Have to Believe We Are Magic (Occupy the Stage 22, online)

The National Women’s Theater Festival presents Occupy The Stage 22, a livestream festival of new plays mixed in with encore readings of fan favorites from previous years.

On to the second livestream of Occupy the Stage 2022, and I decided to focus on Sara Guerrero’s play about Latina coming of age in Orange County, California. How to Believe We Are Magic focuses on Gloria, and how she deals with a life-changing decision after finding she is pregnant with all her immediate world against her.

This is a deeply visual script, inspired in part by the film Xanadu, of roller skating, drinking, and sex. Of teenagers who can vote but can’t legally imbibe in a bar finding their feet. It is about Gloria and her friends and how they find what magic they can in their own lives. And it is about judgement and religion.

Gloria’s sister Gabby has a baby she hadn’t planned, but that daughter is surrounded by love – she just can’t see herself setting her life on pause. Their mother, Carmen, is tight-lipped about sex and told her girls little.

In their town of Anaheim, OC, the church has a lot of influence. Even Gloria’s casual boyfriend, Kirk, a security guard, is led by his sister, who protests at abortion cliinics “who do nothing but kill babies”.

Poster image for Have to Believe We Are Magic

Meanwhile, Gloria’s friends Esther and Mimi exercise their own influence on proceedings. Money is a constant motif, as are ethics. Mothers and daughters, too, and how they relate to each other. Fathers are oddly absent or silent.

Natasha Lorca Yannacanedo directs a cast led by Caroline Campas (Gloria), Nicole Orabana (Carmen), and Katia Carmichael (Gabby). The play openly discusses the bond between female friends and siblings, both physical and emotional, and how they stand together against the influence of the patriarchy.

There’s fantasy, magic realism, and the vulnerability of a girl on the cusp of adulthood here, with some powerfully described visuals. I enjoyed the 1990s vibe and little telling moments around loss, friendship and personal responsibility.

The cast is completed by Melissa Manrique, Joseph Perez-Caputo, Susanne Pineda, and Aurora Renee.

You can buy tickets for the Occupy the Stage Festival with a range of pricing options here. Each day’s collection of shows remains available for 96 hours after their premiere, and each show gets two streams.