WASHINGTON, D.C. (DC News Now) — For nearly 50 years, GALA Hispanic Theatre has been capturing an audience in DC.
Performing primarily in Spanish, the group caters to the Spanish-speaking community, putting Hispanic actors and playwrights on stage. But the group is more than just a theater company —it’s a family, one that’s growing beyond the playhouse.
Luz Nicolas has been acting since she was just 15 years old. She was born and raised in Madrid, Spain before moving to the United States in her mid-30s.
She first heard about GALA Hispanic Theatre when she got to Baltimore. She reached out, auditioned, and landed a role.
What she found there was more than she could’ve ever imagined.
“I met them, they were just family,” Nicholas said.
Rebecca Medrano co-founded GALA Hispanic Theatre with her late husband, Hugo Medrano in 1976. Gala, or “Grupo de Artistas Latinoamericanos,” was Hugo’s vision. He dreamed of a space to connect, share, and preserve the rich Latino culture in DC and beyond up on the big stage.
“His dream was that you had to bring together these diverse cultures so that there would be one unified message to the larger public about the beauty and richness of Latino culture,” Medrano said.
The group first started as a bilingual theater for children, and later, expanded to shows for adults. Performances moved from a townhome in Adams Morgan to a space downtown, a catholic school, and now, the Tivoli Building in Columbia Heights.
Shows are now primarily done in Spanish, with English subtitles. The mission remains the same: elevating the Hispanic voice from writers to directors and actors.
“Our mantra, which I think is really what keeps our vision focused, is to introduce people to those writers they may not know,” Medrano said.
Beyond exposure, GALA serves as a hub — a home away from home, connecting people with a common heritage.
“A lot of people here, especially from South America and Latin America are on government contracts. It really anchors them in D.C. if they’re new,” said Medrano
According to the latest Census data, Hispanics and Latinos make up 12% of the population in D.C.
“There’s still that need to stay attached to your culture to stay attached to your family, and we are one big family,” Medrano said. “To have Spaniards seeing Cuban shows, or Argentines seeing Guatemalan, it is South America, Central America, and North America, but there is a connectivity through the language.”
Nicolás echoes that statement.
“They don’t want to forget where they came from, where their blood came from,” Nicolás said.
She said performing in her native language adds a level of intimacy with the audience, regardless of what language they speak.
“To do that in Spanish it means you’re touching the heart of people speaking your own language, but at the same time, what you are really experiencing with them is it doesn’t matter the language. Even if they don’t understand us, they feel us, and that’s something you have to do in theater and take it out to your life,” Nicholas said.