A Conversation with Nicole Betancourt, Zahydé Pietri, and Jerry Soto
Two women and lifelong friends are stranded together in a faraway land. That deceptively simple premise is the impetus for Argentinian playwright Arístides Vargas’ poetic, funny, and poignant Donde el viento hace buñuelos (The Waters of Friendship), which will have a world premiere English production at LaTea September 16 through the 23rd. We sat down with director Jerry Soto and cast members Nicole Betancourt and Zahydé Pietri to discuss the play, their involvement in the translation, and how current events —particularly the devastation of Hurricane Maria on their homeland of Puerto Rico — have helped shape and illuminate this piece for contemporary New York audiences.
Margarita Javier: Tell us a little about yourselves.
Zahydé Pietri: I’m an actress and an artist from Puerto Rico. I’ve been living in New York City for almost nine years.
Margarita: What brought you to here to New York?
Zahydé: I worked a lot as an actress in Puerto Rico, in children’s theater and things like that. I felt like it was time to transfer to New York, to find more to do. I had already achieved all I could in Puerto Rico, but I wanted more. New York afforded me the opportunity.
Nicole Betancourt: I’m an actress from Puerto Rico, and I’ve been in New York over 22 years. I came here to study and never left. I grew up in a film environment. I’ve been acting here for a long time. I do a lot of voiceover. I used to run a program for children to teach Spanish through theater. But I got really busy, so I had to stop.
Jerry Soto: I’m the director of the play. I’m an actor, and this is my directorial debut, which is great. I’ve been acting in the city of New York for about seven or eight years. That’s how I came to the city of New York, through a play. I had been acting for a long time in Puerto Rico, and was invited to join the cast of a Spanish-language production called El caballero del milagro in New York. I came here to do that, and then I stayed. I also work for television, I work for the WWE, and I’m really happy to be directing this piece.
Margarita: The play is The Waters of Friendship, which will be at LaTea September 16-23. It is an English translation of a play by Arístides Vargas, an esteemed Latin American playwright who’s not very well known outside of Latin America. I was wondering if you could tell our readers a little bit about him and his work.
Zahydé: Arístides Vargas is an Argentinian playwright who was exiled from Argentina during the dictatorship. It was political persecution, and he had to leave his home. Exile is a common theme in his plays.
Jerry: I’ve been surprised to learn that even in Spain many people know who Arístides Vargas is. I wasn’t expecting that at all because they’re really proud of their own writers. And they really know him, more so than in Latin America. Every Argentinian knows who he is, of course. But being an author who writes the kind of theater he writes, it’s good to know he is known outside of Latin America. I also know that in the world of academia, many English speakers know his work as well. Now with this production and other works that have been translated, it’s a great opportunity for us and the rest of the world to get to know him.
Margarita: Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the first ever English translation of his plays.
Zahydé: Of this play. I believe Nuestra Señora de las Nubes (Our Lady of the Clouds) has been translated and performed in English before. I believe it was in a college setting. Jardín de pulpos (Octopus’s Garden) was also recently translated and performed. But this is the first time that this play is going to be performed in English. The translation was done by a professor in Puerto Rico, Aurora Lozado. She’s been working with Arístides closely on a few of his plays. I believe they have plans to publish them in the future. She was very excited that she wasn’t only translating for it to be published, but for it to be performed on stage. That is part of her project as well. She translates for theater companies to put them onstage, and then hopefully get published.
Margarita: How did this collaboration come across?
Zahydé: I approached her. This is one of the plays that she had gotten permission from Arístides himself to translate, but she hadn’t worked on it yet. This project had been a dream of mine for a while. She had translated another one of his plays, Jardín de pulpos (Octopus’s Garden) and it was presented at the Julia de Burgos Latino Cultural Center in New York. I approached her and talked to her about this project. And she said yes! She was excited to work with actors, because she said I want to hear the words actually said out loud to know if the translation works. So we initiated a conversation, and kept in touch, and were able to work together to bring this English translation to the stage.
Margarita: What is your relationship with this play?
