Eva, the woman Eloísa Maturén plays in Fina Torres’ 2014 film Liz in September, wanders into a community of fierce women. Eva has just lost her son to cancer and left her cheating husband. When her car breaks down, the women, most of them lesbians, take her in. Liz, a strong and striking woman who has not yet admitted to herself or her friends that the cancer she has is deadly, takes it upon herself to seduce Eva. It was all shot in Venezuela in 2012 and 2013, beachside in idyllic Maracay, west of Caracas.
It was 35-year old Maturén’s first film role, a new phase in a career that has taken her from the stage to background and then, unexpectedly, back onto the stage.
Maturén trained as a dancer. Seven years studying at La Escuela Ballet Artein Caracas led to a position in the National Ballet Teresa Carreño Theater. She danced with the company for 10 years, watching as older dancers aged out of their craft. “What is cruel for the ballet world,” she says now, “is that when a dancer is mature enough to bring actual life experience into the craft, she is too old to dance.” Some of the older dancers she knew became choreographers, but she worried that wasn’t the right career path for her.
While still dancing, she began taking night classes in journalism at Universidad Central de Venezuela. She spent the early 2000s working in journalism, writing for El Nacional and hosting radio shows. This is what she was doing when she met Gustavo Dudamel, not yet the iconic, wild-haired conductor of the L.A. Philharmonic he is now but already artistic director of the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar, the youth orchestra that famously gave him his early musical training.
The orchestra played at their wedding, and, a few years later, one of Maturén’s first forays into film production would be the documentary Dudamel: Let the Children Play. It gives a backstage look at the rise of a conductor—Dudamel had just signed his first contract with the L.A. Phil—but also a glimpse into the thoughts and perspectives of children participating in Venezuela’s El Sistema music program.
“It not only changes the life of kids who actually play,” Maturén says of El Sistema,“but it also changes their environment, the sensibility they have toward life.” This knowledge and belief in the effect art can have led her to create an arts festival in Caracas in 2008. Called Vive la Danza Festival, the multimedia event includes new work commissioned by emerging choreographers and happens out in the city. “We do everything on the streets,” she says.
Maturén had just finished the festival’s third edition when she met film director Torres at a dinner party in Caracas. She was describing the festival to Torres, who has been making films about strong, self-searching women since the 1980s, when Torres began discussing her own newest project. The director had been struggling to find an actress to play one of the leads.
“Don’t worry. Here, you have a lot of talent,” Maturén told her, and started suggesting various names. Torres left the party soon after but returned in a matter of minutes. “You know what,” she told Maturén.“You are perfect for the role.”
“Are you crazy?” Maturén recalls thinking. But she read the script and within a week she had the role. “The artistic side of me had been on hold,” she says. But it came back into play as soon as she began working with the all female cast and crew. “It was like school,” she says. “I was like a sponge.” The character she plays, Eva, is a sponge too, encountering a new, different world and realizing her life could take paths she hadn’t imagined.
Maturén, who has a 4-year-old son named Martín with Dudamel, had been traveling back and forth from Caracas to Los Angeles for the past few years. She and Martín moved to Los Angeles permanently at the end of 2014, primarily so she could take classes from Stella Adler Method experts Milton Justice and Gordon Hunt in Hollywood. She’s enamored with the craft.
“Acting is telling a lie and making it sound like the truth. And in order for you to make a lie sound true, you have to do so much work,” she says. “You have to—if it’s possible—understand human nature. And the first subject you have is yourself.”