The Michigan Daily
Friday, March 10, 1989
Group airs Puerto Rican issues
BY JILL PISONI
DRUG abuse, crime, and illiteracy
are problems that have ravaged
America's inner cities; hence, the
highly-urban Puerto Rican commu-
nity has been hard hit by them. But
armed with strong messages chan-
neled into dramatic form, the Puerto
Rican community theater group;,
Pregones, is trying to combat the
Through their productions, the
members of Pregones strive to inter-
act with their audience in ways that
will compel change. Their audiences
are not mere spectators, but are very
much involved with what is happen-
ing on the stage. What happens there
is often shocking and enlightening.
For instance, a Puerto Rican na-
tionalist accused of sedition was put
in an American prison to serve a
sentence of 35 years. This woman,
Alejandrina Torres, and other politi-
cal prisoners in U.S. federal prisons
are at this moment being subjected to
experimental forms of punishment.
This is the subject of the Pregones
play Voices of Steel, premiering at
the Trueblood Theatre tonight.
To prepare for the performance,
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the company interviewed Puerto Ri-
can prisoners. They have chosen to
relate their findings not so much in a
factual and realistic manner, but on
an emotional level. The plight of the
prisoners will be conveyed through
music, song, and a variety of scenes.
troops, and ending with the forma-
tion of Latino communities
throughout the U.S.
Pregones began in the most rav-
aged section of the South Bronx in
1979. They have been been conduct-
ing workshops with Senior Citizens
To prepare for the performance, (Pregones) inter-
viewed Puerto Rican prisoners. They have chosen to
relate their findings not so much in a factual and real-
istic manner, but on an emotional level.
met the group in New York in 1986
while conducting research on Com-
munity Based Theater. He, along
with a number of University spon-
sors, worked very hard to coordinate
the group's performances here this
Besides the two plays open to the
public this weekend, Pregones also
has in their repertoire a play dealing
with the issue of AIDS, The Em-
brace. During the show, the audience
is invited to take the place of the ac-
tors and determine the outcome of the
play. The Embrace is meant to both
heighten awareness and to evoke
sensitivity towards people with
" AIDS. It has been put on at least 30
times in churches, high schools, and
prisons. Members of the company
have been working closely with so-
The company also has a children's
play, La Caravana, in which a cara-
van travels from town to town
telling stories. Again, in this
See Pregones, Page 8
Tomorrow night's performance,
Migrants, is a series of vignettes ex-
amining the social, historical and
economical background of Puerto
Rican migration to the United States
(since 1898, Puerto Rico has been
occupied by our military and
industry; we have more military
bases there than anywhere else).
Pregones dramatizes nine stories be-
ginning with that of a soldier, spy,
and interpreter for Ponce de Leon,
continuing through the 1898
occupation of Puerto Rico by U.S.
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and youth and working with The
Bronx Educational Services to com-
bat illiteracy. In 1986, the pastor of
St. Ann's Episcopal Church in The
Bronx was so impressed with the
work being done by the group that he
renovated the parish basketball court
into a theater and cultural center.
Though they have done some travel-
ling, Pregones are very much com-
mitted to working closely with the
problems of their community.
English Professor Buzz Alexander
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Judith Rivera performs as Evangelina in Voices of Steel, Pregones'
play dealing with the treatment of Puerto Rican prisoners in the U.S.
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