The Lower East Side is known for being home to famous Latino artists such as poet Miguel Pinero, artist George Lee Quiñones and poet and activist Clemente Soto Vélez. Soto Vélez was known for mentoring many generations of artists in Puerto Rico and NYC. His legacy impacted the cultural, social and economic lives of Latinos worldwide. So it’s befitting that an exhibit that questions the Latino’s role in achieving the American Dream, and even pokes fun at it, should premier at the center bearing his name.
On April 3 Make ‘Em All Mexican debuted at The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center. Conceptualized by L.A. based artist Linda Vallejo, MEAM is her satirical solution to a familiar question: “Where do I fit into the American Dream?” Vallejo’s answer is a comedic, yet thought provoking look at American iconography from a Chicano point of view. She takes old photographs, figurines and dolls and gives them a tan shellacking thereby providing them a new purpose, new meaning.
Just imagine…John, Paul, George and Ringo with brown faces and how that drastic change in skin color would’ve affected their role in history and pop culture. Or the Flintstones…how would different would Bedrock be if Fred and Barney had brown skin, with Barney’s skin being a couple shades darker than Fred’s once again questioning how skin color plays a role within one’s ethnicity. These are the types of scenarios that are explored through Vallejo’s work.
Over 30 pieces are displayed in the exhibit, some making the literal transformation to brown while others, like The Empire State Building glazed in a cocoa tint, are more esoteric in its challenge of The American Dream. Aristocrats, founding fathers, Norman Rockwell, even John Belushi doesn’t get spared in Vallejo’s recoloring of American/pop imagery. Looking at the Superman bust all glistening in candy coated caramel made him appear more animated.
While I had seen photographs of the work, the pieces were extremely dynamic in person. When displayed together, I felt as if I had stepped into a surreal universe; one that was actually closer to the world I lived in. As I walked around the room, I began to realize why the work fascinated me. When I was a girl my father, an avid collector of antiques, brought home two lawn jockeys, only these jockeys didn’t have the traditional jockey outfit, these boys were barefoot slaves. I asked my dad what he was going to do with them. He simply said, “I’m going to paint them.” He told me the history of these boys, how they were a symbol of the racism that is embedded in the core of this country. Slowly, I watched these slave boys transform. With primer and a few coats of paint to their skin, I began to see their features more clearly. I saw their personalities bloom in the colors my father chose for their clothing. The lanterns were replaced with flags. The sepia-skinned boy held the red, black and green colors of the Black Liberation flag. The dark-skinned statue held the flag of The African National Congress. Through this makeover these boys had a new purpose; they were the embodiment of pride. They instilled pride in me as well.
Growing up watching those boys in my backyard, from my bedroom window gave me a constant reminder of my roots. It also made me realize that “The American Dream” also belonged to me, that it came in multiple hues, not just red, white and blue. It is my belief that Make ‘Em All Mexican will do the same for Latinos. Make ‘Em All Mexican is on display until April 27. FAMERS get down to The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center and get yourself a good dose of brown.
This Friday “The Outing” premiers at Open Hydrant’s Urban Waves Short Play Festival. We thought our FAMERS would like to get the chance to know a little more about the actor playing Salome, the lead character, and the rest of the cast.
Joe Brondo (Salome) is proud to be working with the Open Hydrant Theater Company. Previous credits include “In The Next Room” or “The Vibrator Play” (HITfest), “Macbeth” (Round Table Theatre Company), “Sex, Relationships, & Sometimes Love” (Michael Chekhov Theatre Company), “A Chorus Line”, “Not About Nightingales and Follies” (Southampton Players), among others. He sends his love to his wife Jennifer. F.A.M.E NYC had the opportunity to ask Joe a few questions about himself and the character he is playing in “The Outing.”
1. What made you want to become an artist?
Being an actor allows me to be myself in more ways than I possibly could in real life.
2. How has living in New York City shaped your journey as an artist?
I wish I lived in NYC! Right now when I am not in the city working on projects, I’m living and spending my time with my beautiful wife in East Hampton. I love New York City for the incredible amount of varied opportunities available for creativity and collaboration – and the food!
