Sheroes of Cazateatro Bilingual Theatre Group

story by Sarah Rushakoff | photos by Angel Ortez

The sky’s the limit. That’s what the sheroes of Cazateatro Bilingual Theatre Group want you to know. Cazateatro, founded in 2006, is unique in Memphis as a bilingual theater company, a vehicle for community education, and a company predominantly helmed by women.

Dorimar Ferrer, Executive Director of the company, says its success comes from a combination of all those attributes. “Our founders decided to fight for a dream of change in our community,” she says. “Because the company is run mostly by women, it has allowed us to break with stereotypes and create the opportunity to talk about diversity and inclusion in our city.”

Company member Alexandra Carpenter believes Cazateatro achieves its main goal, acting as a bridge between cultures, thanks to the women in charge. “[Our] success is largely due to the female leadership’s nurturing, compassion, respect, and care for the community,” says Carpenter.

Cazateatro doesn’t only show support for women through representation in leadership. They also champion women in the educational and theatrical work they do in the Memphis community, says Artistic Director Monica Sanchez. “This is an organization that is run by two women in love with theater and proud of our Hispanic heritage,” she says. “We want to be an example to be followed by other women, not only Latinas, but women in general. Women can achieve many things, the important thing is to have faith in ourselves and support each other.”

Carpenter also appreciates the emphasis on women’s issues in the company’s community work. “Cazateatro consistently elevates and values women through frequent cultural history lessons of sheroes, thoughtful casting, and plays that highlight women’s needs and importance in society,” she says.

“We are also very active in the community trying to highlight the importance of having and creating women leaders for our communities as well as standing up and supporting other women,” adds Henao.

Where do these women find their inspiration as community sheroes? Many don’t have to look any further than their own families. Ferrer and Sanchez both look up to their moms, who work hard and encourage their families to reach for their dreams.

Carpenter’s grandma had a big influence on her when she was younger. “Mi Abuelita is my inspiration for everything good that I do and hope to achieve,” she says. “ She was the kindest, strongest, funniest woman who ever lived.”

Valentina Henao, Cazateatro’s Vice President, turns to the community when she thinks of her shero, “an immigration attorney that is very prepared and works very hard to support our most vulnerable immigrants.” Henao admires this attorney for doing nonprofit work, when she could make more money working in a private practice. “If we had more sheroes like her, Memphis definitely would be a better and accepting place to live,” Henao says.

A future Memphis with more sheroes, according to the women of Cazateatro, will be a better place. “We will create a better city where we can work as a team, learn to listen to each other, and respect our differences,” says Ferrer. Carpenter says she thinks female leadership brings out the best in Memphis and makes the city shine.

They all have advice for the aspiring young shero who wants to make a difference in her community.

“Surround yourself with women who have a desire to excel,” says Sanchez. “Work hard and believe in yourself even when others tell you that you cannot achieve your goals.”

Ferrer says young women should always fight for their dreams. “Our goal is to help them believe in themselves and that the sky is the limit.”

“The sky is the limit. Good will always be with you when you are doing something good for others,” reminds Henao.

Carpenter is excited to see what happens when more women reach for their goals, and she agrees that there are no boundaries to what they can achieve. “As more sheroes get involved improving our city through art, multicultural influence, and education, the sky is the limit!”