Arizona: No Roosters in the Desert

by Kara Hartzler

based fieldwork by Anna Ochoa O’Leary, PhD

“…evokes the universal experience of all of us…”
—The Tucson Weekly

Back by popular demand! One weekend only!

In this riveting play – based on actual interviews by Anna Ochoa O’Leary – four women trek the desert towards the American dream. On their way they push the limits of their physical and emotional endurance, as they establish profound yet fragile connections with each other through the magical storytelling of the youngest of them, an indigenous woman from Chiapas.

Spanish Translation by Eva Zorrilla Tessler
Music by Rebeca Cartes

October 20-23, 2011

Zuzi’s Theater
738 N. 5TH Avenue

October 29, 2011

Arizona State University

Supported in part by TPAC Kresge Arts Tucson and the University of Arizona Spanish and Portuguese Department (College of Humanities). Community Partner: Derechos Humanos

Press coverage

Development History

Arizona: No Roosters in the Desert by Kara Hartzler, field work by Anna Ochoa O’Leary PhD, was commissioned by Borderlands Theater, in 2008 with seed money from the University of Arizona (UofA) Bi-National Migration Institute.  Hartzler, a playwright and immigration attorney for the Florence Immigration and Refugee Rights Project, used 130 interviews of women migrant border crossers conducted in 2007/08 by O’Leary. These interviews were undertaken for the purpose of studying the intersection of mass migrations from Mexico and Central America, increasingly of women, and U.S. border enforcement policies. In addition to these interviews, developed into a fictionalized framework, are indigenous stories inspired by published texts Hartzler encountered while living and working for human rights organizations in Chiapas.  Readings during the development process were held at the Unicorn Theater, Kansas City; LARK Play Development Center (New York); El Circulo Teatral (Mexico City) and the UofA. 

Production History

The first of Three Rolling World Premiers, supported in part by the National New Play Network (NNPN), occurred on August 6, 2010 at El Circulo Teatral, in a Spanish translation by Eva Zorrilla Tessler and Andres Volovsek; Victor Carpinteiro and Alberto Estrella producers with Barclay Goldsmith Associate Producer.  The second World Premier with Borderlands Theater opened October 8, 2010 in English. The original cast included Eva Zorrilla Tessler (Marcela), Annabelle Nunez (Guadalupe), Veronica del Cerro (Luisa), Anel Schmidt (Alejandra), and Rebeca Cartes (Musician).  Arizona: No Roosters in the Desert opened in the spring of 2011 in Chicago at PROP THTR, Scott Vehill and Stefan Brun producers.

Community Outreach and Support

Borderlands Theater with support from the Tucson Pima Arts Council: Kresge Arts Tucson, will collaborate with Coalición de Derechos Humanos, a Tucson based Human Rights organization for researching and developing accessibility between the arts and community activism, with a performance/reading in Spanish on October 28, 2011 at 7pm at Apollo Middle School. Additional support includes: The National Endowment for the Arts, and the University of Arizona Humanities, Spanish and Portuguese Department.

Kara Hartzler


Kara Hartzler grew up in Kansas and completed her undergraduate degree at Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, where she received degrees in Theatre, English, Political Science, Peace and Justice and studied abroad in the Middle East. She has worked for various theatres as an actor, director, stage manager, and publicist and received an MFA in Playwriting and a J.D. from the University of Iowa. Kara is the recipient of the 1999 Richard Maibaum Playwriting Award and was an Iowa Arts Fellow from 1999-2001.

After graduating from law school, Kara lived briefly in Mexico before going to work full-time at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project (FIRRP), an organization dedicated to providing free legal services to indigent immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona.  She is currently the Legal Director of FIRRP and trains criminal defense attorneys on the immigration consequences of criminal convictions as well as new state laws such as SB 1070; in 2008; she also testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee on the detention and deportation of U.S. citizens in ICE custody.  Prior to her time at the FIRRP, Kara participated in human rights delegations to Iraq and El Salvador and worked with migrant farmworkers, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and indigenous communities in Chiapas, Mexico.

Her most recent play, No Roosters in the Desert, was commissioned by Borderlands Theater in Tucson, Arizona and is based on interviews conducted with migrant women by Professor Anna Ochoa O’Leary at a shelter along the Mexican border.   It received development support from the Lark Play Development Center and funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Access to Excellence, the Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award, and the National New Play Network.  No Roosters was published in English by NoPassport and in Libros de Godot in Spanish and is being performed in Tucson, Chicago, and Mexico City as a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere.