3. When you summon the creative gods to assist you with your work, who do you pray to?
I am inspired most by my family and friends, and by listening to good music from all genres. I find that music can be almost as helpful as spending time with a good friend or loved one to inspire me.
4. What aspect about the character you are playing in “The Outing” intrigued you most?
I am very intrigued by Salome’s strength – I feel very lucky to be allowed to play such a strong, self-confident and positive woman.
5. If you were asked to describe “The Outing” to someone using three words, which words would you pick?
Don’t Waste Life
Brondo will be participating in a 10 minute play festival with the Abingdon Theater Company on April 7. You can find him on Twitter at @joebrondo.
Josephine Pepa (Jizelle) Her credits include: New World Symphony, DATCO (NYC), New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA), touring internationally with Latin Grammy award winning group Orishas and universal recording artist singer Beatriz Luengo. She is currently singing back up for such programs as “X Factor Mexico”, “Mira Quien Baila”, as well as working on her own material and blogging about her artistic adventures.
Ashley Marie Ortiz (Jasmine) is a New York based actress/artist. She is excited to be a part of Open Hydrant Theater Company’s Urban Waves Short Play Festival. After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BFA in Acting, she decided to make the big move to NYC. She is member of INTAR’s UNIT52, a proud volunteer of The 52nd St Project, and happy to be a part of Amios’ SHOTZ! once a month.
KENNY TORRES (Train) is proud to be performing with Open Hydrant Theater Company’s Urban Waves Short Play Festival in his first theatre production. His feature debut in film was in the experimental piece “Liberta” by Edson Poaiti. His screenplay “Emilio” is currently being developed with Enyi Entertainment. Also a poet, his work has been performed at Nuyourican Poets Café in Manhattan.
Christin Eve Cato (Director) is a New York based artist with a background in performing arts and play-writing. She is a member of the Bats, the resident acting company of the Flea Theater, a junior board member for Theater Resources Unlimited, and a member of New York Women in Film & Television. Christin is also co-founder of Manifest Alchemy, a new platform/community for Independent filmmakers to showcase their talents, specializing in Mini-Movies, documentaries, and web shows. She is excited to join Urban Waves team at Open Hydrant in her directorial debut!
Photos provided by cast members
In 2009 Afrika Brown founded F.A.M.E NYC as a part of her journey as an artist and to tell the stories of NYC’S arts community. F.A.M.E NYC is proud to announce that our beloved founder and editor will have her one of her plays premiere at Open Hydrant’s Urban Waves Spring 2014 Festival.
Afrika has a question for all FAMERS: What’s the “T”?
What is truth? Everyone knows what the truth is, but when the truth is revealed….how easy is it to accept? Can you accept your truth or someone else’s truth when it finally comes out?
“The Outing” is a captivating drama centering on three individuals who reveal a certain truth about themselves and the acceptance or nonacceptance of life outside the closet. Brief yet penetrating, “The Outing” aims to hit the audience straight between the eyes with the speed and power of an Ali punch. As these characters learn to deal with the truth about themselves, the audience is also left to determine how the hidden truths of their life would affect the course of their life if they were to expose them.
Founded by Luis Cardenas, Sarah Rosenberg (stars of the Showtime documentary Shakespeare High) and Deborah Pautler, Open Hydrant’s mission is to vitalize the Arts and Theater scene in the Bronx. Their wish is to create an ensemble based company of actors, directors, playwrights, producers and artists to better serve the cultural invigoration of the South Bronx. The creative spirit of New York City doesn’t just reside in Manhattan. As the Bronx’s first professional AEA ensemble theater company, Open Hydrant is determined to make the BX a destination for citizens of all five boroughs and the tri-state area.
Open Hydrant Theater Company’s Urban Waves Spring 2014 Short Festival runs from March 28 -30 at The Point, located at 940 Garrison Avenue, Bronx NY. Showtimes for each day are as follows: March 28th 7:30 pm, March 29th 3:00 pm & 8pm, March 30th 3:00 pm. Below is the link to pre-order tickets. If you pre-order them you get $5 off. Also, each ticket includes a drink. Now that is definitely worth the price of admission. Please tell a friend, who knows a friend, who knows a friend! We hope all FAMERS will support our founder!
