Arts & Leisure

It’s ‘Hello, Adriana’ at the Gem

ADRIANA SANCHEZ in “Hello Dolly” at the Gem Theatre in Garden Grove (Ron Lyons photo).

By John M. Borack/Orange County Tribune

There is no trophy awarded to the Busiest Person in Garden Grove, but if there was, Adriana Sanchez might be the one to take home the prize. In addition to being an actress with a long list of impressive local theater credits (including several productions at the Gem Theater), Adriana is also a second-grade teacher at Monroe Elementary Language Academy, part of the Garden Grove Unified School District.

How does she juggle this extremely hectic schedule? “Being around the younger children gives me lots of energy to be able to perform and rehearse in the evenings,” she said. “I try to keep myself active [with] a very organized schedule to stay on track, and I work with a great, supportive group of people.”


Adriana was born in Mexico, grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, and received her teaching credential and master’s degree in cross cultural education from National University as well as a Bilingual, Language and Academic Development (BLAD) certificate from Cal State Fullerton. “I am so lucky to get to be a second-grade teacher, and I will be going into my 23rd year as a teacher in August,” Adriana said.

“Monroe is a dual language school and I teach my kids to read, write and speak in Spanish.”

Adriana’s love for theater began at an early age. “When I was 10 years old, my friend Leanne auditioned for ‘Hansel and Gretel’ at the La Habra Depot Theater. I [went along] and sang ‘You Light Up My Life’ by Debby Boone. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but I got cast as an angel. That was my first show, and 43 years later I am still performing and loving it.”

When Adriana talks about her history in local theater, she ticks off nearly a dozen venues where she has performed over the years. Her diverse roles continued as she began performing in productions at Garden Grove’s Gem Theater. “I have been best friends with [Chief Artistic Director] Damien Lorton for about 35 years. We performed together many times prior to him and Nicole Cassesso starting One More Productions,”

Adriana explained. “Nicole and I have also been best friends for many years; she was a teenager when I met her. I am so grateful for the experiences I have had at the Gem, and for the amazing people who work, volunteer, and perform there.” Adriana also made special mention of the work the Gem does with local non-profit organizations such as the Rotary Club.

ADRIANA with Damien Lorton.

Adriana’s favorite experiences at the Gem include roles in such well known shows as “Hello Dolly,” “Evita,” “Guys and Dolls,” and her most recent turn as Louise in “Always…Patsy Cline.” “That was such an incredible experience for me,” Adriana enthused. “Nicole had such trust and confidence in me, and it was such an honor to be onstage while she portrayed Patsy Cline; I swear she channeled her. I was in constant awe of her talent and her performance. I will never forget that time and getting to be a part of something so magical.”

Ask what does Adriana enjoy most about performing onstage and she was quick to reply. “I get to be a part of helping people escape for a few hours—to feel, laugh, and cry. I love the whole experience of being around such an amazing group of people who are on the same team, and part of a family that loves and supports one another unconditionally.”

As someone who is a veteran of local theater, Adriana also offered some helpful advice for performers just beginning their careers. “Always be grateful for the gift of performing, for everyone in the cast and the crew, the volunteers, the audience, and everyone who has made that role and show possible. Say thank you to everyone—every time! Be joyful and excited to be doing what you love and spread that around.”

Adriana’s future plans include continuing to teach second grade and perform whenever she can, taking risks and playing different roles on the stage. She also says she is committed to “jumping in and doing whatever I can to help keep the Gem Theater going,” be it via fundraising, performing, or volunteering.

Adriana will be volunteering at “Hearts for the Arts” at the Gem on July 22, and encourages the community to attend the theater’s annual fundraiser. Tickets can be purchased at

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