Zahydé: It’s interesting how this play came about. Rosa Luisa Márquez is a well-known professor from the University of Puerto Rico. She’s very close friends with Charo Francés, a Spanish actress based in Ecuador, and Arístides Vargas’ wife. She and Arístides run a theater company called Malayerba. He writes and directs plays in which Charo often performs. Rosa Luisa and Charo are very good friends. So they were like Let’s work together so we can see each other more often! They improvised scenes, they had conversations, and Arístides was always there, like a fly in the wall, writing down their conversations. Their stories became the play. The two characters in the piece are based on these women. So it’s a very personal play for both of them. Rosa Luisa was my teacher when I was in college, and I play the character based on her, so this is a huge and thrilling undertaking for me.
Nicole: I knew it as a great piece of theater. I hadn’t seen it. I’ve actually never seen it in Spanish. Arístides has a very specific style, which is surprising because that’s what a lot of people say. Oh I love Arístides’ style! But I hadn’t read it in years and I’ve never seen it. So for me it was interesting to see this from scratch, like it was completely new, having almost zero references, besides who the people in the play are based on. Zahydé’s character, Catalina, is based on Rosa Luisa, who is so well known to us, having been students at the university where she teaches. I didn’t study with her, but I knew of her and her work. So for me she was like a faraway icon. This was about her life and it was based on her improvisations. So that was my jumping point to this piece.
Margarita: What could you tell us about the play itself?
Jerry: The simple answer to that question is: Two friends — they meet, and one of them is dying. That’s the real simple answer to that question. But then it goes to so many different places. It’s a surrealist play, mostly based on these famous surrealist films and it takes a lot from it, sometimes through blatant references. If you’ve watched the film you understand the reference and have something to take from it; if not, you just heard a name, the play keeps going, no big deal. Sometimes it imbues what’s going on stage and the character. The character Miranda in the piece actually plays a dog, named Buñuelo, which is a play on Luis Buñuel, the famous Spanish artist and filmmaker. It’s explained a little bit in the text, and the translator, Aurora Lazado, chose to make more palatable and approachable for English speaking audiences who might not know either the filmmaker or how words and names work in Spanish.
Margarita: I had a question about that, because the title of the play in Spanish is Donde el viento hace buñuelos, which is a play on both Luis Buñuel and a dessert called buñuelos which is popular in a lot of Hispanic countries. And that’s very hard to translate. I was wondering, as native Spanish speakers having to do this play in English, how do you work towards making some of these culturally specific, hard to translate ideas and concepts for an English speaking audience?
Nicole: Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t feel this is regional or that culturally specific. This play features different cultures: Argentina, Spain, Puerto Rico. They meet through the complexity, but also the simplicity of life, which is friendship, which is death, the emptiness, exile, immigration. I feel it was more of a challenge to translate because of the nature of the language as opposed to culture in itself. I think that that was probably more of a challenge. The poetry. How do you really translate poetry? It’s not easy.
Jerry: Translation is always difficult. You’re never satisfied, so we’ve had a lot of back and forth between ideas and what makes it more clear, what’s the best way to say it or feel it and then go through the motions. That’s why from the translator’s point of view it was great to have actors actually doing it. Even today as we’re running the whole play, sometimes I think Maybe that word is not working. Maybe it’s not the best way to communicate that idea. It is a challenge, starting with the title, which ended up being what it is. We’ve wanted to change it and at the same time it is what it is and it works really well inside the play. It’s not as good a title as the one in Spanish, but it works really well in the context of the play.
Margarita: Can you think of an example in the play where the translation actually illuminates or gives a different meaning to the text than the Spanish does?
Jerry: It’s funny, because I’m 100 percent sure that’s happened many times. I wish I could think of a specific example. This is a great question because there have been moments where I think Huh, this works better in English!
Nicole: The ending was written in a certain way, I’m not going to give it away [laughs]. But that was the beauty of Aurora, she was so open, and always going back to the Spanish, to be more honest or closer to the Spanish without changing it completely. And there are certain terms that even though they do have a translation, they don’t have the same weight. That was a challenge as well. Sometimes the whole sentence had to be almost rewritten, but to maintain the essence of what was being said or written in Spanish.