Anna Ochoa O’Leary


anna ochoa oleary

from Clifton, Arizona, holds a doctorate in cultural anthropology from the University of Arizona where she currently teaches in the Department of Mexican American and Raza Studies. She is affiliated with the Binational Migration Institute, an association of scholars dedicated to the study of how immigration enforcement affects Latino populations regardless of legal status, and is a steering committee member of the Coalición de Derechos Humanos. In 2006, she received a Fulbright Scholarship for research of migrant women’s encounters with immigration enforcement agents. Currently she is editor of a two-volume encyclopedia on the experiences of undocumented immigrants living in the United States.

Veronica del Cerro


veronica del cerro

is thrilled to be back at Borderlands with the remounting of Arizona: No Roosters in the Desert (MAC nomination Best Actress 2010).  Other credits include: My Children!, Rock n’ ll; Studio Theatre, Autobahn (WP by Neil Labute), Polaroid Stories; Studio Theatre 2ndstage, Marisol, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Helen Hayes Nomination Ensemble); Forum Theatre, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (WP by Karen Zacarias); Round House Theatre,  Merry Wives of Windsor; Maryland Shakespeare Festival, Mill Town Girls ;Quotidian Theatre, The Nutcracker; Puppet Theatre Co;. Veronica’s training includes Virginia Tech; BS Psychology and TA (Fuddy Meers, Vagina Monologues), Gardzienice (Poland), Siti Co (NYC), and Studio Theatre Acting Conservatory of Washington DC. Together we thrive.

Annabelle Núñez


Annabelle Núñez

made her theatrical debut in the early ‘80’s as ‘Beatriz’ in the bilingual production of Ardiente Paciencia/ Burning Patience.  In the 1990’s she played the roles of ‘Martirio’ and ‘Maria’ in Borderlands’ bilingual productions of La Casa de Bernarda Alba and Yerma, respectively.  She earned her B.F.A. and M.A. from the University of Arizona where she works as a medical librarian. She recently appeared as ‘Paulina’ in Between Pancho Villa and a Naked Woman.   Her most memorable role is that of Michael the Archangel in several productions of A Tucson Pastorela.  She is honored to be in Arizona: No Roosters in the Desert, an extremely important play giving voice to those who have none.

Angelica Rodenbeck


Angela Rodenbeck

is a native of Mexico City. She is thrilled to return to the stage after being a full time Mom! Some of many Angelica’s productions include: A visitors guide to Arivaca, School of the Americas, and Noche de los Muertos. She has also participated in many independent film productions. Angelica attended the University of Southern Maine (Acting), University of Arizona (M.A. Theatre Studies), Pima Community College (Acting) and The National Conservatory of Music studying piano. Angelica would like to thank Borderlands Theatre for this amazing opportunity and would like to dedicate this show to her child: Jacqueline Rodenbeck.

Eva Tessler


Read more about Eva Tessler…

Maria Rebeca Cartes


A native of Chile, has worked extensively with Borderlands Theater, as actor, music director and performer since early 1980’s. She is the recipient of the Artists Grants Award by Diverse Works and Mexic-Arte, Houston, Texas, in the dance-music ensemble Sol-A, Te regalo una rosa, choreographed by Evelyn Velez, performed in Tucson, Arizona, Michigan and New York. Cartes has received an Award by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in the American College Theatre Festival, for “Ensemble Performance” in the Pima College/Borderlands Theatre production Beyond Borders, 1989, and a Meritorious Achievement Award by the American College Theatre Festival, for “Musical Direction” in the theatre play Burning Patience, by Antonio Skarmeta, 1986.

Kathy Hurst

Costume Designer

kathy hurst

started her costuming career as wardrobe mistress for the New Jersey Classic Ballet Company.  She has been costuming for Tucson High Magnet School for 15 years including such shows as The Crucible and Triangle Factory Fire Project.  She designed Doubt for Independent Productions, Man of La Mancha for Studio Connections, Harvester and Marty the Bear for One 17 Productions. Past Borderlands projects include She Was My Brother, Between Poncho Villa and A Naked Woman, Oedipus el Rey, Arizona: No Roosters in the Desert and White Tie Ball.  Kathy is pleased to be designing this season’s excellent selection of plays for Borderlands.

Monica Kubli

Scenic and Lighting Designer

graduate of the National University of Mexico School of Architecture, also studied lighting and scenic design. She has been artistic director of documentary films for Conaculta such as the History of Mexican Photography and many films directed by Jaime Hurtado Hermosillo. She has played a major role in the remodeling of the National Museum and El Museo del Chopo, both in Mexico City. She has designed for many stage productions including Amor Entre Las Ruinas by Emilio Carballido and Arizona: No Roosters in the Desert by Kara Hartzler, both at El Circulo Teatral in Mexico City.