Alma Deleon, of Novato, describes herself a former "buck-toothed, four-eyed fat kid," and says that "being funny got (her) attention."
She'll be exercising those comedic chops at the San Anselmo Playhouse stage this weekend as the iconic Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.
Director Blanco Florido says she cast Deleon for her "amazing talent … wonderful sense of humor, great energy and great heart."
"I started to be funny as a nurse," says Deleon, who is now retired from her 22-year nursing career. "Humor was another way to break the seriousness."
Deleon has worked in numerous medical environments including jails, urgent care centers for homeless patients, and outpatient wards for those with AIDS.
She came to Marin four years ago to receive some healing herself. Deleon was "very sick" after a gastric bypass surgery, and on an emotional level she was still struggling to overcome what she describes as a "traumatic past." She found help through healer, Behrooz Danadoost.
"He healed me. I was blown away," she says.
Deleon went on to study with Danadoost who, she says, "heals in several modalities including western, eastern, energy, natural herbal and Ayurvedic, India's oldest form of medicine, older than Chinese (medicine)."
Deleon now works with some of the Latino ranchers in Nicasio as a "curandera" or, in English, healer. "When you live on a ranch," says Deleon, "You go to a curandera."
Deleon has given talks on tolerance at local schools in response to recent string of suicides by young people who were gay.
When asked if there is a healing component to theater, Deleon says that there is. "It raises people's awareness through stories." She recently made vivid the plight of a quadriplegic man (Deleon has performed a number of "pants roles") in an original production at Ross Valley Players called "Hell in a Handbasket" written by Robert F. Bradford of San Rafael.
This weekend Deleon will take on her "favorite role of all time" — her favorite because the Cowardly Lion is "tough but scared."
Director Florido says Deleon "threw herself into the role, fully committing herself without fear, with the talent to back it up."
Deleon adds, "It's about being a strong person, but also being afraid."
THE WIZARD OF OZ
Performances are at the , May 13 and 14 at 7:30 p.m. and May 15 at 2 p.m. Tickets $20 general or $14 student/senior. To order tickets: www.brownpapertickets.com