Photography by Danny Fulgencio

Growing up, Rosaura Cruz wanted to be a lawyer or high-profile actor. When her dad watched her theater performances, he’d say, “That’s great, but when are you going to be a lawyer?” Now that she’s executive director of Junior Players, he says, “When are you going back onstage?” There’s no pleasing him, Cruz says. The M Streets neighbor has been involved in almost every capacity at Junior Players since joining the Shakespeare program as a student at Bryan Adams High School. After graduating from the University of North Texas, she was represented by The Campbell Agency and worked on commercials and voiceovers while serving as the Junior Players program director. She was named executive director in 2015 and expanded the organization’s free arts programming to more than 15,000 kids across Dallas.

Video by Margaret O’Rourke

On Growing Up

“My mom and dad are from Mexico. They immigrated here in the ’70s. They are true blue-collar workers. They taught me that you have to work hard no matter what position you’re in. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not a high-profile actor. But I took components of both my passions, and it made me a great candidate for this particular position.”

On High School

Attending Bryan Adams:

“I’m a proud alumna of Bryan Adams High School. I loved my experience there. The teachers were really involved, and I was encouraged to audition for the theater program. I’m a first-generation graduate, and resources were limited. I didn’t know about Booker T. until I had applied at Bryan Adams. I’ve always had a passion for social justice issues, and I’m not sure I would have found that at Booker T. I had already found a family and place in the ecosystem at Bryan Adams. I was trained incredibly well. Junior Players had a strong partnership with Bryan Adams and provided classes. It strengthened my acting wheelhouse. I was right where I was supposed to be.”

On Discrimination

I grew up in a very white neighborhood. I was one of very few students of color. When I went on to Gaston Middle School, I was in culture shock. There were so many people who looked like me. What I found is that there was reverse racism. I was called a coconut — brown on the outside and white on the inside. I would say, “That’s great. I’m bilingual and fluent.” I’m very opinionated. I needed to find a place where I could share my voice. In theater, I was never judged by the color of my skin. I could be myself without judgment.”

On Theater

Why she loves theater:

“Theater gives me an opportunity to talk about [social justice issues] that kids are still going through. I felt the stories I was telling made a difference in whoever was watching. I was able to change some perspectives. That’s why I’m so passionate.”

On Her Day

Her day-to-day job:

“I have to maintain the artistic, financial and overall health of the organization. We looked at programming we thought was stagnant and asked students what they were missing. We diversified our revenue portfolio. Stewardship is a huge thing in the [coronavirus] crisis. We created pre-recorded programming for whenever [students] had time and live arts instruction. For teaching artists, we knew they’d be impacted financially, so we started an artist relief fund.”

On Giving Back

“The idea of the Transformation Project was that we’d go to schools and provide a series of workshops where students could talk about what was happening. They’d identify challenges, then we’d produce those as dance pieces. The funding did not exist, so I had to seek out an anonymous donor to launch a pilot program. By the second year, teachers were saying it needed to be happening at schools for a longer period of time. For the Transformation Project Residency, I decided the easiest route was to go back to my alma mater. I’m trusted there. I was able to gift my alma mater with something different than we already did there. I was super proud. It was super emotional for me.”

On Acting

Her acting work:

“I did commercials for T-Mobile, Verizon and McDonald’s. I was the voice of the security system ADT in Puerto Rico. I also do a lot of voiceover work for video games. I was the voiceover for the character Maria in The Walking Dead video game. I’ve had to reduce my availability, but my agency allows me to stay on, even though I’m booked out a lot of the year with Junior Players.”

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