Q/A w/ Rochelle Esquerra

She’s a familiar face around campus to all. Whether she was once your RA, you’ve seen one of the many plays she’s designed or done technical work for, or have been to one of the countless events she has helped mount with various student activity groups like the Student Programming Board, Rochelle Esquerra has left a definitive mark on this school. As she prepares to head off toward whatever the world has to offer, senior Performing Arts Department BFA tech student Esquerra sat down with Jackalope to discuss her time at SFUAD, her work as a tech major and why either a Cirque de Soleil internship or working for a cruise line is her next step.



Rochelle Esquerra sits under the watchful eyes of Greer Garson, in the Greer Garson theater. photo by Jessie Leigh

Jackalope Magazine: Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Rochelle Esquerra: I’m from the small town of Kingsman, AZ. Santa Fe actually chose me, I like to tell people. I looked at a lot of art schools and thought about staying in state, but this was the only school that actually kept reaching out to me and saying ‘hey, we want you here, we really wanna help you.’ When I first came here, I was an acting major and I ended up switching to technical theater, into my sophomore year, and it became one of the best choices for me. I originally was afraid to do tech because I didn’t have a portfolio for it, but I realized it was something I could really dig my teeth into and something I really care about.


JM: Why did you switch from acting to tech?

RE: It’s not that I didn’t think I had the drive to be an actor, I just felt that I could show more of a show through technical theater than I could as an actor. I felt more comfortable to create that meaning behind a play or a piece through lighting, and I felt I could really gain more understanding in myself. Not that acting doesn’t do that, but I felt more comfortable doing that through lighting.


JM: So lighting is your main focus?

RE: Lighting is mainly my focus, yes. I dabbled in the other areas. My first design, actually, was props for “Dracula.” I’ve also stage managed a show here. I’d never stage managed a show before and Victor Talmadge, who used to be staff here, he thought it’d be a great idea. So I took on a challenge of 18 people who never left the stage and it was quite an interesting experience and it really helped me gain a better understanding of what everybody else has to go through.


JM: And you were lighting designer for “Middletown,” correct?

RE: Yeah.


JM: What was that experience like?

RE: “Middletown” really affected me because it’s a show about life and death and I had just recently experienced the death of my grandmother, Suzanne Esquerra, who was a very important person in my life. So it really grabbed me, those scenes in “Middletown” when Mat Eldridge’s character is passing away and the understanding that no matter when life ends, another life begins. So it was a really enriching experience for me.


JM: What has your time at SFUAD been like?

RE: Santa Fe University has changed over the last four years since I’ve been here, I think mostly for better. There’s been struggles, but I don’t doubt that every other school have been through it. But this school has really taught me that if I want something, it’s up to me to go get it. It’s up to me to not wait by the sideline and wait for something to come to me, I have to go and do it. It’s all about networking, it’s all about being comfortable in your own skin, and realizing that even when it seems like the cards are against you, you’re gonna pull through if you want it. So it’s been great.


JM: And how do you think you’ve changed?

RE: I’ve definitely gained confidence, both through tech theater and residential life. I’ve definitely seen myself grow and be able to stand up for myself and say what I want to say without feeling like I’m going to offend somebody right off the bat, that if it needs to be said I should say it and I shouldn’t hide behind my own worries. I feel happier here, I feel like I’ve been able to really express myself and be with a group of people who feel the exact some way. Compared to my hometown where there’s not a lot of art, it’s nice to be in a place where art is everywhere, whether in the school or just around town.


JM: Any teachers that have particularly inspired you?

RE: There have been a couple of teachers that have inspired me, but I think, as of recently, the two people who have really supported me in my time here are Chelsea Touchet and Chris Hawkes. They helped me use what I’ve learned from George Johnson in the last few years and really grow from that. They make me want to be a better technician. They make me want to strive for more, and they’ve really helped me to understand that it’s OK to not know everything right now and that it’s going to take time to get where I want to be.


JM: What’s next after graduation?

RE: Right now I’m in a lovely waiting period. I applied before spring break to the Cirque de Soleil internship for lighting and they take applications all around the world and they just closed their applications April 1, so I’m waiting to hear from them, hopefully. If not, I have already been contacted by an HR representative in the HollandAmerica cruise line last semester. They were hiring for January and then they realized I would not be available, so they told me to contact them when I am available, in May. So if Cirque does not work out, that is my next hope, to hop onto the cruise line business, travel the world a bit and understand the difference between theater stage lighting and theater lighting on a boat.


JM: Why did you choose to pursue those options and not go to grad school?

RE: I do want to go to grad school in the future, but right now, I want to be able to flex my muscles, I think is the best way to describe it. I want to be able to go and do and take what I’ve learned, at least from here, and go and apply that. In the very far future, I’d probably like to teach, and I’d like to teach at the college level, so the MFA would be important for that.


JM: Any advice to incoming PAD tech students?

RE: If you want it, you need to prove. That’s no pressure, haha! But there’s a difference between somebody who’s going to sit around and wait for the work to come to you and the person who is just going to keep going on from next task to next task. Being a tech major is hard. Being a PAD major is hard. But if you really care about this department, if you really care about making art through theater, it’s going to work out one way or another. If you tell your teachers, if you’re honest with them about how you’re feeling and what you want to learn, they’re gonna help you to the best of their abilities. So never feel that you have to shrink down compared to everyone else or you have to hide. Just keep going and they will help you if you want to be pushed and challenged.