top of page

The Morgan-Wixson Theatre presents

Seven Plays. Five Weeks. 
September 24 - October 23, 2021

Producer/New Works Committee Chair:

Mirai Booth-Ong

Producer: Jonathon Saia

Dramaturg: Melanie Anthony

Technical Director: William Wilday

Production Stage Manager: Ashley DeFrancesco

Lighting Design: William Wilday

Director Of Marketing: Niko Montelibano

Social Media Marketing Team: Melanie Anthony, Erika Mireya Cruz

Program: Niko Montelibano


New Works Committee Readers:

Jonathon Saia

Marcia Pryor

William Wilday

Annalisa Erickson

Avalon Kerr

Susan Minobe

Pam Levin

Running Crew:

Anastasia Halfon

Brian Greene

Brian Raine

John Wennstrom

Nora Harris


Special Thanks

Michael Heimos, Miriam Billington,

Dean Karasinski, Anne Gesling

Weekend Five: October 22 - October 23

As we celebrate our 75th Anniversary, the Morgan-Wixson Theatre is committed to a meaningful effort to amplify new voices to engage, challenge and connect our audiences to each other and the wider community as we elevate the greater potential of what theatre can offer to our lives. 

Your generous donation of any amount will help defray the costs of producing these works. We thank you so much for your support!

beheading columbus

by Diana Burbano

Directed by:

Thanis Samantha Barrios


Bouket Fingerhut

Light Board Operator:

Anastasia Halfon

Sound Board Operator:

Susan Minobe

Special Thanks:

Diana, you’re brilliant!! This cast who said “yes and” and went all in on this journey. I am grateful for the booth operators who came in and intertwined so quickly into our story. Bill for wearing both hats; actor and TD. Mirai and Jonathon for putting this entire thing together!!!!! The Morgan-Wixson for amplifying voices. Michael Jackson-Heimos for calling (and so much more). Melanie for her research, insight, patience and constant support and positivity. Ariella for being a resource and an ear. Spencer for jumping in and making it seamless. Bouket for keeping me on track and getting everything done and picking up the pieces. Mi mami, tio Raul, tia Mari que nunca me dejaron olvidar, soy una Maracucha, soy Venezolana!! Mi familia en Venezuela por…todo. Mis hermanos por que, I’m a lot, yo se. And Melodie S Rivers without whom I 1000% would not have been able to do anything. You are pure gold. LOVE Y’ALL!!


Cast (in Alphabetical Order by First Name)

LANA: Ariella Salinas Fiore

MARK: Christopher Aruffo

SIBLINGS: Daisha Graf

SUSI: Sherry Esther Mandujano

DR. DOVER: William Wilday

There will be a 15 Minute Intermission


A note from the director

Thanis Samantha Barrios

Who am I? Where do I fit in? What is family? What is enough?

These are the questions I have asked myself time and time again and I’m not alone in that. We are often pulled in so many different directions with society telling us who we are and what we have to do to be a part of it. If we look a certain way, we’re the “nanny”, the “housekeeper”, the “valet”, the “janitor.” If we speak Spanish, somehow, we are uneducated. <insert confused face> If we are the engineer, the teacher, the lawyer, the doctor it is met with such surprise and an attempt to find out how we were able to get where we are. And while we’re at it, so what, I’m the janitor, I’m also freaking brilliant. Why is there so much judgment and ism?

And now we add an additional layer of being both a United Statesian and a Venezuelan (insert any country here). What do we embrace? Can I be both? How? Well, Lana led Latina Pride Parades in the 6th grade. I did reports on Venezuela and bribed my friends with arepas. But now, does that make us “un-American”? …..or MORE American? Wait, was it enough?? Am I Latina enough?? My Spanish is awful, I can’t dance the Joropo…and people do keep asking me “what are you?”

Wait!….now I can get my DNA and know exactly, to the 1%, what I am??!! What does this mean?? Who am I?? What am I?? And does my DNA actually make me what I am??

I’m exhausted.

