Friday, June 12, 2009

Rosateresa Castro-Vargas, The Subway Diva, Comes to the Surface at the Theater for the New City


Best-known perhaps for performing her original songs in the New York City's subway system, Rosateresa Castro-Vargas now steps up to the surface for her one-woman experimental musical, Tomando Café (Drinking Coffee), at the Theater for the New City (see calendar, below).

Written, composed and performed by Castro-Vargas--who also created the sculptural props used on stage--Tomando Café is directed and co-produced by DADAnewyork's director Joanie Fritz Zosike. Rosateresa emerges from the primeval fluid of coffee in lush prose and song, vividly recreating her childhood and unveiling the mystery that has eclipsed her life. A native of Puerto Rico, she demonstrated an early interest in music, studying voice in her native island with Maria Justina de Aldrey and later in Boston with Clara Shear, teachers who trained her for a classical career. “But I didn’t see myself, a Puertoriqueña, in the opera or theatre,” says the Subway Diva, “so I wrote my own story. I feel it is important to bring the stories of minority women on stage…so people know that we exist.

Reflecting the beauty of Rosateresa’s singing, Tomando Café is delicately and lyrically told through the eyes of an innocent child who grows up too quickly. Although this is a highly personal story, the universality of the piece lies in the frame of Puerto Rican culture—specifically as a series of snapshots of the women’s community—family, secrets, connection, and disconnection. Adding magical realism, storytelling, myth, poetry and music to a liberal dose of strongly brewed coffee, Rosateresa reveals the reality of a woman of her generation through the prism of her own life because, “It’s the only perspective I have.”

In a time of financial hardship and at the advice of a friend, Rosateresa began singing her songs in the subways of New York City. When people began asking for her recordings, she produced First Songs in 2003, of which she sells--exclusively while performing in subway stations--an average two hundred CDs a year. Two short videos have been made about her, An Angel Voice in the Subway and La Cantante, a slice of life video that was a semi-finalist in PBS’s Reel 13 series.

Rosateresa has been seen in A Soprano in My Chest at TeatroGaleria Manny Maldonado, with Martha Bowers of Dance Theater Etcetera in Angels and Accordions at Greenwood Cemetery, and at the Tingel Tangel Club’s presentation at Le Poisson Rouge’s second-ever art opening featuring the work of New York-based Israeli artist Ofri Cnaani. A teaching artist for the Brooklyn Arts Council and a company member of DADAnewyork, Rosateresa was last seen at TNC as featured vocalist in Misha Shulman’s Brunch at the Luthers.

Don’t miss Tomando Café -- It’s good to the last gulp.

Theater For The City presents Rosateresa Castro-Vargas, the Subway Diva, in Tomando Café (Drinking Coffee), a One-Woman Experimental Musical in Seventeen Gulps. Written, composed and performed by Rosateresa Castro-Vargas. Also featuring Priscilla Flores. Directed and co-produced by Joanie Fritz Zosike. Assistant director: Michelle Mazzarino. Incidental music, arrangements and accompaniments written and performed by cellist/composer Peri Mauer. Lighting design by Jason Sturm. Set designed by Dara Wishingtrad. Video artists Christian Austin and Olga Mazurkiewicz. Graphic artist is Robert Hieger. Reservations: 212-254-1109. Tickets $12, TDF accepted. Senior/Student/Group rates.

WHERE: Theater for the New City, 155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th St.), Manhattan. WHEN: June 11 - 28, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 3 p.m., June 11 through June 28. For further information, call 212.260.1850

1 comment:

  1. This is a great story and an inspiration to all of those who struggle to make their voices heard and to get their ideas across in the arts. It brings to mind Henry Miller, in the lean days when he lived off of June and Kronski and whomever else he could sponge a meal and a drink from, and how he decided if he could't get published, he would just print up chapbooks and sell them on the street. The venture didn't work, but inspired hjim to keep trying, and with stubborn persistence, he eventually triumphed over reluctant publishing cliques and avid censors.
    The fact that Rosateresa listened to her friends and decided to sing in the subway if she couldn't sing anywhere else speaks highly of her motivation of the irrepressibility art in the hands and heart of a true artist.



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