Meet Maritza Ogarro, our wonderful School of Drama Administrative Assistant. Maritza is a dancer and has been with the School of Drama for over a year now; we welcome you to get to know more about her!
What led you to UW and the School of Drama?
That’s a really interesting question and it’s quite a story. So I worked at the Office of the Attorney General for about three years and I was ready to get back into arts administration and not be working at the legal field anymore. It just wasn’t serving me as an artist and as someone who wanted to work with artists as opposed to attorneys. So one of my really good friends at the attorney general’s office was looking through positions that they had at UW and she actually found this position for me. And she’s also an artist as well as a mystery writer. A couple of weeks after she retired from the attorney general’s office I got this job.
Did you go straight from college to the AG’s office?
No, my pathway to here is very illustrious and long. I am originally from Los Angeles - South Central LA. I came to art by way of my high school having one of the best theatre programs in Los Angeles Unified School District. That was not my introduction to art but that was what started my formal education as an artist. I’ve always been a dancer from the time I was very young. But my formal education began my senior year of high school. Which, as dance training is concerned, is very late to start. I went to undergrad at UC Davis and majored in art there – actually there is no single dance major there. I technically have a theatre degree with an emphasis on dance but I also majored in African American and African Studies because I knew that history was going to inform the type of work that I wanted to create. Two years after that I went to Temple University and got my MFA in dance there in Philadelphia. I lived there for five and a half years and moved to Washington six years ago.
Why did you not decide to stay in California to pursue your artistic career?
I decided to not stay in California because my dad moved away from home at a young age so he encouraged us, children, to do that as well. So I knew that I did not want to stay in LA, but when I started at undergrad I didn’t really know I wanted to be a dancer. I did not really know that yet. I took a class from my first mentor called “The History of Black Dance” and then I knew I wanted to be a dancer.
What kind of styles of dance do you focus on?
Right now I help a lot of drag performers. So I have worked with drag performers; I helped choreograph a show I think two years ago for a drag performer, known now as Andrew Jay. I have my hands on a different form of art than I did before because I was mostly doing concert dance. I am pretty much known movement-wise as a modern dancer. But I’ve taught hip-hop, I’ve studied West African and some contemporary African dance styles. There are a lot of tools in my bucket so choreography comes second nature to me. Working in entertainment is a little different, but then again, I don’t have to remember what individuals are doing, I’m just giving that part of myself.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment was leaving Philadelphia and moving here. It was a very hard decision to start from scratch. To start my life all over again, to start my artistic life all over again. I had to make brand new connections here, I had to meet people that I didn’t know, I had to be social, and I had to find full-time work. So I think that was a big accomplishment because I literally came here with only my personal belongings, my clothing, and my shoes. I left everything else behind to be healthy and happy, and I am right now so I accomplished that.
What has surprised you about this job or what have you learned from working here?
So many things. I learn things daily. Because I sit at the front desk, I interact with everyone who comes in. Whether it be a short conversation with one of the professors or a high five with an undergrad, the learning is constant. I think one thing that has surprised me from working at UW is how beautiful the campus is. I mean it is just so beautiful. No matter what, I always want to take a walk at least once a day. If it’s not pouring rain I’m okay with bundling up and just going out to walk because it’s just so beautiful. I grew up in the city so I enjoy quiet, calm, serene, nature around me.
What advice do you have for students?
For graduate students I would say, have a plan before you graduate. Know that that plan can change and try to make the best of it because as artists things are always changing around us. For undergraduates, I would say, become stable. Get some sort of financial stability so that you can support yourself as an artist in the beginning and then when you are able to do that then you can fly free.
This being your first year here, in what direction do you envision the School of Drama going? In what ways would you want to see change?
I envision a lot of change in the School of Drama just because we are seeing it right now. I am definitely hopeful for the future and that I see a lot of the de-siloing of different areas (BA’s and grads, design, directing acting) that was discussed last year actually taking place and I am talking to the students about those experiences and they very sound positive. I really see the School of Drama integrating more of the areas together so that the students have more interactions with all of the students instead of just one group of students. I see that happening.