Interview with Ayla Ocasio
* Ayla, you're the next actress of Latin descent who is performing at the KNOW theater. Tell us a little bit more about yourself - where are you from, and where are your parents' roots?
I was born and raised in Tampa Florida. My mother's family is originally from the south. My mother and her father were born in Florida making my two brothers and I third generation Floridians. My Father's family is from Puerto Rico. But my father was born in the states. My grandparents went to the same elementary school in Puerto Rico, but they didn't actually know each other until they were adults, both living in NY.
* Did you have any exposure to Latino culture when growing up?
Sadly I have yet to visit Puerto Rico. However, growing up in southern Florida literally makes one feel as though they are a raft ride away from Cuba. There's an amazing Latin culture in Miami and surrounding areas. Tampa is a huge melting pot in itself. Every sign is translated into Spanish and people speak Spanish everywhere from the grocery store to the streets where they live. Especially my street, my family liked to throw big parties, I learned quickly that if uncle Johnny was speaking Spanish, he didn't want the kids to know what he was saying.
* Do you speak Spanish, and if yes, how do you maintain it?
I can't read Spanish, and if someone speaks slowly to me I can understand most of it. But no I don't claim to speak it myself. Growing up I always figured I would continue to get better at. I worked in retail for sometime while living in Ft Myers Florida and a lot of the costumers and my co-workers were Spanish speaking. It's easy to catch on when you've heard it your whole life and use it at work. Now that my career has taken me out of southern Florida, I never hear people speaking it or see signs translated. If they are translated it's into German, so I'm not maintaining it very well.
* Did you ever performed in bilingual plays where you were able to use Spanish?
No I have not. I auditioned for a role once that would have been in Spanish but I also had to play the guitar, so that didn't happen.
* Why did you get interested in theater, and when did you realize that you want to be an actress?
When I was 11 years old, my mom wanted me to take more classes in the community (my parents home schooled all three of their children up until college) and being the drama queen that I was she thought acting would be fun. I had an amazing teacher who really nurtured her young students while still pushing them to go further. It was something I was naturally good at but felt like I had to work hard at if I wanted to be great. Then I got my first role in "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever" as the Innkeeper and I was hooked. A live audience became my drug of choice.
* How do you like Cincinnati so far?
I'm very impressed with the arts in Cincinnati. I've never worked at a theatre within walking distance of another theatre. From the Know you can walk to at least three. I really enjoy working and living in a city that supports their arts. It makes me feel very humbled to be one of the performers at a theatre that the city and gracious theatre goers have supported in order for it survive. Enough people in Cincinnati want theatre in their lives. Without them I wouldn't have a job.
* Did you get a chance to try out some of the Latino restaurants? If yes, which one did you like the best?
Um no. Actually if you could recommend some that would be great! I miss good beans and rice, and not the kind from Skyline. I go to Chipotle when I want tacos, but I haven't stumbled across a good Latin restaurant with platanos, empanadas and some buttery yucca. The Laundromats in Ohio don't grill Cuban sandwiches in back like they do back home. I'm vegetarian so I wouldn't actually be eating Cubans back home anyway. But I do miss little Latin fried food corner stores.
* Are you dancing Salsa?
I love dancing to Latin music. I learned to mambo once. But I'm not much of a technical dancer. I can get by onstage with a good instructor.
* What are you plans for the future?
To travel. I would like to work at different theatres, meet passionate people and continue to grow as an artist.