The root of the word musical is music. Everybody knows that. But the word that stands in the shadows of the root word is good. Songs crammed into a book does not a musical make. Fortunately, “The Bridges of Madison County” doesn’t suffer from that problem.
“The Bridges of Madison County” originated as a novel written by Robert James Waller and published in 1992. It stayed on the “New York Times” best-seller list for three years. In 1995, it was adapted to a movie starring Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep as Robert Kincaid and Francesca Johnson, the main characters. The film was equally as commercially successful as the novel garnering an Academy Award Best Actress nomination for Streep.
The plot of “The Bridges of Madison County” centers on two lonely people that find comfort and true love in one another during a four-day long affair that each carries with them for the rest of their lives. Robert Kincaid is an aloof photojournalist working for “National Geographic.” Francesca Johnson is an Italian war bride that was looking for an escape when she married her husband Richard and settled with him in a farming town in Iowa. Richard takes their teenage children, Michael and Carolyn, to a state fair leaving Francesca alone when Robert pulls up in her driveway. He was sent on assignment to photograph the covered bridges in the area and was lost. He asks Francesca for directions to the Roseman Covered Bridge. She shows him how to get there and the two hit it off. The chemistry between them is palpable and after a conversation and dinner the pair begins an affair. Realizing each other is the love they had been waiting for; they contemplate sharing their lives together. Francesca decides that she can’t abandon her family, so the two separate and never see each other again.
“The Bridges of Madison County” the film is the quintessential chick flick for an evening in with your spouse or a girl’s get together. The musical adaptation of this story is no exception. In fact, the music and lyrics of composer Jason Robert Brown only amplifies its beauty. The longing and vulnerability that Francesca masks is fully exposed in Kelli O’Hara’s performance. She was joy to watch in “Nice Work If You Can Get It,” the pleasure of seeing her on stage increased triple-fold after seeing her in this production. Her voice is lovely and the score makes good use of her range. After seeing Steven Pasquale walk on stage from the audience, I could see why Francesca’s locked desires were released. He makes for a much sexier Robert Kincaid than Clint Eastwood. There is no one in the audience that couldn’t understand why Francesca was close to jetting off into the sunset with him. The synergy O’Hara and Pasquale created onstage was complimented by the score as the two created wonderful harmony together. In this adaptation the music is the third member of this love triangle and the scrumptious singing of O’Hara and Pasquale makes the audience want to root for their romance. Hunter Foster has a sturdiness to him that makes him perfect for the no-nonsense, all-American fellow. Once again he excels in his portrayal of Bud (Richard). For me the breakout performance is delivered by Cass Morgan who plays Marge, the nosey neighbor with a heart of gold. Her solo of “Get Closer” was the hit of the night.
It’s delightful to see a new musical with a score like this keeping the future of the American musical alive with vibrant energy. However there are a few components of “The Bridges of Madison County” that fell short. One was the lack of choreography. When it comes to musicals I believe music and choreography are what make a musical number and assist in driving the book forward. There is only one number in this production that has choreography, and while the music is stimulating, the lack of movement makes the entire show somewhat incomplete. Also, throughout the musical the extras are present on stage, sitting in chairs quietly observing. But from time to time they are moving about, assisting with moving the set around. At first I was unsure they were just there to move the set or if their presence had a more artistic meaning. The optimist in me hopes for the latter, for if not the extras would be an awkward solution to the issue of changing the set and its props. But these are just minor glitches that can be overlooked when one hears the incredible score and the great chemistry of O’Hara and Pasquale. All and all “The Bridges of Madison County” is a bridge worth coming to.
