Arena Stage The Mead Center for American Theater MY ACCOUNT

Destiny of Desire

Event Calendar

By Karen Zacarías
Directed by José Luis Valenzuela

September 11 – October 18, 2015
Kreeger Theater

On a stormy night in Bellarica, Mexico, two baby girls are born — one into a life of privilege and one into a life of poverty. When the newborns are swapped by a former beauty queen with an insatiable lust for power, the stage is set for two outrageous misfortunes to grow into one remarkable destiny. “A writer of comedic skill” (Variety), Helen Hayes Award-winning playwright Karen Zacarías (The Book Club Play) infuses the Latin American telenovela genre with music, high drama and burning passion to make for a fast-paced modern comedy. Part of the Women's Voices Theater Festival.


Destiny of Desire is generously sponsored by Beth Newburger Schwartz and John W. Layman, and is the recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award. The commission of Destiny of Desire was supported by The Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation’s Women Playwrights Commissioning Program.


ESPERANZA AMERICA (Pilar Castillo) was born and raised in East L.A. and completed her BA at UCLA’s School of Theater Film and Television. Her most recent theater credits include Habitat, The Vault: Bankrupt and The Vault: Unlocked by The Vault Ensemble; Faith, Hope and Charity and Dementia by Evelina Fernandez; and Melancholia at the LATC and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, directed by José Luis Valenzuela. Her television credits include Southland and Single Ladies. Her movie credits include Cry Now, directed by Alberto Barboza; Water and Power, directed by Richard Montoya; Gino’s Wife, directed by Aaron Lee Lopez; and, most recently, 31, directed by Rob Zombie. Esperanza is excited to be a part of this production and would like to thank her family for always supporting her and pushing her to be her best.

OSCAR CEVILLE (Dr. Jorge Ramiro Mendoza) is delighted to make his Arena Stage debut. D.C. credits include The House of Desires (Don Juan), The Young Lady from Tacna (Cesar), Anna in the Tropics (Juan Julian) and The Knight from Olmedo (Don Fernando) with Gala Hispanic Theatre; Zorro (Constellation Theatre); The New World Order and Other Plays (Scena Theatre); and Host & Guest (Synetic Theatre). Oscar is a company member of Factory 449. Regional credits include Jesus Christ Superstar (Caiaphas), The Royal Hunt of the Sun (Atahualpa), Corpus Christi (Matthew), The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told (Adam) and Jeffrey (Steve). In Panama, he received the Escena Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Play for his performance in Alan Ayckbourn’s How the Other Half Loves. He has also voiced TV and radio programs.

GABRIELA FERNANDEZ-COFFEY (Fabiola Castillo) is thrilled to be making her Arena Stage debut. Other D.C.-area credits include Uncle Vanya, The Lyons and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents at Round House Theatre; Mockingbird at the Kennedy Center; Detroit, Gruesome Playground Injuries and Stunning at Woolly Mammoth; Water by the Spoonful and The Motherf--ker with the Hat at Studio Theatre; and After the Fall at Theater J, for which she won a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress. She is a Woolly Mammoth Company Member and graduate of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.

CARLOS GÓMEZ (Ernesto del Rio) is thrilled to be making his Arena Stage debut. On Broadway, he originated the role of Kevin Rosario in the Tony Award-winning musical In the Heights. Other theater credits include Zorba, West Side Story, Once Removed and Living Out (Mark Taper Forum). Film credits include Desperado, Fools Rush In, The Negotiator, Dolphin Tale 2, House of Sand and Fog and The Perfect Game. On television he was awarded three Imagen Awards and nominated for an Alma Award for his part as Carlos Sanchez in the A&E television series The Glades. Additional TV credits include Friends, ER, Charmed, 24, Shark, Criminal Minds, Weeds, Castle and Gang Related.

