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  • Writer's pictureJim Bessman

Roberto Clemente a big hit at APAP

Roberto Clemente

SEA display at APAP

One of the most eye-catching displays at last week’s Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) conference at the New York Hilton Midtown was a big action figure of Roberto Clemente, the Hall of Fame Pittsburgh Pirate outfielder from Puerto Rico who tragically perished at 38 on December 31, 1972, in a plane crash on the way to deliver emergency aid to earthquake survivors in Nicaragua.

The figure adorned the exhibition hall booth of bilingual arts-in-education organization Society of the Educational Arts, Inc. (SEA) and companion Latino Children’s Theatre in the U.S.

Established by Dr. Manuel A. Morán and with offices in New York, San Juan and Florida, SEA creates and produces educational theater productions and art workshops/programs specifically designed to examine, challenge and create possible solutions for current educational, social and community issues, reaching over 100,000 children and young adults annually via 300 performances of a repertory of 20-plus shows.

In celebration of its 25th Anniversary in 2010, SEA opened a state-of-the-art performance space at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The facility’s mission involves the cultivation, presentation, and preservation of Puerto Rican and Latino culture while also promoting artists and performance events reflecting the cultural diversity of the Lower East Side and the city as a whole.

But besides the tie-in with the Clemente Center’s name, the Clemente figure at APAP represented one of SEA’s many theatrical productions, My Superhero Roberto Clemente. Geared toward Pre-K to 5th graders and performed in Spanish and English simultaneously, the show concerns a young boy and his friends, who discover the super powers that made the legendary baseball star and humanitarian a superhero indeed.

“We did an adult version of the show off-Broadway in New York and toured it, and decided that since it was such a huge success for adults, to do a version for children,” said the company’s associate director Richard Marino.

For kids of color, Roberto Clemente presents “an amazing legacy,” continued Marino. “He was a great baseball player and human being, an activist who played during the civil rights movement. People were tough on him since he didn’t speak English, and he faced segregation. But he was a friend of Martin Luther King, and had a sense of the struggle for people of color even though he was a superstar. He opened the door for Latin American players of color, and was our founder Manuel’s hero growing up.”

My Superhero Roberto Clemente came with a resource guide for teachers and a post-performance workshop—and was itself a big hit when it toured Puerto Rico, said Marino.

Meanwhile, SEA was also promoting at APAP Mexican Pinochio! (a retelling of the classic folktale, centered on a young Mexican immigrant on his journey to understanding himself and his heritage, and embracing a new country), and Sueno—a Latino take on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.



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