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Opening Doors Through Theater

HOST INTRO: The Lower East Side is a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. It’s historically known to be an immigrant neighborhood, and home to a large Puerto Rican community. Although the demographics of the neighborhood are changing, and a lot of its Puerto Rican residents and culture are disappearing, there are organizations still working to keep the community alive. One resident from the Lower East Side runs the Latin American Theatre Experiment Associates, a theater known as LATEA, where students have the opportunity to gain real-life experience while connecting with their culture. 

AMBI: Miguel is putting water bottles away, and someone is playing piano in the back

TRACK: I am here at LATEA theater on the Lower East Side of Manhattan with Miguel Trelles. It’s afternoon on a Saturday and he’s refilling the refrigerator with water bottles and stocking the bar in preparation for tonight’s show. He’s one of the resident visual artists, and after the LATEA founder passed away six years ago, his wife asked Miguel to take over the operations. Miguel does everything from taking out the trash to handling the programming of the theater. Even though LATEA has their staff, Miguel likes to stay involved in everything. I walk with him to the gallery, where different artists from the Latin American diaspora fill a big white room with their vibrant sculptures and paintings.*

ACT: Taking over the theater has been like taking over has been like uh, like getting the biggest canvas ever you instead of my — and I paint large, but this is even larger, and um it’s between painting the biggest canvas ever and running a zoo. – I think art is very important for all of us some of us are excited to do it some of us are excited to watch it, some don’t have much of a relationship to it but I do think it helps build up trust and sort of camaraderie among folks you know and I think it can strengthen the bond in society when its been torn apart.

TRACK: Las Mariquitas, a salsa band and collective from New York, kicked off this year’s Borimix festival, which was created 18 years ago. It consists of panels, workshops, and performances. 

ACT: it was meant to promote and present Puerto Rican culture in a very creative way, not just sofrito or just typical masks or dresses which we have done but to also encourage younger artists or artists of all ages to sort of contemplate the Puerto Rican — their roots, without even having to display them, display them if you will, and if you don’t display them I want to see what you’re doing, we want to see what you’re doing.

TRACK: About ten years ago they started hyphenating the festival, featuring another Latin-American country alongside Puerto Rico. 

ACT: Bori-Cuba, Bori-Quisqueya with the Dominicans, Bori-Colombia, and so on, so forth. Right now this year we came together with the Uraguayans, so this is Boriguay.

TRACK: Miguel takes pride in bringing in students and giving them a place to develop professionally and personally. He has interns from various city colleges working in a number of different positions.

ACT: I have people from Baruch that do me bookkeeping that are not artistic but are great at bookkeeping or they’re in that track of accounting because Baruch is very good at that. We have students from City Tech that are excellent with lighting because that’s their track, what they study, so they’re getting some tech, they’re getting stuff ahead, I have students from Kingsborough. 

TRACK: And finally, there’s Luis Ivan Escobar, who’s been interning here since high school.

ACT:  I call him the mascot, and he helps me with everything.

TRACK: Back in the theater, where the artists are preparing for the show tonight, Luis tells me that this space has become a second home to him.  

AMBI: Piano playing in the theater (continues behind Luis’s voice)

ACT (Luis): Feels like being in a family, my second family, feels like I’m in my own country cause I’m Latino, I’m from Ecuador, and I feel like everything is set already for me here, lighting, music,

TRACK: Escobar is studying physical therapy at CUNY’s Kingsborough Community College, but he says LATEA has given him real work experience and social skills. 

ACT: LATEA done for me to earn my confidence, to earn my attitude, well not in a bad way in a good way, attitude, and to make me strong, because in the beginning I was like feel lonely, not just like I was with my family here in the USA and all of that, in a way that they gave me an opportunity to stay in a place, to become a friend and family too, and have the right to take my own things in here – I think that everyone can have the chance to come here and to become an intern here.

TRACK (HOST OUTRO): Tonight’s performance will feature a Cuban Jazz musician. LATEA will be presenting Boriguay until the end of November presenting visual and theatrical art from the Latin American Diaspora. For Baruch College, I’m Tiana Burgos.

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