Photos: Joan Marcus
Elvis is known as the king, but what if his last name was Chavez and instead of being the king of rock ‘n roll, he was the king of Tejano? Marilyn Monroe has remained the pinnacle of Hollywood beauty and sex appeal for over 50 years, but what if her last name was really Martinez? What if Superman was actually an Aztec warrior from another plane of existence instead of an alien from another planet? What if this nation’s founding fathers actually migrated from Mexico instead of Great Britain? Elvis Chavez…Marilyn Martinez…George Washington with a permanent tan? How would these modifications change the course of American history and iconography if they were true? If you have ever pondered questions like these, then I’ve got something to share with you.
FAMERS, I’ve got the scoop on something hilariously provocative coming this way via the other coast. Beginning next month the Lower East Side’s Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center will play host to a Chicano invasion courtesy of L.A. based artist Linda Vallejo. For 20 years Vallejo’s work had been influenced by her study of ancient culture, architecture and symbols. In recent years, Vallejo has taken memories of growing up in the segregated South during the 1960s and her experiences as a Mexican-American, Chicana to produce a new series titled “Make ‘Em All Mexican.”
“Make ‘Em All Mexican” uses cheeky wit to address a larger topic, which can be drilled down to one fact, the skin we are born in colors our perception of the world and our experiences. Although it speaks to the Latino/Mexican-American/Chicano conundrum directly, it’s by no means a show for Latinos exclusively. In fact, members of all minority groups in this country have a story that is reflected in this exhibition. It’s a springboard in which we can all dive deeper into the issues that fester in the stitches of the stars and stripes. “Make ‘Em All Mexican” is ripe for the Big Apple, adding an essential dash of spice to melting pot of this city. I got an opportunity to speak with Linda as she prepares to bring her show to Manhattan. She answered a few questions about herself and the importance of the show.
1. What made you want to become an artist?
I have always been an artist. I think I was born that way. My first experience was at four-years-old in kindergarten. We were finger painting on large pieces of paper with an egg drawn on it for Easter. I was on my knees with my hands in the paint and I can still remember the smell. I loved it and I knew it. I was also very fortunate to have a first grade teacher that used literature to inspire painting projects. We would read a book and then go to the back of the classroom to paint with easels and brushes on large pads of paper. I won several prizes and loved the literature/visual art link which still inspires me today. I sang as a young girl in the church choir and painted. At twelve, I was playing guitar, writing music and painting. In high school, I designed clothes, wrote music and painted, and in college I worked in theater, wrote music and painted. All my life. An artist is simply an artist. We can’t help it…we’ve just got to live it.
2. New York City has a large Hispanic population. As a west coast based artist how important is it to you for this show to be seen in NYC and why?
All my colleagues in Los Angeles are very happy that I’m taking the work to New York. New York shows mean a great deal to any artistic career. “Brown” isn’t just a West Coast/Los Angeles/Mexican phenomenon, the politics of color is a global issue. I am very excited to connect with Mexicanos, Cubanos and Puerto Riquenos in New York to expand the conversation, share our stores and heal some wounds. A positive response from the New York arts community would certainly give MEAM additional cache as New York is still considered the center of the art world.
3. When you summon the creative gods to assist you with your work, who do you pray to?
I ask the Sacred Four Directions, Mother Earth, Father Sky, and Great Spirit to help me create an image with meaning and purpose.
4. Today…right now, which piece out of “Make ‘Em All Mexican” is your favorite and why?
I’m enthralled with the new larger series of sculptures including “Super Hombre.” It took weeks to find a 1:1 ratio/life size bust of Super Man. My fabricator, Chino, is a car body specialist and a perfectionist. I have been working with him for months on this new series that creates a “car culture sub-text” by painting repurposed sculpture “as if they were cars” including metal flake, hand painting, and chrome details. The result is a luscious chocolate coating that many say is “good enough to eat!” One person said, “Super Hombre” is “Chocoliscious!” or “I want to lick it!”
First the viewer laughs out load, then she or he is seduced by the luscious edible beauty of the object itself, and then the questions start pouring in: Is brown good enough? Can brown be beautiful? Can a superhero be brown? The answers are, absolutely! There are five of these larger works and three of them will be in NYC, but I’m only sharing the additional images with those that make it to the show in New York.
