Back to School: Acting Alum Returns to UH For Spanish Theater Camp, Shakespeare FestBernardo Cubria working with Houston high school students and preparing for two bard plays
Now, the UH School of Theatre & Dance alumnus is teaching the magic of stagecraft to Houston high school students as part of the summer fine arts program “Exploraciones Dramaticas,” which focuses on Spanish-language stage works. He’s also gearing up for his debut in the Houston Shakespeare Festival playing Casca in “Julius Caesar” and Iachimo in “Cymbeline.” The plays run Aug. 1 – 10 at Houston’s Miller Outdoor Theatre.
“It’s wonderful to be back,” said Cubria, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in theatre in 2006. “I can’t think of a better way to spend my summer. I am working with extremely intelligent students, who have a sincere appreciation for theater. And, in a sense, I get to be a student again as I work with two of my UH mentors with the Houston Shakespeare Festival.”
Cubria moved to New York City last fall but eagerly accepted the invitation to participate in “Exploraciones Dramticas.” This summer program is presented by Houston-based non-profit organization Wonderworks in collaboration with UH. Now in its second year, “Exploraciones” offers bilingual high school students an opportunity to study, discuss and even perform classic and contemporary Spanish-language dramatic works.
“When many young students think of the theater, they immediately think New York or London. I want to show them that many great theater works also are rooted in South America, Mexico and Spain,” Cubria said. “I also want them to explore these plays as they were written and performed in Spanish, so they can expand their own knowledge of the language.”
While his days are focused on teaching the works of Jorge Luis Borges and Pedro Calderon de la Barca, his afternoons and evenings are spent revisiting the Bard. Although he will make his Houston Shakespeare Festival debut, he is well versed in the legendary wordsmith’s material. He became very familiarized with Shakespeare through UH’s theater curriculum and his participation in Houston’s Shakespeare Outreach, which presents programs and residencies free to schools and other institutions throughout the city. He also starred as Lysander in UH’s spring 2005 production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Lyndall Finley Wortham Theatre.
The festival reunites Cubria with his former UH professors Carolyn Houston Boone, associate professor of theatre, and Sidney Berger, the John and Rebecca Moores Professor in the School of Theatre & Dance. Berger is directing “Julius Caesar” while Boone helms “Cymbeline.”
“He has an unrestrained zest for the theater,” Berger said. “I had no hesitation to casting him in good roles while he was a student and am delighted he is participating in this year’s Houston Shakespeare Festival. His passion is infectious, and I think both his cast mates and workshop students will embrace his energy.”
Cubria was born in Mexico City but raised in Houston. After high school, he returned to Mexico as a human rights activist for Amnesty International, but his dreams of becoming the next revolutionary quickly faded.
“Like so many middle-class Latino teenagers, I envisioned myself as the next Che Guevara, but I realized that I was not going to save the world,” Cubria said. “I thought I’d get my head together and attend a semester at UH. I took an acting class with Carolyn Boone just for fun. As soon as she began talking, I knew that acting was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Boone and Berger groomed him for starring roles in university main stage productions at UH. His gift for comedy made him a go to actor when casting for the lively Children’s Theatre Festival (including a starring role in Boone’s “The Princess and the Pea”), but his serious side was reflected in the UH student group he co-founded, Unheard Voices. The group continues to focus on works by and about minorities, as well student-written plays. Productions starring Cubria included “Out,” written by student Greg Hundemer, which depicted a young man coming to terms with his homosexuality.
Cubria also worked with Houston-based experimental theater group Nova Arts Project directing 2006’s “Oedipus Rex” and starring in 2007’s lauded “tempOdyssey” by Dan Dietz.
After graduating, Cubria developed an unexpected cult following when he portrayed Count Pelicula, a Saturday night horror host on Channel 55’s “Count Pelicula’s Theatre of Horror.” With his hair slicked back, face in white make-up and wearing a black cape, he and other UH acting alums presented film classics such as “Frankenstein” and “Dracula.” The show was cancelled last year, but the character left a mark on the Houston media landscape. So much so, Cubria still gets fan mail.
“We had no idea what we were doing,” he said. “I had never seen a late night horror host, so me and my friends just tried to be funny. Apparently, people liked us. I got about 30 emails a week and still get messages from people who are sad we’re off the air and requesting autographed pictures.”
Now in the Big Apple, Cubria is starring on off-off-Broadway productions including a recent production of Nilo Cruz’ Pulitzer-winning “Anna in the Tropics.” He also appeared on a recent edition of Tru-TV’s “Rich and Reckless.”
For information on Cubria’s career, visit www.bernardocubria.com. To learn about “Exploraciones Dramaticas,” visit www.wonderworkshouston.org, or for details on the Houston Shakespeare Festival, go to www.houstonfestivalscompany.com.
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