Zahydé: I always come back to “I don’t have a country, so what? I have a family and that’s wonderful.” That’s one of my favorite phrases in the whole play. We went back and forth on that line. The English translation is very different from the Spanish. But it didn’t work as a literal translation. What does it mean to say, “so what?” We just wanted to make sure that people understood that these two women are exiled from their countries and they found a home with each other and that’s what makes it so powerful. The friendship. Their country now is the relationship they have with each other.
Jerry: It’s amazing to think we’re almost playing the role of writer, or editor, whether we want to or not. And it’s complicated because you want to be faithful to the original, yet you also want to make sure the ideas come across accurately.
Margarita: I think that also happens not just in translation, but when you’re doing a piece from a different era and sensibilities have changed. How do we make it relevant to today’s audience while still being more or less faithful to the original?
Jerry: It’s also interesting, when you read the play in Spanish, one of the characters is from Spain, and the other from Puerto Rico, and you can really feel that in the text. It’s hard for someone to get rid of their own idiosyncrasies when it comes to language. So the Spanish from Spain feels from Spain, even though it’s really universal, yes, but only they talk like that, only they use certain words.
Zahydé: Or it comes back to specific themes. The character based on Rosa Luisa’s life talks about hurricanes a lot. This was written in the early 2000s, but it feels so relevant, not only because of what happened in Puerto Rico recently, but because it talks about immigration. It feels like it was written for today. Because of everything that’s happening in this country, we felt it was important to perform it in English because this is our side of the story. You have these debates about not letting people in, or who gets deported or not, and this is what we go through as immigrants, why we come to this country.
Jerry: The other character talks a lot about what a dictatorship is, and how it treats its people. And you can feel like maybe someone will hear that today and think about Venezuela, or North Korea, or any other country that’s going through that. That’s really interesting because we come back to what is really a universal theme.
Zahydé: In general, immigrants — at least in my case and a lot of people I know — don’t want to leave their country. I mean, many people do, but a lot of people leave because they need to. There’s a reason for it. We miss our language. We miss our homes. But there’s a reason why we’re here. And that’s also very important in the play.
Margarita: You mentioned Hurricane Maria, so let’s dive into that because all of us here are Puerto Rican, and this play is written by an Argentinian, but there’s a lot of Puerto Rico in it. It’s being presented for New York audiences. I feel like all of us, especially those of us who grew up on the island and still have family there, are going through this sort of collective mourning process that’s very hard to articulate to people who haven’t experienced it. I was wondering how you and your personal experiences and — I don’t want presume — your pain because of what’s happened, how that translates into the work that you’re doing with his piece.
Jerry: I see it in my perspective as the director, but I see it in the actors as well. It’s so there, even if we want it or not. Sometimes purposely putting, not even just the Puerto Rico story, but what’s going on with the Catholic Church, the abuse scandal. Everything that’s going on, all current events, even if you want them or not, they’re there. Sometimes we make nods at it. The Puerto Rico thing is there, because as Zahydé said, Catalina mentions hurricanes a lot. And this was written before this huge crisis, but it’s there, it’s impossible to diverge from it. It’s important, and it’s there. That’s one of the challenges that I’m making them face as actors. How do you deal with that? It’s suffering. You get mad. It’s going through all those emotions that we have in reality. How do you then do that on the stage? And that wasn’t necessarily the purpose of the text.