FIDEL GOMEZ (Dr. Diego Mendoza) was born and raised in East L.A. and is a proud graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts where he received a BFA in theater. His stage credits include the national tour of Placas; Just Like Us at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts; the national tour of Solitude; Melancholia, The Vault: Bankrupt and The Vault: Unlocked at LATC; and The Merry Wives of Windsor and Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare Festival LA. His film and television credits include HBO’s Walkout, NCIS, Undercovers, Grey's Anatomy and 7th Heaven.

RAYANNE GONZALES (Hortencia del Rio/Fight Captain) happily returns to Arena Stage following her appearances in Mother Courage and Her Children, My Fair Lady, The Music Man, Damn Yankees and Señor Discretion Himself. She was also recently in Man of La Mancha at Shakespeare Theatre Company. Broadway credits include The Phantom of the Opera and Hands on a Hardbody. Rayanne’s other credits include South Pacific (North Carolina Theatre and Casa Mañana), Porgy & Bess (Natchez Festival), the first national tour of In the Heights and NBC’s The Sound of Music Live!. An alumna of Boston University, the Longy School of Music and The Banff Centre, her honors include the National Federation of Music Clubs, Metropolitan Opera Auditions and Plácido Domingo’s Operalia. With warmest thanks to my family, CGF Talent and Paloma, smart and beautiful. Credo.

CÁSTULO GUERRA (Armando Castillo) returns to Arena Stage after performing 33 years ago in Galileo, The Suicide, Animal Crackers and Undiscovered Country. He debuted at the Delacorte Theatre in Othello with Raúl Julia and Coriolanus with Morgan Freeman, followed by Watch on the Rhine and Much Ado About Nothing at Center Stage. At the Mark Taper Forum he performed in JoAnne Akilaitis’ Greencard,and at La Jolla Playhouse he was Prospero in Robert Woodruff’s The Tempest. With the Latino Theater Company, he played the Bishop in La Virgen de Guadalupe at the Cathedral of Los Angeles for 14 years and performed in Lysistrata and La Olla at the Getty, all directed by José Luis Valenzuela. Film credits include Terminator 2, The Usual Suspects, The Mexican, Alamo, Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2, Bless Me Ultima and Purge 2.

MARIAN LICHA (Sister Sonia) is delighted to be back at Arena Stage. Her favorite roles include Ofelia in Anna in the Tropics, directed by Jo Bonney at Arena Stage, and Ferula and Count Satigny in The House of Spirits at Gala Hispanic Theatre. Other stage credits include Roundhouse Theatre, Provincetown Playhouse, TOMI Theatre, Repertorio Espanol and the Kennedy Center, where she played Elena in their national tour of Maggie Magalita. She portrayed Imelda on television’s Homicide and Mrs. Serrano in the film Step Up 2. She received an MCAC Theatre Fellowship in 2000, and in 2010, the Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artists Award for her solo performance in the title role of her solo show Frida Vice-Versa (director Jessica Lefkow, co-writer R. Dennis Green), seen at The Chautauqua Festival and other sold-out venues.

NICHOLAS RODRIGUEZ (Sebastian Jose Castillo) returns to Arena Stage where his credits include Curly in Oklahoma! (Helen Hayes Award, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Musical), Eilif in Mother Courage and Her Children, Freddy in My Fair Lady (Helen Hayes nomination), Fabrizio Nacarelli in The Light in the Piazza and the cabaret The Power of Two with Eleasha Gamble. On Broadway, he performed the title role in Disney’s Tarzan. Off-Broadway, he’s appeared in The Toxic Avenger, Almost Heaven, Bajour and Collete Collage. Tours include Jesus Christ Superstar (Jesus), Evita (Che) and Hair (Claude). He participated in Guys and Dolls at Carnegie Hall and I Am Harvey Milk at Lincoln Center. Regional credits include The Ten Commandments (Kodak Theatre), Mothers and Sons, Jesus Christ Superstar, Beauty and the Beast, Damn Yankees, Cinderella, South Pacific, Master Class, Love, Valour, Compassion! and The King and I. He was in the film Sex and the City 2 and featured on the film’s soundtrack. For TV, Madam Secretary. He’s perhaps best known for his portrayal of Nick Chavez on ABC’s One Life to Live (GLAAD Media Award). Nicholas is the Artistic Director of the Broadway Dreams Foundation ( His debut album, The First Time…, is available on iTunes and at He holds a BM and MM in Vocal Performance from the University of Texas at Austin.

