Issue: 1221 Date: 1/16/2014
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Gitana Productions' SOY YO! (I AM ME!) Production Explores the Challenges of Mixed Identity In America and returns to stage on January 17

        ST. LOUIS, MO- SOY YO! (I AM ME!) AN AFRO-LATINA SUITE, an original play about what it means to be Afro-Latino in the United States re-opens at 8:00PM, Friday, January 17 at the Missouri History Museum.

        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.

        Collaboration between the diversity departments of the Rockwood and Parkway School districts, the Missouri History Museum and Gitana Productions will bring this performance back to stage at no cost to the public. Gitana received rave reviews from the audiences who came to the show in May and June and the entire ensemble is excited about the remount of this show.

        Playwright, Mariah Richardson and director Vivian Anderson Watt, Director, SOY YO! (I AM ME) use drama, dance and music to address the complex issue of mixed identity during different generations in America. For example, one of the family members "passed for white" during the 1950's to increase the economic and social opportunity of the family during a time of great racism.

        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.

        Cecilia Nadal, Executive Director of Gitana Productions, and an Afro-Latina commissioned Mariah Richardson to write this play to bring attention to the unique challenges of people with mixed identity. Nadal's father Jose Adolfo Nadal was Puerto Rican and her mother an African American with mixed identity including Cherokee, Irish and French heritage.

        "It is very exciting to see the enthusiasm of people like Terry Harris at Rockwood and Charlotte Ijei at Parkway School District who recognize that diversity goes way beyond numbers and goals. It is so important to impart understanding and empathy for the day-to-day experiences of people with mixed backgrounds. They along with MK Stallings at the Missouri History Museum want the public to engage in a deeper understanding of inclusion through compassion. I applaud their support in bringing this program to the public at no cost. We want our audience to walk in the shoes of those who are Afro-Latino and understand how there is often a self-negotiation that goes on because of the nature of how we treat race and class in America," said Cecilia Nadal.

        SOY YO! (I AM ME!) AN AFRO-LATINA SUITE runs for only one night on Friday, January 17 at 8:00 PM. This is a free program so tickets are not necessary. Seats are available on a first come first serve basis. The performance will be held in Lee Auditorium at the Missouri History Museum located at 5700 Lindell. Call 314.721.6556.

        Gitana Productions is a nonprofit arts and education organization that uses, music, dance and drama as vehicles for cultural awareness and acceptance in the St. Louis region. We seize opportunities for bringing different cultures together through the arts by initiating on-going programs that result in cross-cultural engagement. For more information visit www.gitana-inc.org.

        About the ArtistsMariah L. Richardson, a native of St. Louis received her BA in Communications from the University of New Mexico and an MFA from Smith College in Playwriting. Metro Theater Company commissioned her to write Delilah's Wish, which won a Kevin Kline Award in 2011 and was published by Dramatic Publishing. Mariah is a filmmaker with several films under her belt. Her shorts have screened in festivals across the nation including The St. Louis International Film Festival. She is an adjunct professor for St. Louis Community College at Forest Park.

        Vivian Anderson-Watt (Director) served as the St. Louis Black Rep resident choreographer, tour company director, and director of Arts in Education program for 23 years. She has trained with Katherine Dunham, PG. Wren, Orania Simms, Gary Hubler, Archie Savage and Norman Davis, and has performed or choreographed more than 37 productions. Anderson-Watt received a Kevin Kline nomination for Best Choreography for her work with Historyonics Theater. She has worked with Gitana as choreographer and actor since 1997, and is the dance coordinator/ instructor for Gitana's Global Education through the Arts program for immigrant and African American youth.

        Jayden Reign -Expressing a genuine flare for performing, her mother enrolled her in Janet's Ballet Dance Studio, a local dance school in Brooklyn. At 17, Jayden decided to enroll at TVI Actor's Studio in Manhattan where she began taking classes honing her skills. Her multi-cultural background helped her earn spot with Between the Lines Production Company to star in their Audelco Award winning Off-Broadway play called Platanos and Collard Greens. In 2008, Jayden's dedication and commitment earned her the Sonny Rollins Award for Outstanding Performance. The highest level of recognition one could earn as a member of Between the Lines Production Company. Her recent credits include: "The Vagina Monologues" by Eve Ensler, "8" by Dustin Lance Black, "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf" by Ntozake Shange.

        Jeanitta Perkins is excited to return to the stage after landing the role of a lifetime as a proud new mommy! Some of her favorite past productions includes Facing the Shadow (Alice, The Black Rep), Rent (Joanne) and Passing Strange (Desi, New Line Theatre). She looks forward to touring with Metro Theater Company this fall.Jeanitta is a voice actor with NOW Talent Management and loves her dog Earthquake. She is a nationally certified optician by trade and her adorable ten month old has recently made his acting debut in a Laclede Gas commercial! Jeanitta would like to thank God and her family for their everlasting love and support.

        Sheri Gonzalez - A St. Louis native, Sheri is thrilled to return for her second show with Gitana Productions, having previously debuted as Toyo and Maki in Lee Patton Chiles' original drama, Inalienable Rights: From Pearl Harbor to 9/11 (2011). She could also be seen the following year as Maggie in The Theatre Guild of Webster Groves' comedic production of Lend Me a Tenor (2012). Sheri received her Bachelor's Degree in Studio Art from Webster University, and her artwork has been featured in a number of exhibitions and publications, most recently in the Night of the Scarecrow Halloween Art Show at The Koken Art Factory and the children's book, Mommas, Daddies, and Momma Bald Eagles, by Kathy Smith.

        Chiffontae Ross grew up in St. Louis and developed early on, an appreciation for the city's history of social activism and service. She is a black feminist and budding historian who has recently returned to St. Louis after earning her bachelor's degree in Sociology and Black Studies at Mizzou. As an advocate of both theatre and activism, she has organized and acted in multiple productions of Eve Ensler's "The Vagina Monologues." She is thrilled to be working with Mariah Richardson again, previously acting alongside the playwright in Richardson's acclaimed two-woman show, "Sistahs, Indeed!" Chiffontae can be seen daily at Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site in South St. Louis County, where she uses 19th century U.S. history, including slavery in Missouri, to creatively convey racial and social inequality of today, to the American public.


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