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Is this Tigard teacher planning Broadway debut?

Fowler teacher starred in Portland show with Broadway buzz

SUBMITTED PHOTOS - Luisa Sermol acts in Cuba Libre, the popular Artists Repertory Theatre production which wrapped this week. The Fowler Middle School drama teacher is hoping the show goes on tour next year.A Fowler Middle School teacher has her sights set on the bright lights of Broadway.

Luisa Sermol, the school's drama teacher, recently wrapped up a month-long appearance in “Cuba Libre,” a Broadway-scale musical with Artists Repertory Theatre that concluded up its Portland run this week.

Sermol starred as Olga in the production and said that although the show has closed for now, plans are in the works to bring the show back, and possibly take it to Broadway.

“They are doing a lot of rewrites already; it still feel alive,” she said. “This isn’t one of those shows where we walk away at the end. This feels like we will all meet again.”

Sermol has taught drama and language arts at Fowler for the past 11 years.

“I like to think that I bring drama to the language arts classroom,” she joked.

The Scottish-born actress grew up in Portland and took theater classes at Portland State University, where she was bitten by the acting bug. She attended Juilliard School in New York and appeared in several regional and off-Broadway productions.

"Cuba Libre" had its world premiere at Artists Repertory Theater in Portland in October to critical acclaim. But whispers of a potential Broadway run surrounded the show long before the curtains rose, Sermol said.

“I knew there was a lot of excitement and buzz about the hope for it,” she said. “I’ve worked on a couple of new works, but never a musical. It was fascinating to see this process and all the moving parts that come into play to pull it off. It's very different from doing a straight piece of theater.”

“Cuba Libre” is told in flashbacks, from present-day Miami to the economic turmoil of 1990s Cuba, known as The Special Period. The story centers around a Cuban musician still haunted by the sacrifices he made to pursue his artistic dreams in the U.S. while he makes a new life for himself as an American.

“The Special Period is a time that people don’t know about,” Sermol said. “I didn’t know about it before I did this show. Most American’s aren’t familiar with it.”

Sermol said that the Broadway-scale musical premiered at just the right time.

“There’s a real interested in the Cuban experience right now,” she said. “We want to get it out there to keep riding this interest.”

Sermol has acted for years, but said she’s never been involved with a show that is getting as much attention as this show is getting.

It takes years for shows to get to Broadway, Sermol said.

“Normally, between seven and 10 years," she said. "We’re in about year three since the conception of this show. There’s a road ahead to get there. It all depends on getting financial backing, especially to tour.”

Sermol said that if the show does go on tour, she’s going with them.

“I think I’d be a fool not to go,” she said. “But I’ll deal with that as it comes. Hopefully, it will tour during the summer.”

Sermol spent a decade in New York before moving to Portland.

“I’m not saying 'no' to going back,” she said. “I love teaching, but my passion has always been the theater.”

Nicole Lane, a spokeswoman with Artists Rep, sent The Times the following statement about the show's next steps after the paper's press deadline:

In terms of next steps with the show. There is an outside producer, Susan Dietz, who is now working on the next steps in the development for the show. It is likely it will go to another market, perhaps Miami or another such next size market, to continue development next. Broadway is a goal, but not the only option.

It is pretty much out of Artists Rep's hands at this point. But, that's not to say that Damaso wouldn't direct the next version and that the cast would be similar. We just don't know yet. But that is to say that all roles could change -- it is not a going on "tour" situation as far as the information stands now. A tour is when an intact show just moves around, like a Broadway tour. This is not that. At least not yet.

By Geoff Pursinger
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