Pin It


The Tower presents an evening with Rita Moreno

See the luminous, lovely and incredible Rita Moreno at the Tower Theatre, 10/18.

See the luminous, lovely and incredible Rita Moreno at the Tower Theatre, 10/18.

The first thing I ask someone I'm interviewing is how the tour is going. I typically call a performer while they're on the road somewhere, asking how it's going so far, as it's usually a good way to gauge how long the interview will be. If they talk about how tired they are, that means to keep it short, but if they're filled with excitement and verbosity, I won't try to wrap things up too quickly.

When I asked living legend Rita Moreno how her tour was going so far, she laughed and said, "Oh, it's so wonderful! I am one tired Puerto Rican!" We only talked for 15 minutes, but I could have talked to her for hours. At 84, Moreno is a born storyteller and she's so effortlessly charming that it's almost disarming.

Moreno was born in 1931 in Humacao, Puerto Rico, to a seamstress and a farmer. Her mother moved to NYC in 1936, bringing Rita along for the adventure. Soon after she started taking dancing lessons from the uncle of Rita Hayworth. By the time she was 13, she had already been cast in her first Broadway role in "Skydrift."

In the 1950s, she had small roles in "The Toast of New Orleans" and "Singin' in the Rain" and by 1954 was on the cover of Life magazine. Her largest role came in 1956 when she played Tuptim in "The King and I." Aside from that role, Moreno was disappointed with the roles she was being offered as she felt they were all very stereotypical Latina characters.

She exploded into the mainstream when she played Anita in 1961's "West Side Story." She won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, and instead of capitalizing on her newfound success, she didn't make another movie for years. Once again, everything she was offered were stereotypical Latina characters, except now they were gang members.

"I was absolutely heartbroken," says Moreno. "In fact, I made a choice not to do 'West Side Story Redux.' It was being done on a much lesser scale without the music and without the dancing. Boy, I guess I showed them. I didn't do another film for seven years after I won those awards. My heart was broken. I couldn't believe the business was so locked into stereotypes."

She does feel like Hollywood might be getting a bit better as the years have worn on. "It's changed," says Moreno. "You certainly see a lot more Hispanics on television... way more than you used to. And that's wonderful. But I think the next step is going to have to be something new and I think it's going to take a lot of time. It's going to be harder. Now it's time to start writing very important roles...the kinds of roles (Viola Davis said it so perfectly), roles that will earn you a nomination. That's not happened yet."

Moreno has an idea for what the first step in making Hispanic diversity in film and television a reality, and it's a good one. "We need to get more serious with the Latino actors and actresses," says Moreno. "They need to be given something more to do than just be in a series simply because they're Latino."

Her show in Bend is a cabaret performance in which she tells stories and sings. Moreno also just wrapped 13 episodes of a reboot of "One Day at a Time," written by the also-legendary Norman ("All in the Family" and "The Jeffersons") Lear.

Even in her golden years, Moreno isn't slowing down in the slightest and should be an inspiration to anyone looking to go into show business. Her advice is simple and sobering: "Aside from getting very lucky, it has a great deal to do with perseverance. I always say that's my middle name, Rita Perseverance Moreno. I think it's what's taken me throughout this life. I have to say something else, particularly for the young people, that's really important. It's called education, education, education. There is no guarantee that you'll be a working actor or actress so you'd better find a skill while you're still in school that will help pay the rent and help pay for your acting lessons and for your food and your clothing. You cannot, unfortunately, get along on just talent or being lucky. A lot of very young people still believe in that kind of magic and it works less and less each year."

An Evening with Rita Moreno

Tuesday, Oct. 18, 7:30pm

Tower Theatre, 835 NW Wall St., Bend


Pin It


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Trending in the Alternative Press

Newsletter Signup

Cascades Reader Logo Cascades Reader

Get your daily dose of news for Central Oregon and beyond, delivered to your inbox five days a week. Powered by the Source Weekly.

Latest in Sound Stories & Interviews

  • It's in Their Blood

    • Jun 19, 2019
    Ahead of their show at 4 Peaks, Oliver Wood of The Wood Brothers talks about growing up in a musical family More »
  • Four Picks for 4 Peaks

    • Jun 19, 2019
    The Source's music writer calls out some acts you need to see More »
  • AUSTN Coming Home

    • Jun 12, 2019
    The 16-year-old singer is fresh off his debut EP and ready for Bendites to hear his music More »
  • More »

More by Jared Rasic

  • Small-Town Lives

    Small-Town Lives

    "Phoenix, Oregon" captures the beauty in the mundane
    • Jun 19, 2019
  • From First to Last

    From First to Last

    "Dark Phoenix" tries to reignite the X-franchise
    • Jun 12, 2019
  • A-Ska-Calypse Now

    A-Ska-Calypse Now

    Local filmmaker creates a documentary about the ska music genre
    • Jun 5, 2019
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Rebuilding St. Thomas

    Rebuilding St. Thomas

    Larry and His Flask drummer Jamin Marshall spearheads a benefit concert to raise money for Virgin Islands residents, affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria
    • Nov 1, 2017
  • Universally Shared

    Universally Shared

    Cloverdayle, a Nashville duo with Bend roots, shares its latest single, "Scars."
    • Nov 30, 2017

© 2019 LAY IT OUT INC | 704 NW GEORGIA AVE, BEND, OREGON 97703  |   Privacy Policy

Website powered by Foundation