Written by Anthony Rodriguez, Co-Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Aurora Theater.
20 years ago today my world fell apart. On this day in 1996 my beloved Mami, Lucy, passed away. She and my father left Cuba in 1960 with nothing and built a life and raised a family here in the United States.
To say I was her favorite wouldn’t be fair to my brothers Jose and John but I did need particular attention. When I was in 6th grade I had surgery on my blind eye. We lived in Atlanta and the surgery was in Houston so my Mami was with me every single day for 6 weeks. Imagine that, an operation that is now done in less than an hour as outpatient surgery took over 8 hours in the OR and 6 weeks of hospitalized recovery. We spent every moment together, loving, laughing and sometimes fighting. A 6th grader stuck in a hospital for so long will say some ugly things but my Mami never stopped loving me for one single second. When I had cancer at the age of 27 she was again by my side, praying, crying but always loving.
In January of 1996 she had what they thought was a stroke. It turned out to be a brain tumor. I was by her side as much as possible but I was never the caregiver she was. Mami was never the same after they operated on the tumor. The surgery left her communication skills seriously impaired. At the time, I was married but unhappy. No fault or animosity we just weren’t right for one another but I was committed to stick it out because I felt that is what my mother would have wanted. Somehow, just sitting and holding hands with her on their porch in Florida, she let me know it was alright to let go and find my happiness.
Shortly after she passed, Ann-Carol and I reconnected for what we both thought would be just a few grief inspired drinks between good friends. It was immediately obvious that Mami was the guide and mastermind of this reunion. AC and I have been together ever since and I can’t imagine a day without her in my life.
As Wendell David Brock said in his review of IN THE HEIGHTS, “It’s the musical Aurora Theatre has been waiting to do all its life: a dazzling, near-perfect achievement where the end product lives up to the ambition that drives the theater’s leadership, and where the hopes and dreams of a community are mirrored onstage.” But this show and Aurora Theatre would not be possible had Mami and Papi not met, married and left their homeland for a better or if Mami had not spiritually arranged for me and Ann-Carol to have a drink at the Beer Mug.
Alabaza, Alabanza a Doña Lucy, Señor
The Aurora Theater was established in 1996 in a converted hardware store in the suburbs of Atlanta. The Aurora Theater, embodies a unique partnership between city government, private development and non-profit charity. It is now the largest arts organization in Gwinnett County (the most diverse county in Georgia) and the fastest growing professional theater in the state.
The Aurora Theater’s vision is to reflect the community and region’s diversity, to further education with an innovative approach and to build sustained and shared growth that leads to community pride and engagement.
The “army of misfits” as the Aurora Theater call themselves; manages to produce 600 shows every season and has received numerous accolades and awards, including winner of seven 2013 Suzi Bass Awards, Creative Loafing’s 2010 Best Theatre Company, Georgia Trend Magazine’s 2011 Best Places to Work in Georgia, Atlanta Business Chronicle’s 2012 Best Places to Work, Atlanta Magazine’s Best of Atlanta 2013, Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s 2014 President and CEO Award for Excellence in Arts and the Gwinnett Chamber’s 2015 IMPACT Regional Business Award for Hospitality.