Marcos Martinez: Julliard graduate travels world teaching, directing, acting

By Kathy Córdova
For Taos News
Posted 1/9/20

World traveler Marcos Martinez enjoys one great passion during his many trips. "I like to get lost in a foreign city and find my way back. That way, I learn much about where I'm visiting," said Martinez during a recent interview in El Prado.

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Marcos Martinez: Julliard graduate travels world teaching, directing, acting


World traveler Marcos Martinez enjoys one great passion during his many trips. "I like to get lost in a foreign city and find my way back. That way, I learn much about where I'm visiting," said Martinez during a recent interview in El Prado.

Martinez's travels as an actor, director and theater teacher have taken him to many places for work and pleasure. He left Taos at age 17 following graduation from Taos High in 1973. After living in many parts of the world, Martinez returned to his native community in the summer of 2018. During the interim, he often visited his hometown on summer breaks and holidays.


Martinez attended the Julliard School in New York City, where he studied as an actor with Group 12. The institution now trains students in groups numbered in the 50s, an illustration of the longevity of Julliard's work in the performing arts. "Many people think of Julliard as a school of music, but the institution also prepared actors. I was trained in Spanish classical theater, New York classical contemporary in English and Spanish. I performed Shakespeare, including 'Much Ado About Nothing,' in San Diego," said Martinez.

He received his diploma in 1983 from Julliard.

Later, Martinez learned the craft of directing. Martinez said that training to direct is pointless due to the great variety of actors, methods and material. Instead, he observed and read about the craft before directing. "You don't train as a director; you just do it," he said.

Martinez also earned a Bachelor of Art degree in sociology in 1978 at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and completed a master's degree in theater in 1987 from UNM. As one of the requirements for the completion of his studies, he authored the thesis "Toward an Aesthetic for Chicano Theater." Martinez studied Suzuki Theater in Japan, in 1985, 1991, 2007 and 2008.

Performance career

A look at Martinez's résumé reveals a vast amount of work, diversity and location. Along with the late Rev. Jose Rodriguez, Martinez co-founded La Compañia de Teatro de Albuquerque. As part of his duties, Martinez served as artistic director. The group produced a variety of plays, including: "La Valija," by Argentine Julio Mauricio; "We Won't Pay, We Won't Pay" by Dario Fo; and "Farolitos of Christmas" by Rudolfo Anaya. Martinez co-wrote and directed "You Say Shaquehue; I Say Chaquhue."

More directing and acting credits include "Six Characters in Search of an Author" by Luigi Pirandello and "Life Is a Dream" by Pedro Calderón de la Barca. Martinez explained Calderon's work in the analogy: "He is to Spain what Shakespeare is to England." Martinez received a great honor for the production "La Pasión de Jesus Chavez" when the archdiocese of Santa Fe sponsored a tour of the production.

From 1978 to 1981, Martinez worked with La Compañia, which he termed "very formative for me." His duties for the company included teaching, producing four plays per year and raising money. "The board helped out with a little bit of money, but not a ton," said Martinez.

Two actors from La Compañia became noteworthy in their own right: Karen June Sanchez of Los Lunas, a professor of theater at University of Texas-Austin; and Benito Martinez who appeared in "Bless Me, Ultima" and "American Crime." Martinez also wrote the play "Poaching," which appeared before local audiences at the Taos Community Auditorium.

Life as an educator

For 26 years, Martinez taught as a theater, visual, music and performing arts professor in the University of California system. He retired in 2018 as a full professor of theater. His teaching years included many accolades, too numerous to mention in this article. He taught many courses in the Spanish theater in acting, stage and production. He received several grants and fellowships and worked on the stage and television. He lectured and provided workshops.

In 2010, Martinez worked with the California Art Council as a touring and presenting roster artist. Martinez became a featured speaker of the California State University-San Marcos Faculty College Series in 2005. From 2006 to 2009, Martinez served as chairman of the visual and performing arts program at the university; in 2007, he earned the Outstanding Latino Cultural Award in Fine and Performing Arts. For two years in a row, Martinez received nominations for the Outstanding Faculty Award. Martinez chaired the Music and Theater School in 2014-2015.

The professor spread his teaching wings by participating in the 25th annual Screen Actor Guild Awards' Television Nominating Committee in 2018. A special portion of Martinez's career included a sabbatical to Prague and Germany to complete a theater residency.


Martinez spent his childhood in the community of Cañón. His mother, Kate Tafoya, and stepfather, Angelo Tafoya, raised him. "My natural father, Luis Martinez, abandoned us when I was very small. My daughters Ana Maria (who resides in Denver) and Marina (who lives in Seattle) were his only grandchildren, but he never mentioned them in his will (if he had one) or acknowledged them," said Marcos Martinez.

The actor listed other family members: deceased santero Leo Salazar; the Chacon family of Cañón; aunt and uncle Robert and Aurora Martinez; his half-brother Juan Martinez, who "wished he could do more to help"; and half-brother Ralph Romero, who Marcos considers "the Picasso of plaster" because of Ralph's excellent construction work.

Spare time/favorites

Favorite spare time activities include fishing, hunting, bird-watching, swimming and travel. He loves movies and reading good books. Favorite movies include "The Godfather," "Marathon Man" and "Notting Hill." Marlon Brando is his favorite actor and dancer Anna Sokolow someone he greatly admires. Special reading includes "Pride and Prejudice" and "White Fragility." Regarding his reading preferences, Martinez says, "It's hard for people to talk about racism."

Martinez's taste in food varies from red chile enchiladas to pasta pescadero to ramen and smoked or sautéed sturgeon. Of course, a nice cabernet adds to the enjoyment.

Among the places to visit, his favorites are London, Greece, Ghana and Colombia. Other spots include Japan, Canada, Ireland, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Israel and China. He spent a great deal of time in the Faroe Islands, part of Denmark, where he directed "The House of Bernarda Alba."

Martinez concluded the interview by professing his interest in teaching movement. "I can see the positive change in people's lives - the smile of children. It's great," he related.

Retirement and a return to his hometown means a change of pace for Martinez. However, it allows him the opportunity to explore his other passion. "I like discovering great art and music, as well as seeing inspiring theater. I will even travel to see and hear, but it's also good to be home," he said.


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