By Pablo Nukaya-Petralia
When you see Tania Verafield at Swork Coffee or Trader Joe’s or other Eagle Rock venues, she is one of those people you think you have met before, because, in a way, you very well may have.
Verafield, 39, is an actor who has lived in Eagle Rock since she was 10, when her family moved from Echo Park. She started acting locally as a child, in Occidental College’s Children’s Theater program, community theater and school plays at Westridge and Polytechnic in Pasadena. She has gone on to amass numerous credits in film, television and live theater, including her current starring role in “Anna in the Tropics,” a Pulitzer Prize winning play by Nilo Cruz at A Noise Within Theater in Pasadena.
Through it all, Verafield has stayed rooted in Eagle Rock. Her father owned Jose Vera Fine Art and Antiques on Colorado Boulevard, where she often helped out when she was growing up. (The location is now the Arnott Kenpo karate school.) Even when she has moved elsewhere – to UC Berkeley for college followed by a stint in New York City – Eagle Rock is the place she has come back to. It’s where her family is, with parents, siblings, half-siblings, in-laws and other relatives in four houses within a mile of her own. It is where she and her partner are now raising their newborn son.
“Whenever anyone asks where I’m from and I tell them ‘Eagle Rock,’ most people haven’t heard of it,” said Verafield, in a recent conversation with the Boulevard Sentinel. “I tell them we have the opportunities that come with living in the big city of Los Angeles, which is so important for my career, and the joy of the small town feeling of Eagle Rock.”
In “Anna in the Tropics,” Verafield plays Conchita, the unhappy wife of a cheating husband and the daughter of the owner of the cigar factory where she works alongside her husband, mother and sister. The year is 1929, the place is Florida. A “lector” has been hired from Havana to read to the workers as they roll cigars. He chooses “Anna Karenina,” Leo Tolstoy’s epic of adultery, setting in motion events that spark chaos and self-discovery, including a passionate affair between Conchita and the lector.
“Conchita identifies with the characters in the novel, even though it takes place in Russia, and it’s a totally foreign world to her,” Verafield said. “She finds a way to use the novel to figure a way out of being unhappy in her marriage.”
Verafield said that theater for her is “a specific way to connect with a group of people on a different level than I think we connect in day-to-day life.” That connection was evident on opening night of “Anna and the Tropics.”
“A woman came up after and she was hugging me and touching my face,” said Verafield. “It was not very Covid friendly, but I understood that she just felt super connected to me after the show.”
The connection goes both ways. “I just love the idea of the audience being right there with us, so that with each mistake and each moment that will never be repeated again, that live audience is present with us for that,” Verafield said.
“Anna” is also exciting for Verafield because it is a rare opportunity to work with an all-Latinx cast. “[It’s] just kind of unusual in a really lovely way,” she said. “When I was young and seeing theater, I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me on stage, so that has been a nice thing to have happening.”
Verafield has played a wide variety of characters on stage. In Conchita, the audience sees a woman driven but not trapped by her situation who makes no excuses or apologies for what she feels or how she acts. Verafield also loved playing Lizzie Lightfield in “For The Love Of (or, the Roller Derby Play),” who she describes as a “badass,” a take-no-prisoners roller derby skater.
In the movies, on television
Next to the stage, Verafield said that independent film is “my other place that I find myself really excited about.” She has been in three films that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, including “Short Term 12,” the short film Grand Jury Prize winner in 2009. She has also appeared in episodes of many television series, including “Namaste, Bitches,” “Ghost Whisperer” and ‘24.”
And of course, it’s always nice when Hollywood comes knocking. Verafield can be seen this summer in the action thriller “Bullet Train” starring Brad Pitt. It will be the latest of her movie credits dating back to her film debut in 2005 opposite Christian Bale in “Harsh Times.”
And when she’s not working, you can see her around Eagle Rock, the place she calls home.
Tickets are available here for performances of “Anna in the Tropics” at A Noise Within theater on Thurs, Apr. 14 at 7:30 p.m.; Fri, Apr. 15 at 8 p.m; Sat. Apr. 16 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m; and Sunday, Apr. 17 at 2 p.m. | A Noise Within is located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena | www.anoisewithin.org