Pura Belpré: Walking Outside the Book
Thursday, March 27
Hunter College 68th Street Campus
Faculty Dining Room, West Building, 8th floor
Pura Belpré: Walking Outside the Book kicks off Centro’s spring events season with a panel discussion on Belpré’s role as not just as an author but as a performing storyteller.
With the aim of sharing Belpré in a manner in which she herself employed, an amalgam of stories, art, culture and community, this event definitely will not be all talk. It will include a performance by actress Flor Bromley as Belpré and puppeteering with artist Manuel Morán.
The main presenters at the free event will be Centro researcher Marilisa Jiménez-García, who specializes in American and children’s literature studies, and Morán, founder and CEO/executive director of SEA (Society of the Educational Arts, Inc.) in Manhattan.
Jiménez-García said the event will honor Pura Belpré’s desire to be remembered as Johnny Appleseed and explore what she was trying to say.
In her new article “Pura Belpré Lights the Storyteller’s Candle: Reframing the Legacy of a Legend and What it Means for the Fields of Latino/a Studies and Children’s Literature,” which will be published soon in the peer-reviewed CENTRO Journal, Jiménez-García explains that “Belpré’s role as a storyteller – with a lit storyteller’s candle – at the NYPL (New York Public Library), her desire to preserve a repertoire of Puerto Rican folklore, and her belief that her sowing of folktales within Puerto Rican children resembled the activity of U.S. folk hero, Johnny Appleseed.”
Belpré planted many seeds. She is best known as the talented author and puppeteer who wrote and re-interpreted Puerto Rican folktales. She also was the first Puerto Rican/Latina librarian in the New York Public Library; was an advocate for bilingual story hours at libraries; wrote the first mainstream Latino storybook in U.S. publishing history; and had a major children’s literature award named in her honor by the American Library Association.
Jiménez-García will speak on Belpré’s Puerto Rican folktales, including The Tiger and the Rabbit, as well as her Taino folktales as a way of engaging the audience in exploring some of the social, cultural and political allegory behind these tales.
Morán, the puppeteer, who is originally from Puerto Rico, will demonstrate puppetry as a storytelling tool, something that Belpré is known for using. He founded SEA, Inc. in 1985 and since then he has been responsible for creating programs that bring the arts to Hispanic/bilingual students and communities in their native language. He opened SEA’s home-based theatre, Teatro SEA @ Los Kabayitos Puppet & Children’s Theater on Manhattan’s Lower East Side in August 1999. As an actor, Moran’s real passion is for live theatre, particularly creating and performing in musicals and puppet theatre.
Bromley’s portrayal of Belpré promises to be a highlight of the event. Bromley is an actress, singer/songwriter, storyteller and puppeteer whose favorite theater roles include Pitti Sing (The Mikado) , Pura Belpré (The Storyteller’s Candle) , Frida Kahlo (Frida) and Martina (La Cucarachita Martina).
In her native Peru, Bromley graduated from La Escuela de Teatro de la Universidad Catolica and appeared in several productions as an actress and a storyteller. She is a musical theatre graduate from The American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York and holds a bachelor’s in theater education. She moved to New York in 2007 and performs all around the city with her musical/storytelling shows and with companies such as Teatro SEA, Making Books Sing and Urban Stages. She is a teaching artist for the Creative Arts Team at CUNY, Wingspan Arts, Inside Broadway and Bilingual Birdies.
Centro is co-sponsoring this event with SEA.