Nicole: I was recently in Puerto Rico, and I hadn’t been back since Hurricane Irma. I just got back three days ago. I had this fear of what to expect, the fear of seeing the houses that still have blue tarps instead of roofs. I still haven’t been back to my original house where my dad lives with his girlfriend, because it was so damaged. I was so scared to see all of that. And nobody in my immediate family passed away, so you have this gratefulness, which is weird, and it makes you feel selfish. Because there are so many people whose lives changed, probably forever. To see the deterioration of the island is infuriating because it’s almost like you’re losing your country. And what can you do about it, other than call for revolution which is almost fantastical? And going with what Aristides is doing in this play, he leaves his country during the time of The Dirty War and the “Desaparecidos” — the disappeared people. And then seeing what happened in Puerto Rico, the memorial with the shoes, the demand to give the victims of the hurricane a name. You don’t know what happened to some of the elderly, exactly how many people died, or where certain bodies are buried. It’s very similar to what happened in Argentina. Unfortunately, it’s almost like history is repeating itself in another way. One with a dictatorship and the other one through a natural catastrophe, but how it was managed is parallel to a dictatorship. That’s there regardless. Like Zahydé said, not having a country; that’s in the back of your mind. It’s there. I’ve been in New York 22 years, and I still say I go back home when talking about Puerto Rico. That is still home to me. I don’t think that ever goes away.
Zahydé: Catalina is a character that mentions hurricanes a lot. It’s been tough but also has been a way to cope with this tragedy. We’re actually going to be performing during the one year anniversary of when the hurricane hit Puerto Rico, on September 20. When it happened and there was no communication, we didn’t hear from our people for weeks at a time, because the communications were down, electricity was off. We were here, and we saw the images of the damage in Puerto Rico before they did. We knew what a disaster it was. We saw what was happening, but we couldn’t reach them to make sure they were ok. I felt like I was screaming everyday on social media. I would see someone and I couldn’t help myself, it was all I could talk about. Why aren’t we doing more? People are dying, or are going to die if there’s no electricity. People don’t have access to the oxygen or dialysis they needed, and that’s why so many died. But we’re finally getting an official death toll now, a year later. It’s a lot higher than what the government had officially told us. And we knew. Everything that we’ve been screaming about is finally being acknowledged. Even though, as Nicole said, we still don’t know the names of all the victims; they’re not all accounted for. So for me, playing this character is another way to deal with all that’s been happening for the last year. All that frustration, and sadness, and anger.
Margarita: Unless you are from Puerto Rico or know people from Puerto Rico that despair for those of us living outside Puerto Rico when we couldn’t reach our loved ones for days, maybe weeks, was excruciating and I don’t know if that’s something that people are aware of.
Zahydé: I don’t want to generalize, but my experience has been that most people in the United States don’t really understand what Puerto Rico’s relationship to the U.S. is. So they would ask, “How’s your family?” And all you want to do is scream. And having to tell them that we can’t really get any help from anyone but the U.S. because of the relationship that we have to the mainland. If the government of the Dominican Republic, which is right next door, wants to send ships with water and provisions, we can’t accept it because of laws the United States has imposed.
Nicole: Which actually happened. They wouldn’t let us accept help.
Zahydé: There’s no way for it to reach people because the U.S. is blocking every ship that isn’t from the U.S. And you would explain that, and people would say But why isn’t help reaching? What’s going on? You tell them why, and get the blank stares of Oh, oh, I didn’t know that.
Margarita: And also the complicated politics surrounding the reason why the infrastructure was so bad in Puerto Rico — which didn’t allow us to properly prepare — is because of our relationship with the United States, and the austerity measures that the United States have placed on Puerto Rico that are crippling our economy. It’s not just Donald Trump throwing paper towels. It’s all a result of this ongoing, very messed-up relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico that most people in this country don’t really know about or understand.
Nicole: When I was on my way back, I was in line at the airport, and there was a minor delay. This guy behind me was young, and he was super pissed. He turns to me, I guess he didn’t realize I was Puerto Rican, and he was like, I’ve been here for a month and I have to report to my superior. I’m just shrugging, then he starts ranting It’s a mess down here. I can’t believe it, you know, it reminds me of Detroit. And I’m like, so it reminds you of a state in the United States that cannot be compared with our political situation? And then he was suggesting that there should be martial law in Puerto Rico. All because there’s a line in the airport? Because it’s slightly inconvenient to you? And then of course I’m not going to engage in argument. He said he was from New York, Hell’s Kitchen born and raised. And he asked where I was from and I said Oh, I’m from here. And immediately he’s like Oh, no offense! And I’m like None taken. But that was the thing, you’re coming here telling me what should happen. And suggesting martial law as the solution? Do you even know what that means? All of a sudden it’s a country of complete chaos.
