The starring role in baseball is business as usual for Latinos, who in the last 10 years have won roughly a dozen League MVP awards and about a half dozen World Series MVPs.
None of this would be possible without Roberto Clemente, “The Great One.”
Clemente, who was a right-fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was the first Latino to win League MVP, and World Series MVP as a rookie. He finished his career with more than 3,000 hits and 12 Golden Glove awards.
Starting Friday, November 11th, the Society of the Educational Arts, Inc. is presenting DC-7, The Roberto Clemente Story. The bilingual musical about Clemente -- who died in 1972 after a plane crash while taking supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims -- will run until December 4th. It will show at the Teatro SEA in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
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DC-7 takes the audience into Clemente’s life though the memories of him shared by his brother, Matino, his widow, Vera, and a friend, Ramiro Martínez, who meet at his funeral and begin to reminisce.
Acclaimed actor Modesto Lacen, 34, will play the part of Clemente, with whom he shared Puerto Rican roots.
Lacen says he is very honored to represent a fellow Puerto Rican, a fellow Latino, who became a legend. In fact, Roberto Clemente is the person Lacen most wanted to portray someday in his career.
“It’s a great honor, it’s such an example of respect and dignity and patriotism and success,” Lacen tells Fox News Latino. “I mean, he was a huge success as a baseball player, but also, he was a humanitarian, and portraying him, it’s a dream come true.”
Clemente’s impact on the Puerto Rican community is infinite, Lacen says: “He has a chapter of his own, also [for] what he did beyond the ballpark” as a humanitarian, which is part of the play’s message.
Lacen wants people to “come out of the show inspired, to be better human beings, to treat each other with respect, dignity, and love, as Roberto.”
“I hope people will be inspired to follow their calling in life.”
It’s a great honor, it’s such an example of respect and dignity and patriotism and success. . .he was a huge success as a baseball player, but also, he was a humanitarian, and portraying him, it’s a dream come true.
- Modesto Lacén, actor who portrays Roberto Clemente
Lacen learned a lot about Clemente during his research, which included visiting the Clemente family in Pittsburgh.
He said that he learned some things that many do not know about the baseball icon, including that “in his private life he was a very funny person, he made a lot of jokes, he liked to dance, he wrote poems, he played the organ -- a lot of interesting facts that you would not imagine [about] ‘The Great One.’”
“We’re going to see the man, the friend, the father, the husband, and the human being beyond the image,” Lacen says.
Yet another fellow Puerto Rican, Luis Caballero, will be directing the play, which he wrote and worked on for six years.
Caballero, who was involved in such productions as La Gringa and El Olor de la Guayaba, has been working in the theater for the last 30 years.
Although this is the first time Caballero has written a work based on a baseball player, Clemente’s story is special to him, he says, because of his extraordinary legacy as one of the first Hispanic standout baseball players.
And Latinos can particularly related to the obstacles Clemente fought to overcome to play in the Major Leagues, and to scale its greatest heights.
“In the United States, with those speaking the language, well it was a very hard process,” Cabarello says.
“So we connected with that, and he’s our hero. He broke the rules, he was one of the first. To me, he’s an inspiration,” Caballero said, telling of Clemente’s place in the hearts of Puerto Ricans.
The director expects the musical to resonate with both fans and non-fans of baseball because of “the life of this man, he was also a human.”
Caballero sees the work as a thing of beauty.
“I want people to see his journey,” he says. “ I want people to understand that he was vulnerable. I want people to see that we are all Roberto Clemente in so many different ways, in our struggles, in our faith. I learned years ago…if you can touch somebody’s life in your presentation, you did something good.”
Another hope behind the Clemente musical is that it will generate support for Latino theater, Caballero says.
“I think that’s very important,” he says. “It’s very important that people come and see that we have stories to tell.”
The SEA Teatro will be showing performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 PM, and Sundays at 6 PM from November 11th until December 4th. Tickets are $100 for the opening gala performance on the 11th, and $30.00 online/$40.00 at the door for the remaining performances. They can be purchased at www.borimix.com, or (201)-529-1545.
The staff of the musical also includes Luis Salgado, who did choreography and musical staging, and whose credits include Broadway’s In the Heights and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, and Lorraine Velez, who plays Clemente’s widow, Vera, and who was in Broadway’s Rent.
DC-7 is part of BORIMIX: Puerto Rico Fest 2011, a month-long cultural celebration that highlights all forms of art during Puerto Rican Heritage Month.
E. J. Aguado Jr. is a freelance writer based in New Jersey.
E.J. Aguado Jr. is a freelance journalist living in New Jersey. Follow him on Twitter at: @ejaguado