5. If you were asked to describe “Make ‘Em All Mexican” to a New Yorker using three words, which words would you pick?
Brown is beautiful!
“Make ‘Em All Mexican” opens at Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center, located at 107 Suffolk St, on April 3 and includes an artist talk and discussion. FAMERS don’t wait until Cinco de Mayo to channel your inner Chicano. Get down to the barrio of the Lower East Side and get a good dose of artistic consciousness.
Spring is near and if you weren’t already itching to get out of the house, let F.A.M.E NYC give you another reason. Daniel Radcliffe is best known for conjuring magic on the big screen, but he has also been known to create some special moments on stage as well. This spring Radcliffe is coming back to Broadway in THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAN. And we want to give someone a pair of tickets to see Radcliffe in action. All you have to do is riddle us this?
What school did Harry Potter attend?
Leave your answer in the Comment Box below for a chance to win.
We will choose the winner on St. Patrick’s Day at 5 p.m. May the luck of the Irish be with you!
Last fall Orlando Bloom made his Broadway debut playing opposite two-time Tony Award nominee Condola Rashad in “Romeo and Juliet”. This month the production made its debut in movie theaters nationwide as part of Broadway HD. Broadway HD combines the experience of The Great White Way with Hollywood, taking a live production and showing it in a different medium.
Filmed at the end of its Broadway run, “Romeo and Juliet” is playing a limited engagement in theaters, which ends on February 19. Seeing this production when it first premiered at the Richard Rogers Theater, I felt the show was a bit comme ci comme ça, but after seeing this production in the theaters, I felt that it had come full circle. Both Bloom and Rashad seemed more comfortable with the language. The production in its entirety, which seemed to not be fully complete when I saw it, exhibited a richness that wasn’t present when I saw it last year.
Another aspect of this film version was the distinct difference of viewing “Romeo and Juliet” on stage as opposed to seeing it on the screen. On Broadway the audience is part of the experience; the actors are performing for you. Watching it on screen I got the sensation of a voyeur – a gate crasher sneaking through the side door who quietly watches the show unfold. The excitement wasn’t as palpable; however it was still there.
If you ask me Broadway HD is a brilliant concept. Not everyone has the luxury of living in New York City and those that do don’t always have the opportunity to see productions while they’re making their run. Broadway HD allows Broadway to be accessible to everyone no matter if you are in Atlanta, Denver or Brooklyn. I’m looking forward to watching future productions courtesy of this innovative series.
Photo: Carol Rosegg
Robert Frost once wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.” But how many of you would jump at the chance to peer past the fence and find out what your neighbors are really like?
F.A.M.E NYC would like to give one lucky FAMER and a guest the opportunity to find out by extending two passes to the dress rehearsal of “THE REALISTIC JONESES” on March 12 at 8 pm. Written by Will Eno and directed by Sam Gold, “The Realistic Joneses” stars Academy Award nominee Toni Collette, Golden Globe winner Michael C. Hall, Tony Award winner Tracy Letts and Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei.
To enter to win the passes for this exclusive event, all you need to do is answer this question:
What is the name of the film in which Marisa Tomei gave her Oscar winning performance?
The winner will be announced on February 25 at 5 pm. Despite the mounds of ice littering our sidewalks, spring is coming! And on Broadway Spring 2014 is shaping up to be one helluva season. Here’s your chance to become a Broadway insider. Enter this contest!
Good luck FAMERS!
We are one month into 2014 and despite the snow and frigid temperatures; NYC is still in a celebratory mood. The Super Bowl on Sunday… Chinese New Year…Fashion Week around the corner…new shows opening on Broadway, it may be winter, but The Big Apple is hotter than ever. F.A.M.E NYC has remained in a festive mood as well. So much so, that we would like to show our appreciation by offering one FAMER tickets to see the 2013 production of “Romeo and Juliet” starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad in movie theaters. During its final week of performances the play about the world’s most famous star-crossed lovers was filmed and will be broadcast in theaters nationwide from February 13 – 19 as a part of BroadwayHD, www.broadwayhd.com.