Diana Burbano opens the can of worms for us and starts a real conversation on what it means to be Latine, bi-racial, and family. She explores the vastly different experiences two sisters from the same household can have simply based on what they look like. She asks about the generational trauma passed down in our genes; the torture, pain, and horror experienced by our ancestors. It swims in our bodies.

And now let’s add the layer about women. The caregiver, the lover, the forgotten, the taken for granted. Diana beautifully captures the reality so many of us live with – We. Do. It. All. And so often we are overlooked, decisions made for us, without us, “for our benefit.” The colonization of our lives without us realizing it.  

At this point you might be thinking….racism, misogyny, colonization, identity….this is a lot for one person…..and it is….but it’s also what we travel with every day. Sitting down with this amazing cast, I knew I wasn’t alone. It’s a lot to unpack. But it needs unpacking. We need to have these discussions so we can leave the oversized baggage that doesn’t serve us and bring instead a carry-on of love.

As in life, a lot happens quickly in this play whether we’re ready for it or not. It’s one thing after another and it’s all connected. That is the feeling I want us to have as we journey with these sisters. Even as they have separate experiences, their worlds and lives are interwoven with one moment leading into the next as we watch them come together in and out of the middle to share, fight, cry and love.

I know my family is my family. The ones that share the same blood AND the ones that don’t. The ones I grew up with AND the ones I met later. The ones I was given AND the ones I chose. It’s all love. You know what else…I can make hallacas and apple pie. I can listen to Daddy Yankee and Taylor Swift. I can speak Spanish AND English. I can have my own show, run my own production company, take care of my loved ones and binge-watch Bridgerton. I am all the things, but I don’t have to be anything. I am enough.

Thank you Diana.

Meet the Cast and Crew

Ariella Salinas Fiore


Ariella is so excited to be in a show again she doesn’t even know what to say. Thank you for coming to support the arts again and may we all stay healthy so we can do this over and over again forever.

Christopher Aruffo


Chris Aruffo was most recently seen (in person) in the Morgan–Wixson’s pre-pandemic production /It’s Only a Play/. Chris has also performed roles in such shows as /Little Shop of Horrors/, /Anything Goes/, /The Fantasticks/, /Charlie Girl/, /Equus/, /Whose Life Is It Anyway/, /Fools/, /Charlie and the Chocolate Factory/, /What the Butler Saw/, /We Bombed In New Haven/, /Inspecting Carol/, and /The Marriage of Bette and Boo/. Chris holds a Master of Fine Arts in Acting Performance from the University of Florida.

Daisha Graf


Daisha is a proud, artistic multi-hyphenate. Her artistic career started as a back-up dance career that's spanned some of the largest urban hip-hop, pop, and R&B acts in recent memory- Rihanna, Diddy, Pitbull, TLC, Santigold, Janelle Monae, Jill Scott, Ariana Grande, Big Boi, and Beyonce.

Her acting abilities have landed roles in feature films and television such as VH1 "The Breaks," Step Up 2, Step up 3D, "The High Note" starring Tracee Ellis Ross, and Disney + "Big Shot" starring John Stamos.

Daisha is the co-founder of Daisha and Alicia Graf Arts Collective (aka D(n)A Arts), an initiative she and her sister Alicia Graf Mack created; committed to enriching lives through the arts.

Sherry Esther Mandujano


Sherry Esther Mandujano was born in San Jose, California. A graduate of the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, she studied acting and classical voice while in the conservatory program. Theatre credits include Real Women Have Curves, Man of La Mancha, Songs For a New World and the world premier of The Rain of Gold. She has appeared on television shows such as LOPEZ, This Is Us, Ray Donovan, I’m Dying Up Here and Baskets.

