Published : Tuesday, November 13, 2018 | 1:49 PM
The 2016 Disney animation of Moana is well known for its brave protagonist Moana, who conquers obstacles on her journey and discovers her own identity along the way.
Recently, Theatre 360, an award winning children’s theatre located in Pasadena, has been invited to participate in the Disney Theatrical Pilot Productions Program to put on the musical Moana Jr. With a wonderful cast full of students ranging from ages 7 to 16, it just so happens 11-year-old Karina Alvarez, who is cast as Moana, has a paralleled journey similar to that of the character she is playing.
It was not too long ago when Alvarez and her family had been through their own journey of tough circumstances where they had to put on a brave face. Just last year, in September of 2017, Alvarez, her younger sister, and father were caught in the devastating hurricane Maria that had hit Puerto Rico.
“We were not prepared for that much destruction that it caused,” said Jose Alvarez, Karina’s father.
Although the house was still standing, the Alvarez family had gone over a week with limited power, scarce water, gas, and food.
As if this wasn’t enough to worry about, unwanted thoughts started to creep in about broken dreams. Karina had hopes of pursuing theatre. She was gearing up to play her first big role as Violet, in Willy Wonka, but then Maria struck.
“That hurt a lot because she wasn’t able to do it. It was really hard to realize that we had a lot of dreams that were probably not going to happen anymore,” said Jose.
After days of not knowing what could transpire if they ran out of resources, there was finally a sign of hope. About 10 days after the hurricane had struck, the Alvarez family was able to board a plane, fly to California, and build a new foundation. Once there, Karina had slowly started getting back into theatre and was cast in a middle school production of Shrek as the only elementary student. It was then time to relocate again.
“We then moved to Arcadia, but the director told us too keep developing her talent. And that’s when we found Theatre 360,” Jose explained. After learning that Theatre 360 was holding auditions for Moana Jr, Jose had encouraged Karina to audition.
“At first, she wasn’t sure about auditioning because she was feeling down because of everything that she had been through, but we knew she loved doing theatre, so we motivated her and she did it,” he said.
Theatre 360 had held auditions for Moana Jr on September 22nd and cast Karina as Moana. To date, this is Karina’s first lead in a theatre production. Through her journey and the power of theatre, Karina has found a new home and was able to see a clearer path to finding her self identity.
“Theatre is what brings her a lot of happiness. Now, this foundation has been set, and it’s time to make the best of it, and I know Theatre 360 will provide Karina with more opportunities to do what she loves. With everything that we’ve been though, Theatre 360 helps us to forget about the bad times that we went through and puts her in a happy place,” said Jose.
Karina’s story is just one of many that has shown us the power of theatre. Theatre 360 encourages togetherness and supports dreamers.
Jose expressed, “It feels like how it was when we were back home in Puerto Rico when she was doing theatre. This is her dream and we want to provide her everything she needs to fulfill those dreams. I’m really thankful that we have found Theatre 360.”
Disney’s Moana Jr. at Theatre 360 is showing on December 7, 8, 9 and 14, 15, 16. For more information or to purchase tickets, you can visit theatre360.org