ELIA SALDAÑA (Victoria del Rio) hails from Los Angeles and is happy to be making her Arena Stage debut. Regional credits include the musicals Ivy + Bean (Bean) and Jane of the Jungle (Kayla) at South Coast Repertory (the latter with book and lyrics by Karen Zacarías); The Anatomy of Gazellas (Alex) with Playwrights’ Arena; Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Maria Elena) with Theatre League; and Family Planning (Jilly) at Chalk Repertory, for which she received an Ovation Award nomination. She has also worked with Denver Center Theatre, The Pasadena Playhouse, Latino Theater Company and National Theatre for Children, among others. TV/film credits include Jane the Virgin, Criminal Minds, The Cleveland Show, The LeBrons and Bella and The Bulldogs. She received her BA in theater from The University of California, San Diego.

ROSINO SERRANO (Augustín Lara, Jr.) was born in Spain and has been part of the musical scene of Mexico since the early 80's. For the last two decades he has shared his professional life between New York, Los Angeles and Mexico City. He served as composer/musical director for numerous theatrical productions with Thalia Spanish Theatre, Central Park Summerstage and Compañía Nacional de Teatro, among others. He is a regular collaborator with the Latino Theater Company. A renowned film composer, Rosino has scored iconic features including the Oscar-nominated The Crime of Father Amaro, Santitos and Walkout. Either as a pianist, MD, composer, arranger or producer, Rosino has worked alongside prominent artists including Eugenia León, Armando Manzanero, Santana, Ivan Lins, Camila and many others. He is a faculty member at ITESM in Mexico City and an Artistic Member of Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte (CONACULTA / FONCA).


Karen ZacariasKAREN ZACARÍAS (Playwright) has written award-winning plays including The Book Club Play, Legacy of Light, Mariela in the Desert, The Sins of Sor Juana, the adaptations of Just Like Us and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent and many more. She collaborated on the libretto for Sleepy Hollow and Hemingway: The Sun Also Rises for the Washington Ballet. The 2016 season will see world premieres of her plays Destiny of Desire at Arena Stage; Native Gardens at Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park; Oliverio: A Brazilian Twist at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Ella Enchanted: The Musical at First Stage and Into the Beautiful North at Milagro Theater. She is one of the inaugural resident playwrights at Arena Stage and is a core founder of the Latino Theatre Commons. She is the founder of Young Playwrights’ Theater, an award-winning theater company that teaches playwriting in local public schools in Washington, D.C. Karen lives in D.C. with her husband and three children.

JOSÉ LUIS VALENZUELA (Director) is the Artistic Director of the Latino Theater Company (LTC) and the Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC) and is also the head of the MFA directing program at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television. José is an award winning theater director and has been a visionary and an advocate for Chicano/Latino theater for over 29 years. He has directed critically-acclaimed productions at major theaters both internationally and nationally including the LATC, where he created the Latino Theatre Lab in 1985, and the Mark Taper Forum, where he established the Latino Theater Initiative in 1991. José also serves on the national steering committee of the Latina/o Theatre Commons and produced the historic national Latina/o theater festival Encuentro in 2014.

FRANÇOIS-PIERRE COUTURE (Set Designer) is originally from Montreal and has had the privilege of working across the United States for the last decade as a scenic, lighting and projection designer. Some of his designs include Everything You Touch for Rattlestick productions at the Cherry Lane Theatre; La Voix Humaine, a double bill of the Cocteau play and Poulenc Opera, at the Castleton Opera Festival; OZ 2.5 and James and the Giant Peach at South Coast Repertory; The Year of Magical Thinking  at the Laguna Playhouse; Death of a Salesgirl at the Bootleg Theater; The Children at the Boston Court Theatre; A Picasso at the Geffen Playhouse; Médée and Teseo for the Chicago Opera Theater; and Metamorphoses and Woyzeck at the Ensemble Theatre Company of Santa Barbara.

