En EspaƱol Know Your Rights
Source: Staten Island Advance
Subject: Profiles of MRNY
Type: Media Coverage

Staten Island Residents Make Bilingual Stage Debuts

Port
Richmond residents Jorge Luis Vera, Anita Guzman
and Giovanna Moreno’s unlikely journey to the stage only started 18 months ago
— but it is rooted in the rich cultural traditions and history of Mexico.

The
young Islanders make their stage debuts in
"Paso
del Norte,"

a bilingual ID Studios production running through this weekend at Theater for a
New City in Manhattan. Presented in both English and
Spanish, the one-act play was inspired by a 1953 short story by Mexican
novelist Juan Rulfo. The story centers around a young man (22-year-old Vera)
and his desperate attempts to escape brutal poverty in a small Mexican town and
earn money in "The North."

The
project is the brainchild of
German Jaramillo, director and board member of Make the Road New
York
. Jaramillo said he hoped to
tap into the stories of Mexican immigrants based in Port Richmond, the
fastest-growing Mexican community in the city. According to the 2000 U.S.
Census, the Mexican population on Staten Island
was 8,000.

Make the Road New
York

is a community-based organization aimed at making New York City a better place for low-income
communities of color through advocacy, community organization, adult education,
legal services and leadership. There are 4,000 members with offices based in
Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.

Giovanna
Moreno, 17, co-stars as Vera’s sister in
"Paso
del Norte."

About
18 months ago, rehearsals and theater training began for 16 people who were
"interested in trying something new," said Juanita Lara, health
advocate for
Make the Road’s Staten Island
office and a
"Paso del
Norte"

cast member.

"What
I was drawn to was how tapping into memories and historical roots brought
people closer together," Lara said. "We all had stories of family
arriving in New York.
We would really tap into those memories and enrich the characters that were
part of the stories."

Several
of the members in the original group were enrolled in English classes at
Make the Road. After several months, three Islanders —
ranging in age from 17 to 30 — remained committed to the weekly rehearsals.
They balanced their schedules with work or school and when it came time for the
performance in Manhattan,
they made the trek via public transportation to share the stories.

Many
of the costumes, props, dances and music used in the play come from the
memories of the actors and their families.

The
process "introduced different ways to share your experience and your
stories," said Lara. "Telling your story in your own words through
art and theater strengthen the ties to the community."

The
stories will not end this weekend.

ID
Studios is planning to produce two more plays from Rulfo’s short story
collection, "El llano en llamas." The trilogy is planned to celebrate
the centennial of the Mexican Revolution next year. The next installment will
begin this spring.