Un mundo maravilloso: Exclusive interview with student director Taína Caraballo

Kip Kane, Staff Writer

Elgin Community College’s theater department put on their first-ever student-directed play: Alicia in Wonder Tierra On the night of Sept. 22. The virtual show retells the classic Alice in Wonderland story with a Latinx twist in celebration of Latinx Heritage Month.

Taína Caraballo, a fourth-year ECC student directed the play. Her passion for theater, hunger for a good challenge, and deep-seated connection to the story told in Alicia made her a perfect choice to be the director for the Latinx Heritage Month performance.

Alicia in Wonder Tierra follows the tale of a young Latinx girl named Alicia, whose favorite pastime is shopping at the mall. She feels disconnected from her Hispanic heritage and is annoyed when her mother drags her to a Mexican curio shop.

She is immediately bored, but eventually finds a doll she deems pretty. She stumbles over a piece of pottery, falls to the floor, and is magically transported to Wonder Tierra. There, she meets various wacky characters, including a talking armadillo, a goat head, a sugar skull and a living puppet named Ramón.

At the end of the play, Alicia realizes she is much more connected to her Latinx lineage than she thought and embraces her culture no matter what others say.

“Some of us might be embarrassed to embrace our culture,” said Caraballo.

Caraballo recalled moments where she felt she “wasn’t Latinx enough” and had a case of impostor syndrome. However, when she was called upon to direct a Latinx student-led play, even after some debate, she knew that Alicia would be the one to show.

“Each cast member resonated with the play, even if they didn’t relate to the message,” Caraballo said. “Any of my cast members could have said no, but they didn’t.”

“It was amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better cast and crew,” Caraballo said gratefully.

Caraballo described how each cast member developed their characters individually and personally, and there was no such thing as too much.

“Everyone brought something different to the table,” Caraballo said.

Caraballo also explained the difficulties of performing a play like this over Zoom.

“Physically, it’s easier, but mentally, it’s a lot more challenging,” Caraballo said. “There’s always challenges to expect, but there’s also challenges you don’t expect!”

It was Caraballo’s first time directing, and she admits it was a daunting task.

“You have to lead by example,” Caraballo said. “You have be enthusiastic and strict with yourself and be a leader. It was lots of fun, but was also a huge learning experience.”