PABLO SANTIAGO (Lighting Designer) is the winner of the 2015 Stage Raw Award for Best Lighting Design for his work on The Brothers Size (Fountain Theater) and the 2014 Scenie Award for Memorable Design for his work on The Brothers Size and Time Stands Still (Chance Theater). Nominations include the 2014 Ovation Award for Best Lighting Design for his work on Premeditation (LATC) and a 2014 LA Weekly Best Lighting Design award for his work on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Actors Co-Op Theatre). Recently he worked with the LA Philharmonic as part of their Green Umbrella Project and on Amor Brujo with conductor Gustavo Dudamel and choreographer Siudy Garrido at Disney Hall; La Olla (LTC at Getty Villa) and Woyzeck (The New Vic in Santa Barbara.) Instagram: #pablosdesign

JULIE WEISS (Costume Designer)

ROSINO SERRANO (Pianist/Composer/Music Coordinator). See above for bio.

JOHN ZALEWSKI (Sound Designer)’s work has been seen at LATC, the Guthrie, Portland Center Stage, South Coast Repertory, Humana Festival, Cherry Lane, Disney Hall, Geffen, Center Theater Group, Broad Stage, Evidence Room, Boston Court, Antaeus, Padua Playwrights, Actors' Gang, and the 24th Street Theater. Awards include six LA Stage Alliance Ovations, seven LA Weekly Awards, two LADCC Awards, and ten Backstage Garlands. Recent work includes The Day Shall Declare It, at Theatre Delicatessen in London, UK and Imperial Art Studios in Downtown LA; Everything You Touch with Rattlestick/Boston Court at Cherry Lane Theatre; Tokyo Fish Story at South Coast Repertory; La Olla with Latino Theater Company at Getty Villa; My Barking Dog at Boston Court; Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, America, Kuwait at The Gym at Judson; and A Steady Rain at Alliance Theatre.

ANNE NESMITH (Wig Designer) is pleased to return to Arena Stage following last season’s Fiddler on the Roof, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and The Blood Quilt. She also designed Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Other Desert Cities and The Music Man for Arena Stage. Her recent work includes Cabaret with Signature Theatre, Falstaff for Saito Kinen Festival (Matsumoto, Japan) and Ghosts of Versailles and Madama Butterfly at Wolf Trap Opera. Her designs have been seen at the Kennedy Center, Opera Philadelphia, Signature Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Folger Theatre and Lyric Opera of Baltimore. Anne was the resident wig/makeup designer for the Baltimore Opera and has constructed wigs for Scooby Doo! Live tour and the Asian tour of 42nd Street.

KURT HALL (Stage Manager)’s favorite Arena Stage credits include The Blood Quilt, Our War, The Shoplifters, Smokey Joe’s Café, Mother Courage and Her Children starring Kathleen Turner, Maurice Hines is Tappin’ Thru Life, Good People, Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins starring Kathleen Turner, The Normal Heart, Red, Ruined, every tongue confess starring Phylicia Rashad, Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, Looped starring Valerie Harper, Next to Normal starring Alice Ripley, Awake and Sing! and The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?. Other regional credits at the Kennedy Center, Roundabout Theatre Company, McCarter Theatre Center, Shakespeare Theatre Company and Signature Theatre. Thanks to his family for all their support.

TREVOR A. RILEY (Assistant Stage Manager) is excited to return to Arena Stage after having worked on Our War last fall. Other D.C.-area credits include Sinbad: The Untold Tale (Imagination Stage), Godspell, A Christmas Carol, Farragut North and Annie (Olney Theatre Center), Just The Two of Each of Us, Appropriate, Detroit and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Diety (Woolly Mammoth Theatre), Pas De Deux (Studio Theatre) and Twelfth Night and RuleBreaker Rep (Taffety Punk). Trevor has a BFA in stage management from Virginia Commonwealth University.

