CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The theater community is mourning the loss of Chapa after he died earlier this week at the age of 68.
“The moment I walked in and met Charlie, he’s been a part of our lives forever,” Andrea Guzman said, a performer at Aurora Arts Theatre.
Guzman met Chapa when she first attended the theater in 2013.
Since the beginning of the Aurora Arts Theatre in 2010, Chapa was there. His brother Ed and Ed's wife Mary had the idea for the first theater on the south side of Corpus Christi.
Charlie then immediately jumped in to help.
“As soon as they signed the lease and started in, he was here from day one installing seats, getting the building up to being a theater," Debby Ramirez said, another performer who were friends with Charlie. "Getting it all squared away and then being a theater manager.”
From the moment you walk into the theater, you were hit with positivity from Charlie. He was known for entertaining speeches to kick off your show.
“You couldn’t walk through those doors and not remember seeing charlie and his big smile, and his big hugs, and words of wisdom and that vociferous laugh of his,” Guzman said.
“Charlie never met a stranger. He was so welcoming, and loving, and friendly and greeted everyone with a smile and a hug,” another friend of Charlie's, Lydia Garza said.
As theater manager for 13 years, Charlie did a little bit of everything. From performing to pep talks backstage to kicking back and relaxing in the audience.
“He could watch a show 50 times and he would still laugh so loud at every single joke as if it was the first time he ever heard it,” Guzman said.
Some of Guzman's fondest memories with Charlie came after a performance.
"I would come out of the dressing room and he would give the biggest hugs. And, he would tell me how great the show was, how great I was," she said.
For Ramirez, she enjoyed her time with Charlie backstage during the shows.
"I always got to experience his backstage, I don't want to say antics, but he always wished us a great show, like break a leg," she said. "And then, we're back there waiting as he's going through his opening speech and asking who hasn't been there before, and talking about the show and talking about the next show."
Garza recalls an interaction she had with Charlie that puts a smile on her face and will stick with her forever.
"I remember I was wearing one of my business t-shirts to come to see a play..." she said. "He joked with me, he goes, 'Oh I'm glad to see that you dressed up for the occasion.' And ever since then, I've been so self-conscious and I told him, because of you I'm going to be wearing a dress and heels every time I see a show at the Aurora Arts Theatre."
Those that spent a lot of their time at Aurora Arts Theatre said Charlie will always live on within the theater.
“I think his legacy will be always making sure people felt like they had a home here," Guzman said.
“He wanted those people that when they first came for the first time would want to come back. And, I think that that’s something we will have to keep in his honor,” said Ramirez.
Whenever you found Charlie in the audience of a production, he'd be in the back of the theater on a black stool. During the run of the next theater production, that seat will be reserved and serve as a memorial for Charlie.
A memorial mass for Charlie will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 1 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church.
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