The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Rita Moreno dazzles San Antonio audience

Rita Moreno dazzles San Antonio audience - The Mesquite Online News - Texas A&M University-San Antonio

Photo courtesy of Las Casa Foundation.

Love for the art of acting, influencing younger generations and perfecting your talent are all important aspects to being an entertainer, said actress Rita Moreno Nov. 14 at The Majestic Theatre.

“I just thought I’d be the biggest movie star there was,” Moreno said in a moderated discussion with actor Ricardo Chavira. “I was 16. I mean, what did I know?”

The small but enthusiastic crowd filled the theater with laughter from start to finish.

Fans were excited before, during and after as Moreno showered them with stories and anecdotes. They gave Moreno a standing ovation, whistling and cheering as Moreno took the stage.

Chavira, an actor from San Antonio known for his roles in “Desperate Housewives” and Netflix’s “Selena: The Series”, shared his experience, telling how he got introduced to Moreno in “The Electric Company” when he was a child.

The crowd cheered the reference, a few even yelling out “Hey, you guys!” in excitement.

“The show was put together with educators to try and develop a way to get a child’s extended attention,” Moreno said. “I remember thinking, wow, this isn’t just for little kids, it’s for people who don’t know how to read in English. That’s a true community service.”

Moreno’s career, which includes the rare “EGOT” status of winning Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards, started in theater as a stage actress. 

The theater “grounds you in a way nothing else can,” Moreno said. “It’s vital to an actor’s development.”

Moreno is noted for her work on stage and screen that has spanned over seven decades. Her most famous role was in “West Side Story”.

The 1961 movie starred Moreno as Anita, a hard-working Puerto Rican seamstress who moved to New York City.

In the beginning of her career, Moreno was only cast in roles to play Latino characters who had to have a strong accent, sharing her fear and frustration that she was going to have a poor career in acting. 

Moreno recounted a moment when she was sitting in the makeup chair during the production of “West Side Story.” She had made a comment to the makeup artist about why the makeup had to be so much darker than her skin tone for a Puerto Rican character.

“I’m playing a Puerto Rican. This is how a Puerto Rican looks also,” Moreno said.

“And he looked at me and goes ‘what are you bigoted or what?”

At The Majestic, Moreno’s humor took center stage as her phone rang during the discussion, prompting one audience member to shout for her to answer it.

Moreno was happy to oblige, announcing that the caller was her daughter Fernanda. 

“My phone rang and I’m on stage,” Moreno laughed. “Everyone, say ‘hi, Fernanda.’”

In 2021, when Moreno joined the cast of Steven Spielberg’s remake of “West Side Story,” she was shocked to learn that the role of Valentina was written specifically for her.

When portraying any character, Moreno always gives them a backstory, she said. Playing Valentina was one of her favorite roles. She saw who she was in between the lines and acting on screen. She went deeper into who Valentina was at the core and what drove her as a human being. They weren’t just characters; they had stories of their own and it was her job to tell it, she said.

Moreno told the crowd she was so thankful to everyone who came and was proud to be able to share her stories.

The audience gave another standing ovation as Moreno bowed and thanked them one last time.

“Thank you for letting me say any bloody thing I want!”

About the Author

Katelyn Kotchey
Katelyn Kotchey is a communication sophomore at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. She transferred from West Hills Community College in California. In addition to being a full-time student, she also works at Knight Watch Games. In her free time, she enjoys painting, photography and playing Dungeons & Dragons with friends. After graduation, she hopes to pursue a career in photojournalism or publishing.

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