William Wilday

DOCTOR DOVER/Tech Director

WILLIAM WILDAY (Doctor Dover) has performed in more than one hundred plays in a tragically misspent life. Some of these are: (at Pacific Resident Theatre) Mr Blazy in "Fata Morgana", Sheriff in "The Trip To Bountiful", and Professor Willard in "Our Town"; (at MWT) The Stage Manager in "Our Town," Henry in "The Fantasticks!", Old Skipps in "The Lady's Not For Burning", Harold in "Happy Birthday, Wanda June"; (MWT YES) The Custodian in "Miss Nelson Is Missing", Mr Swenson in "The Hundred Dresses"; (Hollywood Fight Club) Big Daddy in "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof"; (Classical Theatre Lab) Tennessee Williams in "Small Craft Warnings"; (Marina del Rey PAC) Viktor Velasco in "Barefoot In The Park"; (Chancery Lane Players) Henry Drummond in "Inherit the Wind"; (Pittsburgh Poor Players) Nicias in "The Mandrake".

Thanis Samantha Barrios


Samantha is excited to be back at the Morgan Wixson and thrilled to be a part of this Fesitval. Notable past directing productions include the premier of “Destiny: The Napoleon and Josephine Story”, An Ideal Husband, The Isle of Dogs, Crimes of the Heart, Rockin’ Robin’ Hood and the Youth Jubilee at Radio City Music Hall. You can also find Sam on the stage and film (checkout the Caesar and Otto Series). She was most recently seen in Sacred Fool’s world premiere of Deadly (Minnie Williams). Past favourites include Pippin (Leading Player), Steel Magnolias (Shelby), The Rocky Horror Show (Magenta), Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Yitzak), and the “wickedly funny” Olivia in “Twelfth Night”. Sam was born in Venezuela, raised in the Sooner state and is part NYer. Samantha received her BFA from the Conservatory at Webster University. Let us bring love and light into this world that so desperately needs it. Thank you for your endless support. Loves and hugs!!

Diana Burbano


Diana Burbano is a Colombian immigrant, a playwright, an Equity actor, and a teaching artist at Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble and South Coast Repertory.
Diana’s play Ghosts of Bogota, was commissioned and debuted at Alter Theater in the Bay Area in Feb 2020. Sapience, was featured at Latinx Theatre Festival, San Diego Rep 2020. Fabulous Monsters, a Kilroys selection was to premiere at Playwrights Arena in 2020 (postponed).
She is in the Geffen’s Writers Lab in 20-21. She has worked on projects with South Coast Repertory, Artists Repertory Theatre, Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble and Center Theatre Group and Livermore Shakespeare Festival.
Diana recently played Amalia in Jose Cruz Gonzales' American Mariachi at South Coast Repertory and Arizona Theatre Company, and Marisela in La Ruta at Artists Repertory. She is the current Dramatists Guild Rep for Southern California.

Bouket Fingerhut


Bouket is thrilled to be Producing again at the Morgan Wixson, especially with such a talented cast and crew. Bouket comes from a long history of Commercial Production and transitioned her skills back to the format she loves most, live theatre. Bouket has been involved in theatre since her childhood and feels at home again. During the day, Bouket is a Wedding Planner and owns her own business with her sweet husband, Nate. At night, her heart lights up being able to watch and support such a talented group of actors and creative team. Bouket will always dedicate her hard work to her father, Allan. This one's for you Daddy-o.

Mirai Booth-Ong

Festival Chair/Producer

Mirai is an actor, director, producer, Morgan-Wixson Board Member and Chair of the New Works Committee. Most recently she produced the Solo Stories series of one-woman shows for MWT's Virtual Stage in 2021. Mirai directed Sweeney Todd at the Fremont Center Theatre at the beginning of 2020, and spent the pandemic directing Zoom play readings, including Bad Seed for the Morgan-Wixson. You may have seen Mirai act on the MWT stage in The Drowsy Chaperone (Kitty), The Wedding Singer (Crystal/Imelda Marcos Impersonator), or She Loves Me (Ensemble/understudy Amalia & Ilona). TV credits include Scandal, Extant, Teen Wolf, Deputy, and Hombre. Additionally, Mirai has narrated many audiobooks and provides voice-over for various corporate clients. To keep up on news, follow her at or on IG @hi.mirai

Jonathon Saia

Festival Producer

Jonathon's full-time hustle is producing reality TV, but theatre is and will always be his first love. A dabbler in all forms of creative expression, Jonathon's greatest and most proud creation is his continued evolution of Self. When he's not making art, he can be found curled up in a corner reading, preferably with a fan on his face and his dog within reach. He is thrilled to be supporting new voices, new works, and this new chapter at MWT. Much love and the highest praise to the cast for soaring like a phoenix and to Kelly for giving them wings.

