Alumni Profiles, Giving Back

Going Against Type

Odalys Nanin NCAS’81

A theater that produces the work of artists who feel marginalized because of their background.

Odalys Nanin Photographed by Tammy La Gorce

When Odalys Nanin entered the theater world in the early 1980s, she landed roles but grew discouraged because she was usually cast as a maid or a prostitute or a victim of domestic violence. Nanin NCAS’81, a native of Cuba, eventually moved to Los Angeles where she realized that the only way she would be able to break out of those stereotypical roles and tell her own stories would be to write, direct, produce, and perform them herself. So, she launched the nonprofit MACHA Theatre Company in 2000 as a venue for artists of all ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations.

MACHA stands for Mujeres (women, in Spanish) Advancing Culture, History, and Art. The company has produced Nanin’s own plays—one, Frida: Stroke of Passion, about the artist Frida Kahlo, was recently adapted into a book—as well as works of other artists who have felt marginalized because of their background or sexuality.

Nanin, who was known as Odalys Dominguez at Rutgers, is grateful for the direction her life took at the university. She had started college as a political science major but changed her mind—and her future—when she took professor Vern Smith’s living theater class. “I became a theater arts major because of him,” she says, “and completely integrated into the world of theater.”

That world is becoming more inclusive, Nanin says, and she is glad to have played a part in it. “Things have gotten better,” she adds, “but we’ve still got a lot of stories to tell.”

Story originally published in Rutgers Magazine.