Pregones: A Cultural Gem

"The Beep"

By Andrea Diaz

The Bronx Journal Staff

Originally published Spring 2008

It’s a place that serves to remind Latinos about who they are and where they came from, a theater where Latinos see their own lives evolving on stage, a mirror that reflects the Hispanic-American experience. It’s Teatro Pregones, a cultural gem in the Bronx.

At this theater, the plays are about the people who sit in the audience – mostly, Bronx people – and they tell stories of the Latino struggle to realize the American dream.

In the play “The Beep,” for example, audiences were taken on a fast-paced musical theater ride, showcasing poems and stories by Pedro Pietri, Judith Ortiz, Jesús Colón and other great Latino writers. In “El Apagón/The Blackout,” audiences have seen the humorous story of Latinos who got caught in the Northeast Blackout of 1965.

Pregones, now in a new 120-seat theater, at 575 Walton Avenue, between 149th and 150th Streets in the South Bronx, has been growing and flourishing since its birth in 1979, when actress Rosalva Rolón felt there was a void to fill in the Bronx.

“I found that there was such a hunger for theater well done, for Latino audiences,” Rolón said. “They wanted their stories told, and Pregones does just that. Pregones was created to promote Latino theater, mostly Puerto Rican based, but through the years, we have incorporated many other voices from all over Latin America and the world.”

In “The Red Rose/La Rosa Blanca,” starring Puerto Rican superstar singer Danny Rivera, audiences saw a musical rendition of the life and times of the late Jesús Colón, (1901-1974) the Puerto Rican writer known as the Father of the Nuyorican Movement. In “El último rosario de Medea” (Medea’s Last Rosary), audiences witnessed a chilling, barrio version of the Greek myth in which perverse fascination is awaked when a woman is convicted of hiring hit men to kill her husband.

The Red Rose

“From migrations to indigenous mythologies to subway stories, the company’s repertoire covers a growing sample of Latino experiences and identities,” notes the theater’s web site, at www.pregones.org.

During any given year, Pregones will present at least four productions by its own ensemble, and seven or eight productions staged by visiting companies. But it’s not only a theater. There are also films, music and dance shows, and numerous workshops and training projects conducted by award-winning Latino actors, musicians, directors, dancers, and designers.

“We have grown so much,” said Rolón, with a smile that reflected her pride. “We have incorporated many, many diverse voices in our theater and we have artists from all over Latin America. It’s a wonderful repertory of plays by established artists, new artists, original voices, and it’s a musical theater.”

Rolón said developing a musical theater has been a priority for Pregones. “We wanted our own musical theater, not a copy of what is established out there, but really using our own authentic music and voices.”

That is exactly what Pregones has done. The theater offers original plays and musicals, as well as adaptations in English, Spanish or in both languages. Simultaneous text translations are even available for those who may need help with any particular language.

“Every year we have a brand new production,” Rolón explained. “But that doesn’t mean that the other plays close. Actually, those that are more popular remain on repertory, and they run for longer periods throughout the year.”

La felicidad es muy evidente al ver el rostro de estos artistas en "El Apagon"

"El Apagon"

She said it usually takes two years of planning before a production is finally staged. “We have to commission music, we to have commission choreography, you know, and we also have to design everything,” Rolón said. “So we are very strict and very professional with that.”

This spring, Pregones is staging the world premiere of “Game Over,” the story of a man who had health, family and money and then loses everything; and how he turns to God with a few tough questions. Also new at Pregones this year is “God’s Creatures,” described by the theater as a “strange, voracious, and oddly lovable” new play about “everyday misfits looking to make it (and make out) in the big city.”

Every year, the company also produces a new touring show, especially for its summer traveling theater presentations – on the streets, in the parks and at other outdoor venues in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. These summer productions are completely free, just like many other educational events, workshops and community projects, offered by Pregones for people of all ages, throughout the year.

Se siente la intensidad y la rivalidad en la obra "Blanco"


Rolón said that, just like the barrios of the Bronx, Pregones is all about diversity and new experiences – a place where actors, musicians, writers and many other artists get together to learn from each other.

Pregones provides opportunities for new actors to launch their careers, as well as for established performers to polish their work while giving something back to their community. “There are many performers that have worked on Broadway and are working with us,” Rolón said. Aside from Danny Rivera, for example, Pregones plays have recently featured big-name celebrities like Broadway star Elise Hernández and Venezuelan TV star Lupita Ferrer.

“In the theater we create an environment where the young can learn from the old and the old are also excited about what they can learn from the young, this is why we work with people that go from 18 to 65 years old,” Rolón said.

The Pregones “family,” as Rolón describes it, often takes life in the Bronx out to the rest of the world. Its traveling troupe has performed in numerous states and foreign countries, often recreating the experience of the New York barrios, and helping to bridge gaps of understanding.

“In addition to the work we do in the Bronx, our touring company continues to travel,” Rolón said, noting that sustaining a touring company has been one of Pregones’ greatest accomplishments. “We have visited more than 400 cities and 11 countries,” she added, “We have a very, very large international program where we partner with companies from other parts of the world.”

While the Pregones company may be performing abroad, a foreign troupe may be performing at the Pregones Theater in the Bronx. “We share at home and abroad,” Rolón said, “and we have grown beautifully, actually.”

She said the theater welcomes foreign troupes not only from Latin America but from Eastern European countries, because, “we think it is important that our audience, in addition of developing a taste for our work, have the opportunity to enjoy and to be expose to the voices of many other artists.”

Rolón said the theater’s collaboration with other theaters abroad may soon lead to the creation of the first virtual international theater school, involving eight countries. “We hope we can develop a school where our young people can study with masters from all over the world,” she said.

About 28 years ago, it started with the need to fill a cultural void in the Bronx, and it has become a Bronx cultural gem. The Pregones stage – with all it’s drama, music, singing and laughter – has become a wonderful gateway from the Bronx to the rest of the world.

For more information on current and upcoming performances, call Pregones at 718-585-1202 or visit Pregones.org.

Page designed by Dalila Molina

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