Melanie Anthony


Melanie Anthony (she,her/s) is a Los Angeles based dramaturg and 2021 Kennedy Center National Dramaturgy Fellow, KCACTF Regional Dramaturg top awardee, Kennedy Center-LMDA Intensive Fellow, and selected panelist for the 25th annual ATHE Dramaturgy Debut Panel. Recent national and global work includes dramaturgy and artistic collaboration for the documentary short Safe Distance about Fall 2020 college students coping with the pandemic and a UK-based one woman cabaret inspired by Greek mythology. Melanie is a graduate of UC Irvine with a Humanities interdisciplinary degree in dramatic literature and criticism that intersected with theater directing and journalism. Prior to ‘the intermission’ she was a returning student to Morgan Wixson’s neighbor Santa Monica College. Her dramaturgical view is also informed by her experiences as an award-winning documentarian, paint-splattered museum educator, STEAM-centric instructor and advocate/activist, mom, caregiver and interested observer of our world. Melanie is really enjoying the deep dramaturgical dive back into live theater with this 7 plays-in-5 weeks festival and is grateful to all the artists for their generosity and passion to share their voices and stories in a time so ready for community and conversation. Theater once again leads the way!

Ashley DeFrancesco

Production Stage Manager

Ashley DeFrancesco Festival Production Stage Manager) is back as your friendly neighborhood PSM! Previously, she had the honor of being a part of The Morgan-Wixson productions of Mary Poppins, The 39 Steps, The Wedding Singer, and It's Only A Play. When not working backstage, Ashley is hosting virtual events with the company TeamBuilding. She is a writer for the online movie review website,, as well. Ashley would like to thank the cast for their never-ending talent and zeal, the production team for their creativity and collaboration, and her family and friends for their encouragement, support, and love.


The Conversation Continues

A Note from the Dramaturg

Diana Burbano’s layered and nuanced BEHEADING COLUMBUS encapsulates our Festival’s themes, conversations and questions with irony and empathy. The alternately hilarious, charming, and fraught bonds of sisterhood are tested in a play that asks –– What is family? How do we identify ourselves and figure out the ties that bind? How do you move forward carrying the burdens of the past? What is the path to happiness? How do we find our voices and claim our space? As the playwright examines generational impacts and deeper definitions of colonialism, director Samantha Barrios brings to the stage more than her invaluable stagecraft, vivid sense of humor and generous personality.  As a Venezuelan immigrant, she has given this work and its creative team an authentic relationship to culture and lived experience. 


BEHEADING COLUMBUS may be the inaugural New Works Festival season finale, but our conversations are just beginning! This Festival has demonstrated so clearly that a vibrant and varied community of audiences and artists can grow and gather together in new ways. Whether for first time playwrights and directors or more seasoned artists flexing the muscles of new work, we have created the opportunity to see thoughts and dreams leap from page to stage. The playwrights gave us the gift of their words. Putting the plays on their feet created opportunities for them to see and hear their work. A play is a living thing, constantly evolving in all the artists’ minds. And in the live theater setting, audiences become a valued part of the journey. BEHEADING COLUMBUS is a deeply felt example of this process. 


As we began each rehearsal, we acknowledged the past, present and future of this land’s original stewards. Thank you for being part of this season as we gathered on the unceded land of the Tongva, Chumash and Kizh peoples. I look forward to the Morgan-Wixson Theatre continuing to innovate and provide the necessary space for artists and audiences alike to meet the moment. We all have so much to learn from each other. May the conversation continue! 

                                                                                                                                                             -- Melanie Anthony, Dramaturg

bottom of page