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Cora Cardona: And I’m Telling You, I’m Not Going. 29

Cora Cardona co-founded Teatro Dallas, and she’s led the company for 32 years. So the North Texas arts scene was rocked when the news came out recently that Cardona is stepping down. This is the director who created our first professional Latino company and who regularly brought in theater artists from all over the world.

But Cardona sat down with Art&Seek’s Jerome Weeks to say, hold on. She’s not really going away.

Cora Cardona, welcome.

Thank you, Jerome.

Well, first off, I have to ask, was there any trigger for your decision to retire from leading Teatro Dallas?

Teatro Dallas’ Day of the Dead production, ‘An Evening With Two Giants,‘ Oct. 30th at the Dallas Museum of Arts – featuring adapted short stories by Juan Rulfo and Cardona Pena.

Well, first of all, I’m not retiring, I keep saying that. I think that was a problem we had with the press release because we said ‘retired.’ And really, I’m not retiring in the sense that I’m gonna stop working. I think your job is your identity. It’s who you are, it’s who you are every day. So I’m going to stay with Teatro Dallas, just working on special projects, especially the International Theater Festival. Which will be a good thing because it will allow me to more freely travel and see other groups and bring the best that I can to Dallas.

Oishi Stories by Lafcadio Hearn

‘Oishi Stories’ by Lafcadio Hearn from 2010. Photo: Leticia Alaniz

But then, still, my question is, what triggered the change?

Oh, the change? I was, like, spreading myself, doing a lot of things in 32 years. And I feel that now that Teatro is somewhat established that I think I should, you know, open the door to people, to young people that need to work in the arts. But I also think changing is challenging and I am challenging myself to do this. I am going to be actually working more in directing and acting freelance.

You’ve received a Meadows grant to help you with this transition. First, to hire an executive director and then an artistic director. And that made me realize that you’ve been doing both jobs all this time. Was that out of necessity or do you just have to be in charge?

Well, not really [laughing]. I think that because of funding issues I wasn’t ever able to split the two, and it is in part because I’m a terrible administrator. You know, had I been a good one, I probably would have already hired more people and the organization would have grown better than it is. In spite of all this, I think I created a situation where now that’s going to happen. We still need to raise some money. But I do want to thank the Meadows Foundation because they are helping us out in this transition.

 cora in studio

Cora Cardona in the THINK studio. Photo: Jerome Weeks

You have a small space now but you’ve struggled to find space in the past. You don’t benefit from a city-supported home in the Arts District. And you’ve had to build an audience – starting the theater without knowing if there would be enough of a base here. Over thirty years, has that audience changed?

Audience-wise, we do bring different people. A lot of people come from the festival and then they find us and they come back. We have very good relationships with community colleges and universities. So there are students that come because they have to for a special assignment or something.  They come back. And in fact, some of their children come to our educational programs. So yes, we see that audience-wise, we are constantly changing.

So how has the announcement of your ‘non-retirement’ retirement been received?

It was funny because I feel like, man, maybe next time I’ll say I died! So that everybody pays attention to Teatro Dallas! But no, we’re not dead and this is great publicity for us. I would like to invite everyone to see our Day of the Dead production in the fall, celebrating two fantastic authors. One of them is Juan Rulfo, who was a great influence to Garcia Marquez [and who’s best known for his novel, ‘Pedro Paramo’], and the other one is Cardona Pena, who is from Costa Rica [a poet who also wrote sci-fi and horror stories].

Well, Cora Cardona, thank you. And I’m looking forward to seeing you onstage again some day.

Thank you.