For Alisha Espinosa ’12, a love for acting and the theater can be attributed in part to “efficiency.”
“As a child, I loved stories and singing more than anything,” said Espinosa, who majored in theatre arts and English and was in Le Moyne’s Integral Honors Program. “At first, I wanted to be the next Whitney Houston and the next great American novelist – both at the same time! Instead, thanks to a very ambitious middle school teacher, I was introduced to musical theater and Shakespeare, which made me realize I could combine both my love of stories and performing in the same job.”
A passion that began in childhood has served her well. After graduating from Le Moyne, she completed an MFA in acting and directing at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Moving back to her native New York City after graduation, she followed a path not uncommon among those seeking a career in theater: auditioning; self-producing; teaching; working in restaurants, cafes and other odd jobs; writing; and acting in regional and off-Broadway productions.
Paying her dues has paid off, as Espinosa now serves as producing artistic director of the Latinx Playwrights Circle (LPC). Founded in 2017, the goal of the LPC is to build a network of Latinx/é playwrights nationwide in order to promote, develop and elevate their work while making their plays accessible to theater-makers looking to find the next generation of American storytellers.
Recognized as a 501c3 nonprofit, the LPC recently received the Excellence in Theater Award from the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors (HOLA), which for the past 45 years has been dedicated to increasing casting equity for Latiné actors.
“The award from HOLA is a great honor, not only because it is recognition directly from our community, but also because it's from an organization whose mission is aligned with ours,” she said. “Personally, it’s a reminder that community is our greatest strength and every day is a day to honor that community.”
Her work at the LPC is far from mundane.
“I consider myself the jack of all trades for the staff,” she said. “I handle project management, producing events and readings, social media, and member outreach. Our staff is only seven people so we all wear a lot of hats and stir a lot of pots.”
Espinosa’s success in this role requires so much flexibility is no surprise to Matt Chiorini, director of Le Moyne’s theater program.
“We like to say that everyone in our department is going to pick up a broom," said Chiorini. “There are a lot of moving parts involved in a successful theatre collaboration and no job is too big or small for anyone when there’s work to be done. We’ve found that this creates a real ’can-do’ versatility in our students who are always happy to pitch in wherever needed, ask questions about things they’re not sure how to do, and to stay nimble and adaptable. Alisha is having so much success in all of these other areas of theatre in part because she, like all of our best theatre students, learned not just how to act or design, but also to problem solve and collaborate.”
Espinosa was cast as the female lead in Chiorini’s first production at Le Moyne, 2010’s Blood Wedding.
“From our first meeting, I knew Alisha was special,” he recalled. “She had talent and focus, but also a real ambition to push herself to do her best work.”
While acting was her first love, Espinosa finds that collaboration is the most fulfilling part of her job.
“I love how the combined power of so many brains and talents can advance work and make it excellent,” she said. “The Jesuit way of educating the whole person is the reason I am able to have the career I have. Le Moyne’s [Department of Visual and Performing Arts] is designed to train a complete theater artist by encouraging you to try every role, on stage and off.”
While she is busy with off-stage duties, she continues to act. She was recently involved in Ensemble Studio Theater’s Marathon of One Act Plays and in May of this year she will play Mariah in Twelfth Night at the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival.
Looking back on her time on the Heights, Espinosa credits Chiroini and Karel Blakeley from the Department of Visual and Performing Arts and English faculty members Maura Brady, Kate Costello-Sullivan, Erin Mullaly, Elizabeth Hayes and Anca Munteanu for her success.
“Not only did they challenge and nurture me, but they also always treated students with the utmost respect,” she said. “I was given so much responsibility and trust in my classes and extracurriculars. I’m only now learning how rare that is.”
As for longer-term goals, she wants to work in entertainment in some meaningful capacity – as a producer, writer, actor or administrator, and also find several new financial supporters for the Latinx Playwrights Circle.
“My guiding goal for my career is to make substantive and artistically astonishing contributions to the field. Specifically, I would love for an off-Broadway or regional theater to premiere one of my plays, to make a Broadway debut as an actor, and to appear in some films or TV shows.”
None of that would shock Chiorini.
“Talent is important, but patience, perseverance and passion are what we hope students learn at Le Moyne. Alisha thrived in all areas. I’m not at all surprised that she is so successful and couldn’t be prouder of her!”