Transcript: Miriam Colón's #LegacyLeaders Video


MIRIAM COLON: I like the idea that the cultural vehicles are also taken to the people that are less affluent, to the people that cannot afford a fifty dollar ticket or a seventy-five dollar ticket, or a hundred and twenty-five dollar ticket to see a play on Broadway.


MIRIAM COLON: The mission of the theater I feel, is, is so important, is so sacred, it is so powerful. It can do so many things to open the conscience and to open the awareness, of our awareness of ourselves, our community, our fellow being.


MIRIAM COLON: The formation of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre had to do with a group of us there was no Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre then. There were not that many  opportunities there were not that many playwrights, eh, that were writing vehicles that could give opportunities to a person of my physical description.  A group of us decided to put on a play off Broadway called, The Ox Cart. I was flabbergasted at how it described the plight of that Puerto Rican family and I said, “This is, this is fantastic! This will be wonderful for New York.” Because it had not only the beauty of the play itself and the way it is structured, plus the fact that it represents, eh, one of the most distinguished eh, playwrights, Rene Marques. It really energized us to want to say, if they reacted this way, to this play about a Puerto Rican family and this is a play about immigrants and this is a play about people struggling to survive and this is with people that need help, this will be seen by people that are not Puerto Rican also Latino…and that happened.


MIRIAM COLON: From the very beginning, we, uhmm, we stated that we wanted to be a bilingual theatre. Among the classes that we decided to--to offer, was the playwriting class. You have to teach the youngsters or not so much youngsters, the--the young men and women that you can write and that uhh, that ideally that should be written by you, that have lived and tested what it is to survive in a ghetto, in an economically limited eh, neighborhood, because they talk with an authority and with a depth of knowledge that is basic for us to be able to convey the message. It is things like that, that will make possible the survival of a real, real uhmm, ehh, mixture of races and uhmm attitudes and points of views, which, I think the theatre can serve.   


MIRIAM COLON: We have to continue, the, the education of the community and the individuals so that we have more people join in the task of making the arts available to everybody.


MIRIAM COLON: In school I became involved in little production. Some teacher presented a play. Ahh, no person in my family ever was in the theatre. When it came to an end I was, I was broken-hearted! I said, “NO. No! We’re going to do it again, no?” And the teacher was called, Marcos Colon, no relation to me. A wonderful man. I didn’t know what to do yet and I was like, so disappointed that it was over. And he said, “Why don’t you write a letter to Mr. Lavendero?” and I said, Oh, can I?” And uh, he helped me to write a letter telling him that I would like to know if I could be given the permission to att-(giggles) attend (giggles) acting classes. And uh, uhhh, I guess he was flabbergasted. The nerve of this little girl, you know?


MIRIAM COLON: The University of Puerto Rico had a traveling theatre and that’s how I heard about the idea of a traveling theatre. They gave me a role in it and therefore I started going to the country to the little towns to the little plazas, to sleepy little towns. When I was old enough to ehh-enter the university as a full-time student I had already gone through Acting 1, Acting 2, Acting 3, Acting 4 without the benefit of the credit but with all the practice.


MIRIAM COLON: Had it not been because of that I don’t know that I could’ve come to the United States. I had no idea the immensity of the city or--or the things that you have to take into consideration to survive in New York.


MIRIAM COLON: One of the earliest uhh, experiences in New York was, actually, it started in an off-Broadway play. Then there was a play called In The Summer House and uhhh, there was a role of a Mexican family in it and I was submitted for the role of the girl in the, in the family and I got it. It was just the first ehh, contact with, really the real world of uhh, the professional theatre in New York City and the level was staggering. You become scared to think that people can be that good. I didn’t know what making the rounds was. I said, “Are you making the rounds?” the girls would ask me. “The rounds?”, “Yea you go round and around to see the, eh, agents and you leave your picture”. It was difficult. Very competitive. I mean, I was a recent arrival to New York. But also I did not now have an immersion into the theater scene to know you know what TDF is, what the Department of Cultural Affairs is, what Harvard School is, anything like that. And uhh, ehh, but I would hear everybody in the school say, “So and so auditioned for The Actors Studio and they got in. And, and I--I am going to study, eh-and I am going to apply, and I am going to do an audition.” and everyone was nervous about the possibility that they were going to be auditioning for The Actors Studio. So I-I- saw such reverence, such nervousness, I said, “ What is The Actors Studio?” Wha-what is that? And they explained it to me that it was the most ehhhm, difficult place to enter, that--that caliber of the eh, students that were admitted was too much that almost nobody could get in. I got in. I got in on the basis of the first audition.


MIRIAM COLON: So it was not the champagne, and the reviews and the party afterwards or anything like that, it was mostly the joy of being with very serious, very determined, ehh performers.


MIRIAM COLON: We are going to be merging with a group called Pregones. Pregones is a Puerto Rican group, another the Puerto Rican group but they are in the Bronx. I know them for many years and I’ve seen them emerge and how they were courageous, and they did not become afraid of the fact that they are in the South Bronx. They are a good example of a community-minded group. A, a group with roots in the community and uh, with pride and identification.


ROSALBA ROLON: So many people come to Pregones and say “I was just at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre”. So we thought of creating a concept that would keep people connected in their--in their experience between the two theatres--one is in Manhattan and one in Bronx.


MIRIAM COLON: I guess it was the influence of the lovely things that I saw and that I participated in while I was, I was a, a young actress, and we would get into a sleepy town, and the dogs are barking, and they don’t know what’s going on and all that noise coming over there and, the little band playing and it was like a fiesta, like the town would wake up and the kids would come and they touch you. Why is it that they come and they touch? Is it..many of them, what they have been exposed to is the images of television and the image there. The idea of taking theatre to the people who pay taxes, but they don’t have, eh the power to uh, energize a company like that.


MIRIAM COLON: It cannot all be, you know, television again and the car wreck, you know the, the ehh the car chase, and the killing and the this and the that is...There’s too much emphasis eh, on that in exhibiting, eh, and repeating and repeating and repeating the gory and man’s inhumanity to men. Maybe we have to slow down a little bit. We cannot keep regurgitating that, and exhibiting it and memorizing it. It’s frightening. You have to bring them earlier and make them become acquainted and uhh, have the knowledge and the awareness of the arts of the theatre, of poetry, of songs, of music already part of their nature. See if you wait until they are eighteen or twenty, I think it’s too late.


ROSALBA ROLON: Our companies are surrounded by young people. They’re gonna be doing this. So we can make that impact across generations, across race, and class. That we are doing something important.


MIRIAM COLON:Giving this to the children, uhh, presenting to them for their examination and for their enjoyment uhh, helping them discover the richness, of, of their own culture, the richness of what our contribution is to society, when we are gone--that’s all that stays. What you leave now, what you build now, what you do for those children now is the gift for, for them to, to continue and to have it and to learn to love it and to learn to respect it. etc. That’s a lovely gift to leave.  

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