June/July 2023

Random Rants: Life, Death, and the Arts


By Salomon Maya

On March 13 of this year, my father was taken from us without warning. The call came at 11:15 p.m., and by 11:37 p.m., a paramedic’s solemn words confirmed that he was gone.

The days that followed were filled with somber rituals, initially dreaded but later recognized as essential for my grieving process. As I write this, only two months have passed since his death. Emotions and feelings defy adequate expression; they remain elusive, almost impossible to capture in words.

My relationship with my father was a complex tapestry, woven with contradictions. He was quiet, while I was boisterous. He shunned attention, while I sought it. On paper, we were complete opposites.

A month after his departure, my seven-year-old son and I were in the car, and out of nowhere, he posed a profound question, “Is Abuelo (Spanish for grandfather) in heaven happy?” I contemplated the magnitude of his inquiry, and despite my internal turmoil with the question, I realized its weight.

I replied, “Absolutely, buddy, he’s so happy.” Curiosity got the better of him, and he asked, “How do you know?”

I yearned to swiftly answer his question and shift our focus to more lighthearted subjects like the demise of the dinosaurs or the next Marvel movie. But he persisted, his unwavering gaze meeting mine in the rearview mirror.

In that moment, memories flooded my mind — instances when my father and I shared something in common, though few and far between. Amidst the haze of recollection, one common thread emerged — the arts.

Performing in front of others would have tormented my father, longing for the shadows at the back of the room. On the contrary, I thrived under the spotlight. Yet, every time I took the stage, he would beam with pride.

As his health deteriorated, he couldn’t attend many of my shows. However, there was one theater in Chula Vista that held a special place in his heart. It was a small, intimate venue that catered to his needs. It was there, on that stage, that he witnessed one of my performances for the final time.

That theater is OnStage Playhouse.

As I sat shiva for my father, I learned that OnStage Playhouse was teetering on the brink of closure due to financial woes. I couldn’t bear to see this happen. Too much loss had already consumed my life. Swiftly, I joined the Board of Directors and rallied with other talented artists to launch a fundraising campaign, striving to preserve this beloved theater that — God willing — will celebrate its 40th season this year.

Back in the car, locking eyes with my son, I uttered, “I know because I’m happy.”

His response caught me off guard when he asked, “You know he’s happy because you’re happy?”

I nodded and replied, “Yes, that’s the power parents have.”

As he gazed out the window, I couldn’t tell if he truly grasped my words or if his attention had wandered elsewhere. A couple of seconds passed, and I refocused my attention on the road. Then, from the back seat, I heard a whisper.

“I’m happy too.”

In the depths of my darkest hour, the arts brought two opposite minded souls together. That is the power of the arts. Today, I am worried that if we do not take drastic action now, OnStage Playhouse will suffer the same fate as my father – gone too soon. If you are able, I’m asking you to spare to the only live theater venue in South San Diego. No amount is too small, and you can donate in honor of a loved one if you wish. Together, we can ensure that OnStage Playhouse continues to thrive for another 40 seasons and beyond.

To donate, please visit onstageplayhouse.org/donate.



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