acting classes to anyone. Our youngest is 4 years old, and our oldest is 86. We have a volunteer staff, and several have learning disabilities. We have ‘mixed’ people that come through our doors who find family with us. We are doing our best to find funds to do shows that are relevant to our community.
My early life made me desire to give experiences to the local youth, and those who didn’t get a chance with performing arts and want to embark on it now. With the help of my daughter, Hanford Multicultural Theater began in this community. With the help of funding that comes are way, we continue this outreach.