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Issue: 1190 Date: 6/13/2013
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Gitana Productions names Elena Garcia-Kenyon as 12th Annual "Extraordinary Ordinary Person of the Year"

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        ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI - Gitana Productions has named Elena Garcia Kenyon of Florissant to receive their prestigious 12th annual "Extraordinary/Ordinary Person of the Year Award." Elena will be honored on Sunday, June 30 at 3:00 PM during the opening weekend of "Soy Yo! (I am me!) An Afro-Latina Suite," an original theatre performance by Gitana Productions that explores what it means to be of mixed cultural identity in America.

        Gitana Productions works to increase cross-cultural awareness in the St. Louis region through international music, dance and drama. "Soy Yo" runs June 28 through July 14, 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 3:00 PM on Sundays at the Kranzberg Arts Center, 501 N. Grand just south of the Fox Theater.

        Elena Garcia Kenyon, originally from El Ferrol, Spain, is a retired Spanish teacher from the Lindbergh School District where she taught for 20 years. She observed that some of the African American students who were bused to Lindbergh were not as engaged socially as their peers. Many of the children were very eager to showcase their talents to her. She spear-headed a talent show and started an after-school mentoring program to build self-esteem and pride among the youth and their parents. The program became very successful and still continues to this day.

        Cecilia Nadal, Executive Director of Gitana Productions commented, "Elena has a keen eye for the development of all children and when she spotted a need with kids that were African American she stepped up to the challenge spending many hours volunteering her time and energy to help. She helps us to see that service starts with an observant eye and open heart followed by action that empowers others irrespective of the color of their skin, manner of speech or lack of sufficient income. She loved the kids and they loved her back!! Elena represents an active form of inclusiveness that goes beyond numbers and reflects real and authentic engagement."

        This spirit of service is reflected in many aspects of Elena's life. Her service to the poor, homeless, and Latino families are associated with programs including Our Lady of Guadalupe Church and St. Vincent DePaul Society. For Elena, this has been a way of life in Spain as well as the United States.

        SOY YO! (I AM ME!) takes the audience on a journey from the 1700's to 2013 with one family of mixed African and Latino heritage. The range of struggles faced by this family mirror those of more than 9 million Americans who self identify as multi-racial or multi-ethnic.

        A collaboration between playwright, Mariah Richardson and director Vivian Anderson Watt, Director, SOY YO! (I AM ME) uses drama, dance and music to address the complex issue of mixed identity during different generations in America.

        America's many famous Afro-Latinos include Marian Carey, Sammie Davis Jr., Roberto Clemente (baseball player), Celia Cruz (singer), and Soledad O'Brien (TV Journalist). From 2000 to 2010, the number of Americans identifying with multiple races grew by 32 percent over the decade, for a total of 9 million.

        Tickets are $25 and $20 for seniors and students and may be reserved by going to www.gitana-inc.org  or calling 314-721-6556. You may also email Gitana at info@gitana-inc.org

        Gitana Productions, Inc. is a not-for-profit arts and education organization dedicated to increasing cross-cultural awareness and collaboration by bringing international music, dance and drama to the St. Louis community. Gitana events present a rarely seen diversity of international and local artists exhibiting an array of traditional and innovative artistic expressions. For more information, visit www.gitana-inc.org or call Gitana Productions at (314) 721-6556. The Regional Arts Commission, Monsanto and the Missouri Arts Council support Gitana.

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