PAULINE O’CON (Los Angeles Casting) began her entertainment career at the ABC-owned radio stations KABC and KLOS, assisting with talent relations and concert promotions. She segued to the ABC corporate division in 1980, where she soon began a career in network television casting. As director of casting, Pauline supervised ABC’s primetime drama pilots, series, movies-for-television and mini-series, working with such television creators and innovators as Stephen J. Cannell, David Lynch, David E. Kelley, Steven Bochco and Oprah Winfrey. Pauline joined Fox Broadcasting Company in 2001 as vice president of casting, overseeing casting of the network’s drama pilots & series including House, The O.C., Bones, Prison Break, Dark Angel, Alley McBeal and 24. Currently Pauline is partnered with Rosalinda Morales casting independent films, theater and television.

ROSALINDA MORALES (Los Angeles Casting) is a native of Los Angeles, California, attended USC and achieved a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Theater. Rosalinda began her career in the entertainment industry as a casting associate, moving on to Talent Agent where for 10 years she developed up-and-coming talent in the areas of film, TV, theater and commercials. Rosalinda then returned to casting, working with notable industry professionals including veteran TV producer Stu Segall and indie filmmaker Ken Loach. Rosalinda’s notable feature casting credits are Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna), U.S. casting; Ladrón Que Roba a Ladrón; Down For Life and REVOLUCION/Lindo y Querido directed by Patricia Riggen. Rosalinda is currently partnered with Pauline O’con working on independent films, theater and television projects.


A Passionate Photoshoot for Destiny of Desire

Don't miss award-winning playwright Karen Zacarías' brand-new comedy with a telenovela twist.

Photo Gallery


Subverting Expectations: Women’s Work in Theater
Sunday, October 11, 2015
Following the matinee of Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End (approximately 3:30 pm)
Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle
FREE but ticket required
Please join us for a reception following this event

What is feminist theater — is it simply a play written by a woman or is there more to it? How are plays by women different? Would you know a play was written by a woman by the writing alone? From comedy to drama to musicals; in solo shows, ensemble pieces or epic sagas, women playwrights are not only breaking the fourth wall, they’re breaking the glass ceiling. As Arena Stage highlights two daring plays by women — Destiny of Desire and Erma Bombeck: At Wit’s End — join playwrights Allison Engel, Margaret Engel and Karen Zacarías to discuss how women are seen and received in theater by audiences and artists, how they’re subverting those expectations and what’s next. Now that women have the world’s attention, what will they do with it?

Make it a day! Join us for the matinee of Erma Bombeck, followed by the discussion. Then stay for dinner at our Café and the 6:00 pm performance of Destiny of Desire.

Post-Show Discussions
September 30 at 12:00 pm
October 6 at 12:00 pm
October 6 at 7:30 pm
October 8 at 8:00 pm
October 14 at 12:00 pm

Off Book

Welcome to Off Book – Arena Stage’s online forum featuring American artists at the top of their game, talking about what they do best. Actors, directors, writers, dramaturgs, designers – unscripted and unrehearsed.

One of Arena’s inaugural Resident Playwrights discusses her inspiration behind Destiny of Desire, her love of telenovelas, and what Destiny means to her. Read More

Excerpts from a conversation with director José Luis Valenzuela about destiny, powerful women, and Latino theater. Read More

In Karen Zacarías’ world-premiere play, Destiny of Desire, each character journeys the path of their destiny – for better or worse. During rehearsals, I asked the cast if they believed in Destiny and, if so, what it meant to them. Below are excerpts from our conversation. Read More


Audio Described

September 26 at 2:00 pm

Open Captioned

October 14 at 7:30 pm
October 15 at 8:00 pm