True to its 31-year-old name, NY's Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre will, indeed, travel, to all five boroughs with its Afro-Caribbean revue, Baile Cangrejero.
Beginning Aug. 7 the outdoor show, co-produced by Pregones Theatre, will move from Brooklyn, to the Bronx, to Queens, to Manhattan, and finally, to Staten Island. (New Jerseyites needn't be jealous, though; the show will also do four August performances in the Garden State.)
A theatrical collage of poetry, Afro-Caribbean rhythms and dance, Baile Cangrejero is developed, conceived and directed by Jorge Merced and Alvan Colon-Lespier. Merced also stars in the revue, alongside narrator Judith Rivera. Ricardo Pons composed the music and leads the four-piece backing ensemble. Figuring strongly in the mix are poems by Nicolas Guillen, Luis Pales Matos, Nicodemes Santa Cruz, Julis De Burgos, Manuel Del Cabral and Fortunato Vizarrondo.
"Cangrejero is in Puerto Rico," explained Lissette Montolio, PRTT's community coordinator in charge of the company's traveling unit. "It's where Indians and blacks congregated in slavery times. Dance ("baile") and song was a way of expression and a way to release tensions and also to protest." (Technically, a "cangrejo" is a crab; but Cangrejero refers to the town, not the animal.)
"The music is romantic music," said Montolio, "based on boleros, bombas (Puerto Rican rhythm) and plenas." Asked about the Pregones company, Montolio explained, "pregones were people who'd come in their ox-carts to sell things and sing on the street of their wares -- Lettuce! Tomatoes! We used to wait for them to come around the neighborhood around the time when we were cooking so we'd know what to make for supper."
Over half a million people have seen Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre shows, and artistic director Miriam Colon was honored with a Governor's Award in 1996.
For Baile Cangrejero's touring schedule (tickets are free, thanks to sponsorship by AT&T) and more information on the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre, call (212) 354-1293. The Manhattan performances take place at Hell's Kitchen Park (Aug. 13), Houston & Essex Streets (Aug. 14), Phipps Plaza Center (Aug. 29); Riverbank State Park (Aug. 30), and Central Park (Aug. 31).
--By David Lefkowitz