We will pick a name from one of the FAMERS who have commented to one of our contests last year. The winner will be announced on Monday.
THANK YOU FAMERS! It’s been a pleasure bringing you the NYC I get to see. The journey is still continuing and spreading in new directions. I hope you will all take the twists and curves with me.
F.A.M.E NYC Editor and Founder
When producers Kenny “Dope” Gonzales and Louie Vega formed Masters at Work in 1990, they proceeded to create a catalog that contains some of house music’s most recognizable classics. Such is the case when two great creative minds come together to collaborate. It seemed that from the time Alvin Ailey hit the streets of The Big Apple in 1954, he and Duke Ellington’s paths were destined to meet. Both he and Ellington were born in different areas of the country but had come to New York City to pursue their art, although by the time young Ailey had arrived, Ellington had already cemented his legacy as a jazz virtuoso. However, it didn’t take long for Ailey to begin to carve a name for himself in the world of dance. With pieces like “Revelations” and “Blues Suite”, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which was formed in 1958, quickly became a sensation in the modern dance scene. Like Ellington, Ailey was known for a unique style infusing ballet, Horton, jazz and African dance techniques. Also like Ellington, Ailey lifted his art above the grouping of race which allowed his work to be recognized as an American art form the world over.
In 1970, Alvin Ailey and Duke Ellington’s paths finally met. American Ballet Theater commissioned Ailey to create “The River”. The ballet was the first collaboration between Alvin Ailey and Duke Ellington. Ailey would again refer to Ellington’s music when he created “Night Creature” in 1974 and “Pas de Duke” in 1976. For the 2013 season, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater paid homage to these late geniuses and their collaborations by premiering new productions of “The River” and “Pas de Duke” at the New York City Center. Along with the first season’s performance of “Night Creature” and Ailey’s most seminal work, “Revelations”, the debut of these works was an evening of remembrance, revelry and appreciation for beauty, physicality and style in motion.
AAADT weaves athleticism and artistry so seamlessly that it takes the medium of dance to another level. Visually stunning and always breathtaking to behold, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater never fail to provide its audience with the most soul-stirring shows they will ever see. It is where perfection and performance meet. This sentiment simply radiates through “The River”, a work that utilizes the entire company and is as moving, fierce and romantic as its namesake. With the accompaniment of Duke Ellington’s score driving this piece forward, the love Ailey had for dance is truly exhibited. The way in which he carefully blended classical ballet elements together with modern techniques is nothing short of masterful. “The River” is energetic; it rolls and sweeps the audience in its majesty. It is a living example of the brilliance of these two men.
“Pas de Duke” was first created for Ailey’s muse Judith Jamison and ballet superstar Mikhail Baryshnikov. Black and white, modern versus ballet, Eve and Adam, “Pas de Duke” is witty, flirtatious, sophisticated and utterly charming. Ailey must of thought of the song “Anything You Can Do” when he choreographed this piece.
As one of the children of the night, I have always had a fondness for those who skulk down sidewalks, saunter into nightclubs and compete with colored spotlights for the glory of a night filled with sweat and velocity. On many occasions, I have been one of them creating new realities on the dance floor. Ellington said, “Night creatures, unlike stars, do not come out at night, they come on.” I would say they come out to be alive, alive in a way they can’t be when the sun is shining. Alvin Ailey’s “Night Creature” is overflowing with life. The company slinks, leaps and struts with authority. It defines the sumptuous nightlife that New York City is known for.
There can be no better end to an evening with AAADT than “Revelations”. It is the work that Alvin Ailey is most known for and definitely on the top my list. Seeing Alvin Ailey’s choreography paired with Duke Ellington’s music gave me a few revelations of my own. There is no debate why the majority of their works are regarded as masterpieces. I would liken the Ailey-Ellington collaborations to an artistic atom bomb – an explosion of epic scale whose far reaching effects have spanned over generations.
Photos: Paul Kolnik, Christopher Duggan, Gert Krautbauer