Photos by Sandra E. García
For those whose concept of going to the theater means deciding only between popcorn or candy, the organizers of "Viva Broadway!" aim to provide some new options.
This past Fri., Mar. 11th, the Broadway League, the national trade association for the industry, launched a new long-term initiative with the Latino community to increase awareness about the shows, theaters and culture of Broadway, a cultural hub in New York City that serves as an international draw for millions of visitors a year.
And on hand to mark its debut were a host of National Advisory Board group of industry and cultural notables that read like a nominees' list during award season.
Among them was Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tony-Award-winning creator of the musical "In The Heights," based on his life in Washington Heights.
Miranda developed his own formative love of theater early on, and wants the same for a new generation of audience members – and talent.
"Theater changed my life as a kid," said Miranda. "It's all about that first exposure. We have to make Broadway a destination for us."
Joining Miranda was fellow actor Jamie-Lynn Sigler.
"Theater is my home away from home," said Sigler to the crowd of theater-lovers gathered at the New York Times Building on Friday evening. "As a performer and theater-goer, I know theater is a huge tradition for Latino families," she added. "We have so much work to do, but I believe in this."
The new initiative will be chaired by Jack Rico, editor-in-chief of ShowbizCafe.com, and seeks to promote Broadway to Latino audiences by detailing everything from how to buy tickets, finding out who is in the cast, and how to find out what shows are in theaters.
Moreover, beyond its cultural impact, Broadway is a major economic development sector for the city, and part of "Viva Broadway" will be to make certain that Latinos know of training and employment opportunities behind the scenes.
To this end, Broadway Speaker Bureaus will be created to aid in advertising jobs to high school and college students.
"I think it will allow Latinos to feel a part of a community. 'Viva Broadway' will be like a helping hand that introduces them to Broadway," said Rico.
Luis Salgado, director and founder of R.Evolución Latina, an organization that utilizes the arts through educational and collaborative programming, will also serve on the 'Viva Broadway' advisory board.
His collaboration was also personal.
Salgado saw the distant lights of Broadway from his home on the island of Puerto Rico – and followed them as a beacon.
"I'm the guy who 10 years ago left Puerto Rico to be on Broadway, so this means everything to me," enthused Salgado. "The Latino experience is being pushed forwarded and rewarded, and Broadway empowers the Latino community. 'Viva Broadway' is expanding our scope by creating awareness of who we are."
Luis Miranda Jr., founder and one of the publishers of The Manhattan Times and The Bronx Free Press, will serve as a board member for 'Viva Broadway' initiative
Miranda, who is also father of Lin-Manuel, knows keeping theater in the family.
"Lin-Manuel was an investment I made for when I retire," said Miranda Jr. in jest.
But Miranda turned serious in pointing up the impact of the theater on the cultural and economic health of the City.
"Broadway in general is a vibrant part of New York City. We need to make sure that the millions of visitors who come to see the Empire State Building, a Gilberto Santa Rosa show at Radio City Music Hall, the Statue of Liberty, Yankee Stadium also come to the theater," he added. "Theater is a taste for all people in the city."
Cubana Jamie Lynn Sigler was also excited about adding the tradition of Broadway to lives of Latino families.
"I think we can make it our tradition to have an appreciation from every angle of theater," she said. "We must enrich the audience."
For Lin-Manuel Miranda, who has cited inspirations as varied as Gershwin, KRS-One, and Ruben Blades, the nexus of Broadway was a natural fit for a constituency well-versed in rhythm.
"[Theater] and musicals are the perfect summation of dancing and singing," he said, "which is what Latinos love to do."
For more information, please visit: https://www.facebook.com/vivabroadway.