By Dale Reynolds
You won’t have heard about Dominican/Columbian, NYC-born actor Christopher Rivas, but one, he’s an off-beat good-looker, two, he can act, and three, he doesn’t rely on the previous two aspects of his life to be secure within himself.
This 25-year-old may currently be seen in Nick Salamone’s new adaptation of Euripides’ Helen (written in 5th Century B.C.E.), through September 29th, at the Getty Villa’s outdoor theatre, overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Malibu to the North. As directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera, the play explores an alternative to the well-told myth that the Trojan War was caused by Trojan-born Prince Paris abducting (or seducing) the Queen of Sparta, Helen. In this different take on the legend, it’s the Gods on Mt. Olympus who have kidnapped her, thus causing amusing horror to humans.
But Rivas, a 2011 graduate of California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, who was directed there by Rivera in a drama, Virginia Grice & Blu, has only one scene early on, where Teucer’s war-torn body comes back in a wheelchair (oh, yes, it’s been updated to 1950s Greece). It’s a pivotal scene that sets up the rest of the play.
Rivas has only been in two short films so far, along with some money-making print work and TV Commercials, but his extensive theatre resume includes Off-Broadway (Antigone in Congress) at Duke’s 42nd Street Theatre, at Pasadena’s Boston Court Theatre (Tennessee Williams’ Camino Real and Luis Alfaro’s El Oedipus Rey), Langston & Nicholas for Ben Guillary’s company, and Songs of Bilitis, also at the Getty Villa; a one-man show he wrote for himself, State of Mind, at the Watts Village Theatre; some sketch-comedy work with various groups around L.A.; a new play he wrote, Life After Survival, about suicide prevention, in Chicago. Plus having worked for the State Department in their embassy in Budapest and acted in Belgrade with anti-intolerance plays specially co-written with the Roma (aka “Gypsies”) youth.
But it was a valuable lesson taught to him by one of his Cal-Arts professors that made the most impact on the student: “Do not rely on your talents – make your own work and study when not working in the Business,” that has held him in good stead as he has seldom been out of work since his graduation, and, as a professional certified Co-Active Coach, he founded lifestyledezine.com, a personal coaching career that ties into his spirituality. Rivas says, “We should have a ‘practice habit’ in our lives, whether it’s meditation, running, boxing, or whatever that ties in hugely by keeping our lives ‘in the moment.’ It’s the same way we act onstage while embodying another character. The Buddha says it: “Be in the moment; Say Yes! to life; meditate,” and, he adds, “leave shit at the door.” And part of that “Yes!” is his poetry, to be read at www.mintsonapillow.tumblr.com
What can happen to this mixed-Latino leader and artist? Go see him in this classical piece at the Getty Villa and continue to follow his work. It’ll happen big for him if the Gods be fair.
Senior Arts Critic