Mariela In the Desert

What the audience is saying:

Thank you for a great performance."

"Brilliant job directing"

"Absolutely marvelous"

"The play is amazing as were the performances and direction. This is one you don't want to miss."

"A Tour de Force. This is a must see. It will affect you."

"Amazing evening of theatre - absolutely brilliant."

"The fraility of human love and the sorrow and detachment of art from the artist."

"A beautiful piece of theatrical poetry..."

Mariela in the Desert, the lyrical play by Karen Zacarias, will be presented by Teatro Paraguas opening on January 22 for a two week run.

It is 1951 in the northern desert of Mexico. Once renowned artist Jose Salvatierra, friend of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, is now living in a barren landscape with his wife Mariela. She ceased painting when their afflicted son tragically died in a barn fire and their gifted daughter abandoned them for Mexico City.


This night, accompanied by the unsettling rustling of the desert wind, secrets will be revealed.

"Mariela has contradictory things to teach us about how to live or not live our lives," says playwright Karen Zacarias. Do we betray our family for art's sake or betray our art for our family's sake?

Directed by Alaina Warren Zachary, the play features Catherine Donavon, Nicholas Ballas, Kathi Collins, Roxanne Tapia, Jonathan Harrell, and Skye Franklin.

Mariela in the Desert will run for two weeks, Thursdays - Saturdays, starting January 22 at 7:30 pm and Sundays at 2 pm, closing February 1st. Tickets are $17 General admission, $12 Seniors and students. For tickets and reservations, please call 505 424 1601. Teatro Paraguas is locate at 3205 Calle Marie in Santa Fe.

This project is made possible in part by New Mexico Arts, a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, the National Endowment for the Arts, Santa Fe Arts Commission, Tyson-Cook Foundation, and the Santa Fe Community Foundation.

Thursday Jan 22 & 29 at 7:30 pm; Friday Jan 23 & 30 at 7:30 pm; Saturday Jan 24 & 31 at 7:30 pm; Sunday Jan 25, Feb 1 at 2:00 pm


Mariela and José were once the golden couple of the Mexican artists’ inner circle. Together they built a family and an artist colony to host friends Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo and Rufino Tamayo. But now their daughter has grown and run away, their friends are too famous to call, and artistic inspiration has been strangled by isolation and lies. Set in the northern Mexican desert in 1950, Mariela in the Desert is a deadly mystery — a layered yet profoundly honest story of what happens to a family when creativity is forced to dry and wither away.

Karen Zacarías' award-winning plays include The Book Club Play, Legacy of Light, Mariela in the Desert, The Sins of Sor Juana, an adaptation of Julia Alvarez's How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents and the adaptation of Helen Thorpe's nonfiction book Just Like Us. Her TYA musicals with composer Deborah Wicks La Puma include Chasing George Washington: A White House Adventure, Einstein Is a Dummy, Looking for Roberto Clemente, Jane of the Jungle, Cinderella Eats Rice and Beans, Ferdinand the Bull and Frida Libre. Her plays have been produced at the Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, Goodman Theatre, Round House Theatre, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Alliance Theatre, Imagination Stage, GALA Hispanic Theatre, Berkshire Theatre Festival, South Coast Repertory, La Jolla Playhouse, Cleveland Play House, San Jose Repertory Theatre and more. Her awards include 2010 Steinberg/ACTA New Play Citation, National Francesca Primus Prize, the Kennedy Center's New Visions/New Voices Award, National Latino Playwriting Award and a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding New Play. Additionally, Zacarías was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. She is currently a playwright-in-residence at Arena Stage and teaches at Georgetown University. Zacarías is the founder of Young Playwrights' Theater, an award-winning theatre company that teaches playwriting in local public schools.

The shadows of contentious artist-spouses Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera loom over "Mariela in the Desert," which is set in 1950 Mexico at the house of Mariela and Jose. He's an artist of fading reputation and on his deathbed. She had a huge talent but, it seems, set it aside to raise two children and bolster his career. They once moved in elite circles with Frida and Diego, but no longer. Her anger about her sacrifice is at odds constantly with her love for her family.

Zacarias says she wrote the play to examine "what happens to a family when parents' creative impulses or creative lives are shut away and what damage that can do. I think children who have unhappy mothers are very unfortunate children."