Margarita Damaris Martinez, a creative, socially-engaged, award-winning graduate student at Emerson who quickly became a respected affiliated faculty member, died Friday, March 6, at the age of 38, after a two-year battle with ovarian cancer.
“Margarita was an example of the very best of Emerson,” said School of the Arts Assistant Dean Tom Kingdon, for whom Martinez was a teaching assistant for three semesters. “She was at home in multiple disciplines (writing, performing, directing, producing). She was admired by faculty and her peers. She was brave and boundary-pushing. She radiated creativity.”
Martinez earned her BFA in Drama from the Tisch School of Arts at New York University, and her MFA in Film and Media Art at Emerson in 2018, winning the President’s Award for graduate students. She joined the Emerson faculty as soon as she finished her degree, teaching classes such as Intro to Narrative Drama.
“Students learned a lot in her classes and were fully engaged in the creative process, and she was inspirational to many,” said VMA Chair Brooke Knight.
Associate Professor Marc Fields, VMA Graduate Program Director when Martinez was a grad student, said Martinez had the ability to completely enthrall her students with what she was teaching.
“I would walk into her classroom, my class followed … and the students were all just totally engaged, even though the class time was over. You don’t see that that often,” Fields said.
She won a regional Emmy nomination as host of WGBH series Neighborhood Kitchens, and contributed recipes to The Cabot Creamery Cookbook. Her short film, Representative, screened at the Bright Lights Film Series. In 2018, her film El Desaparecido, which she said “used fictional narrative and documentary elements to explore the cultural ramifications of Puerto Rico’s relationship with the U.S.” was screened at the Boston Latino International Film Festival.
She acted in more than 40 theatrical, television, and video productions, and performed her own original theater and musical compositions in Boston, at The Roots in Providence, Pete’s Candy Store and Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn, and as far away as the Patravadi Theater in Bangkok.
Martinez’s classmate Tim Wojcik, film post production manager for Emerson Media Technologies and Production (MTP), said she was a trusted friend and an artist he admired.
“What stands out about Margarita was that I thought of her as much as a role model as I did a friend,” said Wojcik. “While we were similar in age, her sense of empathy and grace was that of someone wise well beyond her years.”
She is survived by her husband of 10 years, Jeffrey Guenette.
“Margarita’s desire to share socially-important stories drove all of her art and creativity,” said Guennette. “She was a tremendously compassionate, caring, brilliant person who we will forever admire and adore. She touched people quickly and deeply with her vibrant spirit and presence. Her glorious blue-grey eyes, curly locks, and brilliant smile will never be forgotten.”
Margarita requested that, in lieu of flowers or gifts, donations be made to either the Boston Public Library or Providence Public Library.