Jerry: How would you like if they imposed martial law in Hell’s Kitchen? [laughs]
Nicole: Exactly! Or Detroit, since you’re comparing us to Detroit.
Margarita: What, if any, are your expectations for audiences coming to see this who are not Hispanic or non-Spanish speakers?
Jerry: I’ve been telling people, if they want to have fun for awhile and think in a different way, they should come to this play. This is a mean thing to say, but I always say that this kind of theater is as smart as the person who’s watching it [laughs]. That’s the way it works. It’s not theater for everybody, I’ll say that. You have to be in the mindset to let it sink in, to just go with the flow of whatever’s happening in front of you. You go for a great time and you get a lot from it. It’s a powerful story. I did watch this play in Spanish many years ago, and to be honest, it wasn’t my cup of tea. It’s not my kind of theater. But I had a blast watching it. I loved it. I thought I would never do that, but I love it. It’s weird. I had never seen anything like it before. It’s so close to your heart. You cry and you don’t know why. It’s a thing of letting yourself go, and to me that’s priceless, because it talks about artistry. It talks about what Salvador Dalí was doing, even Picasso, or Jackson Pollock. People who think outside of the frame. That’s why they’re so good. From my director’s point of view, it’s just great. One of the things I’ve been working with them is the playfulness. We’re literally playing sometimes. And it’s amazing to see it happening because it helps a lot to the understanding of the scenes. I think it really comes across to an audience that will get a lot of ideas and a lot of specificity from what we’re doing.
Zahydé: Yes, it’s a very poetic play, and the structure is not linear. It jumps back and forth in time and it deals a lot with memory. But it talks about friendship, right? There’s nostalgia, there’s stories about your home and your family. It talks about many things that everybody’s familiar with. Everybody has friends, or has had a very important friend in their life that they maybe grew up with, or they have a family, maybe not a normal traditional nuclear family, but they understand what family is. So hopefully what we’ve been able to do is suck people in, with the games and the playfulness and the relationship that we have built between these two characters and then give them the heavy important things that we want to talk about. It’s a fine line. It’s a balancing act, so we’ll see. My hope is that people will be able to experience that back and forth. It gets heavy, and then it gets lighter.
Margarita: It’s also a very funny play. Outrageously funny at times.
Jerry: It really is. From the immigration point of view and all that, I think New York is interesting, because, yes there are native New Yorkers, but most people living here came from somewhere else. So even though it’s not the same as moving from a different country, you know what going back home is, you understand what it’s like to be living somewhere else. Some people pay more for a plane ticket to another state than we do to go to Puerto Rico. So there’s some empathy there to what that experience is like.
Margarita: Jerry, this is your directorial debut. How did this come about? Why did you decide to do this? What has that process been like?
Jerry: It was lucky set of circumstances that led me to direct this play, let’s put it that way. Most actors say I’ve always wanted to direct, and that’s true for me as well. Even though I never studied to be a director — I studied to be an actor — I have learned a lot through working with other directors. I have the blessing and curse to work on five to seven productions a year, which is great. So I’ve worked with a lot of different directors. That’s helped me feel like this is something I can do. I feel like I’m bragging, but I’m the kind of actor who other actors turn to for advice. So I’ve always wanted to experiment with directing, even though it’s scary. We’ll see.
Margarita: Everyone has to have a first one.
Jerry: Yeah, and this is mine. When I started acting, my first love was Henrik Ibsen. I’ve always loved realism. Chekhov, Ibsen, that’s me. And suddenly I’m directing this play, which is on the other side of the spectrum. And I love it because it’s getting to be like this amazing experiment; I can be weird and I can do unexpected stuff instead of just Move to the left, move to the right. I’m not saying there’s no value in that, of course there is, and I would love to do it one day, but it’s been an amazing experience for me to play, to actually play and to be open.
Zahydé: I mean, even though it’s not realism, there’s a lot of reality in this play.
