Actress Lupe Ontiveros. (Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty…)
Lupe Ontiveros, who died Thursday at age 69, was an actress whom many knew from her comedic supporting roles in movies and television. But Ontiveros was also a long-standing member of the Los Angeles theater community and served as a founding board member of the Latino Theater Company in downtown L.A.
Ontiveros helped found the company in 1985 and acted in many of its productions over the years. Her most recent appearance was in 2010 in a revival production of "La Victima," written by El Teatro de la Esperanza, at the New L.A. Theatre Center.
Jose Luis Valenzuela, the company's artistic director, described Ontiveros as an amazing talent. "She was very supportive of theater and always wanted to be attached to the theater company as her home," he said in an interview.
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"She had phenomenal energy. I never thought anything could stop her. She was really funny and a very loyal friend."
Ontiveros appeared in the world premiere production of "Zoot Suit," by Luis Valdez, at the Mark Taper Forum in 1978 and later at the Aquarius Theatre in Hollywood. She also appeared in the Broadway transfer of the play in 1979.
Valdez described Ontiveros as a "born actress with a comedic streak. She made everyone she met feel better about themselves." He recalled that early in the run of "Zoot Suit" at the Taper, Ontiveros' mother died, and the actress continued to appear on stage despite her grief.
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Ontiveros was a social worker in L.A. before becoming an actress. Her extensive screen roles included many housemaids, but she managed to break out of the stereotype on more than one occasion. In the 2000 movie "Chuck & Buck," she played a world-weary manager of a local playhouse and nearly stole the movie with her character's deadpan rejoinders.
On its Facebook page, the Latino Theater Company posted a tribute to Ontiveros: "She acted, advocated, raised money and absolutely believed in the power of theater which is where she began her acting career. Although Hollywood may not have given her the opportunity to show her incredible potential as an actor, LTC was her home."
Ontiveros died following a battle with cancer. She lived in Pico Rivera and is survived by her husband, three children and two grandchildren, according to the Latino Theater Company.
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