MEET ABYGAIL ROSALES
When the situation calls for calm, Abygail becomes the star of the show
NOTE: As we look to reopen our doors and reignite the arts, one thing becomes clear: The key to our creativity is our people. Songs are not sung, sets are not built, choreography is not taught, and canvases are not painted on their own. In our ongoing “Humans of the Arvada Center” series, we are highlighting the heartbeat of the Center: The people who make up the Arvada Center family.
By John Moore, Senior Arts Journalist
Abygail Rosales is known as a calming influence in the Arvada Center box office. This was not the case when the longtime Arvadan first visited the Center as a teen theatregoer back in 2011.
“By the end of the play, I was sobbing in my seat. Like almost ugly crying,” Abi recalls now with a laugh. “The ladies seated next to me were giving me concerned looks like, ‘Is this kid OK?’ But I didn't care.”
Rosales was watching the classic Athol Fugard play “The Road to Mecca.” At first glance, it’s the ordinary tale of two women – the younger cajoling the older into not letting the local minister bully her into giving up her house and move into a retirement home. But the story was set against a gigantic backdrop: 1978 South Africa, with the ugly specter of apartheid, institutional racism and intractable gender roles hanging over every careful word.
“That was one of the first times I was captivated by a play,” said Rosales. “The actors took me on a journey far away from Colorado, and I felt what they felt. That was the moment I realized the full power of theatre – and I found it at the Arvada Center.”
(Pictured above and right: Christy Brandt of the Creede Repertory Theatre appearing at the Arvada Center in 'The Road to Mecca." Photo by John Gary Brown.)
Rosales, also an artist who embraces they/them pronouns, found their way back to the Arvada Center as a Patron Service Representative after graduating from Metropolitan State University four years ago with a degree in Art History.
Rosales was born in Los Angeles a few miles from the iconic Watts Towers, a collection of 17 interconnected architectural structures, all built solely by Italian immigrant Sabato Rodia over a 33-year period from 1921 to 1954. Rodia died in 1965, the same year racial tensions with the Los Angeles Police Department boiled over in Watts, leaving 34 people dead after six days of rioting. (More than 800 buildings were destroyed or damaged, but the Towers, remarkably, were untouched.) In 1992, another 63 died in the uprising that followed the jury acquittal of four Los Angeles police officers in the beating of Rodney King.
Rosales' mother remembers going out to buy diapers in the middle of that chaos, which lasted five weeks. “My mom wanted us to have a better life,” Rosales said. Eventually the family of four, including Abi’s father and sister, moved to Colorado.
'The most important thing to me is keeping the arts accessible.'
Rosales is a first-generation Chicanx – referring to those of Mexican or Latin American descent born in America of any gender. "I prefer Chicanx to Chicana as a way of being supportive and inclusive of other identities, including non-binary and LGBTQ and everything in between,” they said.
Rosales has been singing, dancing and making art for as long as they can remember. “I got into ballet at first because it’s just so pretty,” Abi said. “It’s still my favorite dance to watch. I actually studied anatomy by studying dancers. I just enjoy what the body can do.” At Arvada High School, Abi was in show choir and played Cha-Cha DiGregorio in the school musical (“Grease”).
But Abi's real passion comes from building their own portfolio with acrylic paintings and crochet sculptures. I like to incorporate mixed media," they said.
Pictured above: An original piece of art by Abygail Rosales called 'Remembrance.'
Graduating from college was a greater achievement for Rosales than for most because of a mysterious and long-undiagnosed disease that came out of nowhere during their freshman year. Ironically, Rosales was focused on taking good care of their mind and body when they started to feel dizzy and generally unwell after workouts.
“I just knew something was off,” Rosales said. Soon, they were juggling schoolwork with endless doctor visits and continuing uncertainty. Rosales went 2½ years without a definitive medical answer when life suddenly offered a random clue. “My boyfriend had a friend with a similar condition, and we started comparing symptoms,” said Rosales, whose sleuthing helped lead doctors to Ehlers Danlos Syndromes, or EDS. That's a rare group of inherited disorders that primarily affect the skin, joints and blood-vessel walls. "It's mostly my connective tisues that have issues," Rosales now can say with a laugh. Back then? Not so much.
“Even when I received a diagnosis, the treatments were minimal at the time, so it was mostly sheer will and Midodrine that made my degree possible,” said Rosales, referring to a blood-pressure medication.
Abi was grateful to land a post-grad job at the Arvada Center close to where they grew up. Among many other things, Abi provides voiceover Spanish translations for children’s theatre productions. But most of their dealings are with patrons. “I really enjoy working in the box office because we interact with really every part of the organization,” they said. That often means handling patron crises that come out of the blue. And that, says Abi's boss, is when they are the star of the show.
“Abi never gets rattled if a patron, or a situation, gets a little intense,” said Box Office Manager Amber Gale. “Abi is a very caring and kind individual who is not afraid to offer feedback or suggestions on how to improve a process – which is always welcome.”
Abi feels pretty level-headed when it comes to patron interaction. “To me, the most important thing is keeping your calm and not letting their emotions influence you,” Rosales said. “I think there is always a solution, and I am always trying to find it.”
Outside of the Arvada Center, Abi teaches art classes for adults at a low-income housing facility in Lakewood. “There are lots of places for children to take classes, but I have a strong passion for teaching adults,” Abi said. “The most important thing to me is keeping the arts accessible, and that means being inclusive to people from all walks of life.”
Abi is in the process of mapping out their future goals, but one thing their medical odyssey has taught them is that life is not a footrace. “I learned that life has no deadlines, and that whatever you do is important, no matter how slow you go.
"I am enjoying the ride, but I have learned to pace myself every day.”
John Moore was named one of the 12 most influential theater critics in the U.S. by American Theatre Magazine during his time at The Denver Post. He also is the founder of The Denver Actors Fund, and is now contributing reports for the local theatre community for ArvadaCenter.Org. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To follow the Arvada Center's #HumansOfArvadaCenter campaign, go to instagram.com