How Winter Park-based Open Scene Spotlights Multicultural Creativity

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Thamara Bejarano and Mariela Saad are uniting an international cast of contributors to create programming for Winter Park-based arts company, Open Scene. The five-year-old nonprofit produces stage performances and dramatic readings hosted by area venues while live-streams and online workshops broaden the audience base and offer opportunities for creative development.

Bejarano, a former journalist and professor at University City of Caracas, changed her career path after political upheaval forced her to leave her home in Venezuela. “I thought, if I need to start from scratch, I will do what I’ve always wanted to do,” she said. Her passion for the performing arts led her to Orlando’s Mad Cow Theatre where she spent two years as a stage manager and actor for the company’s Spanish Theater series of readings. She adapted plays, wrote press releases, and developed a desire to make a larger impact. “We have a huge Hispanic population and we are not doing enough to bring them into the arts community, so I started Open Scene.”

Bejarano (left) founded Open Scene from a love of theater and a desire to broaden performing arts accessibility for the Hispanic community. She and Saad help coordinate an international cast of contributors for in-person and online productions. Photo by: Jim Carchidi

She began in 2019, enlisting the help of local contacts to create a production for that year’s edition of IMMERSE by Orlando’s Creative City Project. The performance was followed up with participation in FusionFest, but 2020 would mark a major shift in Bejarano’s approach. “COVID shut everybody down,” she said. “We started producing content for online streaming and that gave us access to an international audience.”

A 2021 playwriting contest raised the bar with accomplished and aspiring playwrights responding to the open call for original Spanish language works. The winning plays were performed as dramatic readings during Hispanic Heritage Month. The contest has become a yearly tradition with international playwrights now submitting work. “It was like a silver lining to the pandemic,” said Development Director Mariela Saad.

Open Scene is also preparing for the fourth installment of its Latin American Festival of Performing Arts: a week-long showcase of professional theatre, dance, music, and curated fine art exhibits; all created by a cast of Latinx and Ibero-American artists. Its June 17-23 schedule also features online performances and workshops that are remotely produced by international contributors. The company is working to increase the accessibility of its online content through AI-based programs capable of translating to a total of 50 languages. “Most companies work at least a year ahead, but we are two-years out right now,” said Saad, who is currently assisting with productions set to run in 2026. “When you are negotiating these kinds of logistics, you need that kind of timeline.”

Open Scene’s Latin American Festival of Performing Arts was recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts with a grant that will go toward fair compensation for contributing artists. Image courtesy of: Open Scene

The company has grown to include a seven-member board and, as with many local arts organizations, the search for space is ongoing. Home offices and a revolving list of rehearsal spaces are part of the routine while Maitland Art Center and Orlando’s Fringe ArtSpace have hosted performances. Orlando Museum of Art and Winter Park Library will host previews of the next Open Scene production, Vida. “It’s been a challenge but were growing steadily and our name is being taken more seriously,” Saad said. But an even greater concern is providing fair compensation.

Among its local, state, and county funding sources, Open Scene was recently recognized with a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for its Latin American Festival of Performing Arts. Bejarano says much of the nonprofit’s yearly funding is earmarked for artist compensation. “It is important that artists are appreciated and treated like professionals,” she said, adding that efforts are made to provide higher-than-average pay in the hopes of bringing back veteran creators and inspiring new artists to join the effort. “We believe it’s necessary to create sustainability.”

Vida will feature the work of choreographer and dancer Ana Cuellar, who led the aerial ballet for Cirque du Soleil’s La Nouba. The performance will be backdropped with illustrations by Norwegian visual artist Lisa Aisato, and cellist Jamie Clark, known for performing with Yo-Yo Ma, will perform original scores by composer Charles Griffin. “It’s about being alive,” said Bejarano of the production. “Mariela and I wrote the piece. It is not autobiographical, but anyone can relate as we journey through the different stages of life.” The production will run March 22-30 at Fringe ArtSpace with two preview events; the first on March 17 at Winter Park Library and the second on March 21 at Orlando Museum of Art. Both will feature a mental health talkback with a licensed counselor. “It is an opportunity for the audience to experience their own emotions as well as the performance,” Bejarano said. “It is part of our commitment to create opportunities to empower good in the arts community and in the community as a whole.”

For more information on Open Scene productions and the playwriting contest, visit For tickets to Vida performances, visit

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