Jerry: Yes. Also, it’s been fun to drive the actors crazy (laughs). Many times I know exactly what I want to do but I don’t tell them, and instead ask What would you propose? I think it’s worked because many times they come up with something that’s better than what I wanted to do [laughs]. So thank you.
Margarita: And you get to take credit for it!
Jerry: Yeah! [laughs] It’s like that saying that my job is not to have the best idea in the room, but to recognize the best idea. Hopefully I’ve done that [laughs]. We’re still experimenting and finding the perfect way to do things. It’s been great.
Margarita: Zahydé and Nicole, is there anything about your acting process both for this project and other projects that you’d like to talk about?
Zahydé: I feel like this is the biggest thing I’ve done, so it’s been a challenge. But It’s a very important play to me, and I want to feel that challenge of telling stories that matter to you. It’s been a lot of fun to play with Jerry and Nicole. A lot of what’s gonna be happening is a result of us being open to each other’s ideas. It has been different. Most of the time as an actor, people tell you what to do. But I’m finding myself participating in the process a lot more, which has been great.
Nicole: This may sound kumbaya-ish, but you do so many projects, and more so than the project itself, what matters is who you’re working with. That’s very important. I know this is more of a baby for Jerry and for Zahydé, in terms of how hard they worked to get the contacts and make all of it happen, and it sounds corny, but I feel privileged to be here, honestly. As an actor, I’m very stubborn [laughs]. Being open, recognizing that not only because of the nature of this play, it’s almost like it changes and morphs constantly. It even took Rosa Luisa and Charo two years to fully put this play together. This is a play that even if you continue doing it, it changes, which is something that is very exciting and scary to me personally. I’m dealing with personal stuff that I haven’t touched in many years, which makes it almost like a numbness. That’s also why I think when you asked what is your expectation of the audiences, I almost want to say I don’t care. I just want to be true to that presence.
Margarita: There’s a lot of Latino theater in New York City specifically, but it feels very isolated from mainstream. What has your experience been as Latino actors in New York city? How do you perceive the landscape? What do you think can be done to improve our level of representation in the arts?
Jerry: When you’re a member of a disenfranchised and oppressed group, one of the first challenges you get when you go to another country is the language. And like you said, there’s plenty of Latino theater in New York. Which is great, yet for so many reasons we don’t have a theater here that will accommodate 700 people. We just have very small houses. Which is not bad. Playing in small houses is a dream job for a lot of people. That being said, from an acting standpoint, when you come to another country, and you have to use another language, you have to master it. A lot has to do with training, and opportunity. For example, I have an agent for acting. And she said I’m asking you this because we have some rapport, what’s the difference between Argentinians and Cubans? It was like she was How do I broach this without being racist? [laughs] Because it’s tough. It’s difficult for other people to understand. And I told her, it’s like when you hear someone from Britain talking, you know they’re from Britain. If I hear someone from Cuba talking, I know they’re from Cuba. And if they’re onstage saying, “In Argentina we do this” with a Cuban accent, I get pissed because you should cast an Argentinian or get this person to talk with an Argentinian accent, or at least use a neutral one because it doesn’t make sense. It’s weird. So it’s a lot to do with that. And also, you just have to look at the numbers. Even when In the Heights was on Broadway, something like four percent of the workforce on Broadway was Latino. Only four percent.
Margarita: Looking at the roster of mainstream, major New York theater companies on and off Broadway, I can’t think of any major productions by Latino playwrights going on right now. Maybe there are some, but I can’t think of any.
Jerry: And yet we can think of many Latino playwrights. There are a lot of people writing; there’s no lack of great Latino plays.
Zahydé: And they’re writing about things that aren’t specific or relevant only to Latino communities. They’re writing about universal themes. There’s interesting and very good theater out there. But there’s a disconnect. And there’s a big Latino community in the US, and especially in New York City, but commercial theater doesn’t reflect this. I think it has to do with that stereotype. This is what a Latino person looks like, this is how they talk. And you go to auditions and they’re like Oh, do the accent! I’m like, What are you talking about? And they go Do a Puerto Rican accent! And I’m like But I am from Puerto Rico! [laughs] Are they talking about the accent of a Puerto Rican who grew up in New York? Because that’s a different thing. They just lack the imagination, or can’t understand that it’s bigger and more complicated than what they have been exposed to. We’re working on it.
