In this occasional series, we’re introducing talent from the 15 Finding America productions. This Q+A has been lightly edited for space and clarity.
Michelle Lopez-Rios works as a director on the Localore: Finding America project Precious Lives: Before the Gunshots in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
WUWM’s Precious Lives: Before the Gunshots is led by independent producer Eric Von in collaboration with WUWM digital service coordinator Michelle Maternowski. Milwaukee’s inner city is engulfed in an epidemic of gun violence. Through stories and live events created by and with people touched by this violence, Precious Lives: Before the Gunshots and WUWM examine the roots of the bloodshed in an effort to improve life for everyone in the city.
The live event Precious Lives: the Live Show is June 15 in Milwaukee. RSVP here.
What’s your professional background?
I am an actor, director, voice coach, social activist and educator. Together with Alvaro Saar Rios, I co-founded The Royal Mexican Players and have spent much time working with people to tell their story. I am currently an associate professor of voice and speech at the University of Wisconsin-MIlwaukee.
Have you had a favorite moment while working on Precious Lives?
Too many moments to count. I love watching people find their voice, speak their truth, feel the empowerment of sharing their story. These moments are incredible and have happened all along the way of our journey.
How does Precious Lives reflect your American experience?
I have seen too many friends and family crushed by gun violence. It is a public health crisis that affects our community daily.
What are you inspired by right now?
The storytellers, especially the youth. The sheer bravery to share such heartbreaking personal stories is inspiring. They want to help others, reach people, save lives. It is amazing.
What is one thing you love about the city you live in?
There is an abundance of amazing art in Milwaukee. There is also an incredible amount of support for the arts by the community.
What is one thing you wish would change about your city?
There is too much violence on the streets. There are too many kids afraid they will not live to see the next year.
What does finding America look like to you, or in your city?
It is moments, people, sharing, connecting, hope, kids following their dreams, community coming together, inspiring change, learning.
Tell us one random fact about yourself.
I spent a summer as a tour guide for Universal Studios Hollywood.