My Essential Seven: Dámaso Rodríguez

Artist Rep’s artistic director discusses his love of poker, the Miami Dolphins and more.

Saying Dámaso Rodríguez is a versatile artist is like saying Romeo had a crush on Juliet. During his reign as artistic director of Artists Repertory Theatre—which began in 2013—Rodriguez has directed everything from a play about the murdered and missing women of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, to a five-hour epic set in Antarctica during the Cold War.

Not surprisingly, Rodríguez's personal interests are as varied as his professional pursuits. Some of his pastimes—like watching plays in Ashland—are what you would expect from a Pacific Northwest theater icon, but audiences who have admired his work might be surprised to learn he's also an avid poker player and a devoted Miami Dolphins fan (a passion he shares with his father and son).

Despite keeping busy guiding Artist Rep through the chaos unleashed by the novel coronavirus, Rodriguez took time to speak to WW about seven things that matter to him—a conversation that covered film, theater, travel and how he "stealthily" works to keep his duties as artistic director from conflicting with the Dolphins' schedule.

1. Fire and Rain: The Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, James Taylor, CSNY, and the
Lost Story of 1970 by David Browne

"I find comfort and inspiration in stories that look back at the making of things. I feel like I must be part of a movement of theater makers in Portland in 2020 who were affected by and lived through the recession, and who are now living through this new thing we're up against. It's comforting reading about history and art together and feeling a sense of connection, obviously in a very indirect way."

2. The Godfather Part II

"My parents and grandparents are from Cuba, so I grew up with these immigration stories—immigrant-coming-up-from-nothing stories. There's a part of the film that is set during the beginning of the Cuban Revolution. I grew up with stories of the Cuban Revolution, and it completely changed the arc of families' lives. To have this great film that has this little personal connecting point is rare because there aren't that many films that have Cuba as a central plot point."

3. The Miami Dolphins

"I put the games on my calendar so I can be sure not to accidentally schedule, let's say, a meeting on a prime-time game night. With theater, you're always—in some sense as a producer—living in the future. You might not be putting on a play right now, but you're planning for things that haven't happened yet. Watching a game is a chance to be completely in the moment and present and not thinking at all."

4. WTF With Marc Maron

"I just like Maron's style, which now has been borrowed by everyone else, because he does the origin story and you get to know the person he's interviewing outside of their celebrity or the thing  they have achieved excellence in. He got Obama into his garage when he was president and interviewed him. Even someone like that, president of the United States, leader of the free world, he got him in the same set of given circumstances as an athlete, a musician or an actor."

5. Game nights

"In L.A., my wife and I used to frequently do these poker nights. What's fun about no-limit Texas Hold 'em is that the game can go on for hours, and you can have multiple tables of people. It ends up being this really fun social thing, especially because we play for stakes of, like, $5. We've had kids at the table with the adults playing, and what ends up happening is that sometimes, the person with the least amount of experience wins or comes close to winning because they're unpredictable."

6. Tropical climates

"I'm from Miami and then Dallas and then California. Those are the places where I have spent the most time, so sunshine is definitely part of my expectation in life. I think when you go to the ocean, you should be able to just sit in it without wearing a wetsuit."

7. Oregon Shakespeare Festival

"I did get to do a show there. I directed Romeo and Juliet. When you work at OSF, it's almost a yearlong job. You go down there for casting, you go down there for design meetings and a workshop, things like that. The rehearsal process for my show was 11 weeks, which is more than twice as long as the standard play rehearsal [process]. It's amazing that in Ashland, the work can be at the level of anything in the world."