Thursday, June 18, 2009

Third Edition of International Latino Theater Festival Opened in New York City


The third edition of TeatroStageFest, the Latino International Theater Festival of New York, opened last Monday night at Joe's Pub with a compelling recital by artists of R.Evolución Latina (see next post). That was an upbeat beginning for two weeks of exciting programming that will continue tonight and tomorrow night with performances by comedians Marga Gomez and Bill Santiago, Merian Soto's "Postcards from the Woods" (the first installment of Dancin' in Da Bronx!, a series of presentations by up-and-coming choreographers-in-performance at Pregones Theater) and the Glamour Tango Quintet, an all-women ensemble conducted by Uruguayan pianist Polly Ferman, with Grammy-nominated Argentine vocalist María Volonté as guest singer See Festival's calendar

In a very short time, TeatroStageFest has managed to establish itself as the premier Latino theatrical festival in New York and as a much needed bridge between the city's largely Puerto Rican and Cuban stage traditions and the broader Iberoamerican contemporary scene. That achievement is a testament to the entrepreneurial skills of the Festival's founders, José Fernández and Susana Tubert, who is also its Executive Director, as well as to the working capacity of a highly committed team of staffers and volunteers.

Those skills and that capacity were crucial to overcame the hurdles posed by the current economic crisis, among them the early defection of some important sponsors of the festival's first two editions. Despite the financial strains, the organizers were able to put together an impressive calendar of forty-one performances and events at ten different venues in Manhattan, Queens and The Bronx, featuring over fifty local and international artists, including representatives from Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Spain.

In addition to the shows, TeatroStageFest will host a series of panels and workshops, a day-long conference on the history of Cuban Theater, and the Third Young Playwrights Latino Challenge, a writing competition for New York public high-school students. The breath of the programming underscores the festival's mission: "to promote Latino theater and to nurture the next generation of Latino theater artists and audiences in New York."

Probably, the most striking feature of TeatroStageFest is its hodgepodge character, the combination under one umbrella of so many different aspects of the theatrical experience, from the commercial to the community-oriented, from stand-up comedy to puppetry and theater for the whole family, plus the inevitable presence of dance and music, two staples of Latino New York.

That diversity of offerings reflects the diversity of the Latino experience itself, both in New York and in the rest of the United States. Add to the mix Latin American and Spanish artists, and you'll have a cross section of the multiple overlaps between the Spanish- and English-language Latino cultural worlds in a way that only New York City, with its panoply of immigrants from all over Latin America, can fully offer.

The crowd gathered at Joe's Pub was a sample of that cross section, and a clear sign of the awareness among leading members of the New York Latino theatrical community of the relevance that the mere existence of TeatroStageFest has for the empowerment of that community. Three-time Tony-award winner Lin-Manuel Miranda could not be physically present because he was receiving the Made In New New York Award from Mayor Michael Bloomberg at the same time, but he emceed the festival presentation video, a contribution to the cause by director Trini Alvarado.

Also in the audience where Blanca Camacho (In the Heights), Justina Machado (Six Feet Under), Michelle Marmolejo (Carmen), Liz Ramos (The Mambo Kings), Marcos Santana (Guys and Dolls), María Torres (choreographer of the movie El Cantante), and Broadway's latest sensation, Argentine singer Josefina Scaglione, the heartbreaking María of West Side Story.

For other stories (in Spanish), see here, here, here, and here

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