Jerry: I’ve gotten Can you do it again but with a more broken English? [laughs] You sound too good. Um, okay I guess.
Nicole: I think that question has been asked for a really long time. Even theaters like this one, LaTea, how they fight to keep it open. There are actors who are constantly working whom you don’t necessarily know are Latino. I’m not saying it happens a lot, but when it happens it’s not always palpable. I also think that sometimes the Latino theaters are afraid of breaking the rules, and that’s why I think this play is so important. That we’re daring to do it in English; anybody can see it. Sometimes there’s some hesitation to breaking the rules within the Spanish communities. It’s a risk, and it’s understandable because you don’t want to alienate that core Latino audience. And on the other hand, I’m just tired; I’m tired of going to casting directors, and being told You don’t look Latina. I’ve been hearing that for the past 20 years. It’s starting to change, the reference is always Hamilton or In the Heights, like, come on man! We’re talking about Broadway mainstream. It’s a completely different machine of how it works compared to Latino theaters.
Jerry: Another challenge, maybe the challenge that many companies face, is also that they have to tell specific stories if they want to receive grants. They need to have a specific target. There are theaters that have to talk about immigration, or have to touch on certain themes because it’s the only way they can get money to produce theater. Hopefully we’re doing something by doing this play, which is a huge undertaking. Hopefully we can show the audience what we’re all about.
Nicole Betancourt is a versatile actress who develops characters for film, theater and web series. Most recently she can be seen as Melty Face, a co-star role for OITNB and a guest role as Officer Spanos for Start Up Season 2. Her theater credits include: The Madman and The Nun (Pregones), UBU ROI (IRT & INTAR), Storage Locker (IATI), Life Could Be A Sueño (HERE Arts Center & Teatro La Tea), The Vagina Monologues and A Taste Of Honey (under the direction of Susan Batson). Nicole is currently working on a one woman show as well as being the face and voice for various mainstream commercials on air. This performance is dedicated to those who couldn’t cheat death; Laura, Juanchi. And those who did, MC. More can be seen at NicoleBetancourt.com
Zahydé Pietri is a Puerto Rican actress, prop stylist and artist living in New York City. She has a BA in Drama from the University of Puerto Rico and has trained with Deborah Hunt in Puerto Rico, Juan Pablo Félix in NYC and with the prestigious theatre companies Malayerba in Quito, Ecuador and Yuyachkani in Lima, Perú. She’s been onstage in Puerto Rico, Ecuador, Perú and NYC. She’s particularly proud of the her work with the Improv Group IMPROpio in Puerto Rico, the sculpture and photography collaboration “Fresh Faces” with photographer Emily Dryden and the work she did with the Puerto Rican Children’s Theatre Group Desiderátum, where she got to collaborate with other artists in the creation and performance of larger than life masks and puppets. Favorite roles in NYC include Who in “Among Who, Whom and Ever” at LaTea, many roles for Writopia’s Worldwide Plays Festival and the title role in the upcoming short film “Adriana”.
Jerry Soto started his theatre career at the University of Puerto Rico and has trained with the prestigious theatre groups Malayerba (Ecuador) and Yuyachkani (Perú). Soto had his acting NY debut as Filiberto in “El caballero del milagro” (Lope de Vega) produced by Teatro Círculo. He was praised as Don Rodrigo in the critically acclaimed production of “El caballero de Olmedo” in Washington, DC produced by GALA Hispanic Theatre and Acción Sur (Spain). He has played many roles with Spanish Repertory Theatre including “En el nombre de Salomé” (ACE Award for Best Supporting Actor/HOLA Award for Best Ensemble) and his ACE Award nominated turn as Toñito in “La nena se casa”. You are about to enjoy “The Waters of Friendship”, his directorial debut! Set your mind free and engage. He is an announcer for WWE’s weekly Latin American TV Shows.