BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
With her starring role in Steppenwolf’s A Doll’s House, Part 2 going into previews January 31 for its February 10 opening bookended by La Ruta, her directorial sold-out success which closed at the theater January 27, Sandra Marquez gets our vote for most creative time management.
A member of the Steppenwolf Ensemble since 2016, she told us recently in a bluetooth car interview on her way to Steppenwolf for Part 2 rehearsals:
“Every spare moment I have been trying to memorize my lines—there are just lots of words for Nora. I find if I write down all my lines, I am able to memorize them. I also record myself and the other actors in the rehearsals saying our lines and then I listen to them as much as I can.
“One day I could only hurry back into the theater to see the final scenes of La Ruta after a long day of rehearsing A Doll’s House, Part 2.”
What are her tips or thriving with a schedule like this?
“You have to be very disciplined, making sure you get enough sleep, find time to go the gym, which I have been missing, and eat the right things. Over the years I have gotten used to performing at night and teaching during the day. But for years I have had no free time. I am looking forward to spending the summer with my family in California when I can rest and focus.”
In addition to being a professor in the theater program at Northwestern University, Sandra has appeared on numerous TV shows including Boss, Empire, Chicago Med, Chicago Justice, and Timer. She won a Jeff Award for her role in A View from the Bridge and has appeared in Mary Page Marlowe at Steppenwolf and as Clytemnestra in the Court Theater’s Iphigenia cycle.
We asked Sandra about being a member of the hallowed Steppenwolf Ensemble, a group she calls “utterly amazing”:
“With its history and reputation, the Ensemble offers much access, and it is mind-boggling the new opportunities that arrive. Anna Shapiro invited me to direct and acted as my advocate as I took on projects. Early on, I began my admiration for Amy Morton. I have applauded her work and find her to be a most kind and generous person.”
She explained that the Ensemble gathers once a year on Gala Benefit weekend to get updates and catch up with members from out of town.
Sandra promises there are many surprises for Steppenwolf audiences in A Doll’s House, Part 2, which premiered on Broadway in 2017 and received 8 Tony nominations:
“I did a production of A Doll’s House in grad school and teach Ibsen in my theater class at Northwestern. I have always loved working on this play and have reread it several times.
“Part 2 has a lot to say about the rules of society and one’s public reputation. It is a very fun mixture of period and modern.”
With great pride in the sold-out success of the world premiere of La Ruta, written by Chicago-based playwright Isaac Gomez, Sandra talked about the resilient female characters in both La Ruta and A Doll’s House, Part 2, written by Lucas Hnath:
“La Ruta is the story of the women who live, work, disappear, and die along the Ciudad Juarez bus route on the border. It is an all-woman, cross-generational cast, and I am one of the first women Latina directors. I am very proud of the project, truly the highlight of my career.
“We have set attendance records with audiences of 300 there each night. Watching them leap to their feet is thrilling but most importantly, these are 300 people nightly who know more about these women and what has happened to them—a story not told before.
“When A Doll’s House, Part 2 picks up 15 years after Nora slammed the door in Norway, she is much more self-actualized. She returns with strong opinions after being affected by external influences and has to explore and negotiate the expectations of others she once knew.”
We asked Sandra, who grew up in California with strong influences of the Mexican culture, about challenges she experienced as her career unfolded:
“Challenges are what life is all about, but I have had two in particular from which I have greatly learned. About 8 or 9 years ago, I was a victim of sexual harassment while performing and developed post-traumatic stress disorder. I was so busy I had tried to move on but found that I could not return to the stage. I allowed myself to take time off for damage control and for inward searching.
“The next challenge was a very good one. I attended a conference of Latinos in theater in Boston. It was mind blowing to see the lack of parity for the Latino creative community. It made me become more honest in my work, opening it up to a greater depth. By sharing your experiences it allows all to move forward.”
Photo credit: Joel Moorman
Photo credit: Joe Mazza