Teo Does Dallas

The Perfect NPN Community Fund Residency

by Vicki Meek, Manager of South Dallas Cultural Center

I first met Teo Castellanos in Miami, his hometown, during an NPN Annual Meeting. I saw his NE 2nd Ave showcase and remember thinking, “they should have given this guy more time because I think there’s a lot more to this show than this showcase allows us to see.” I made it my business to meet this dynamic brother and we hit it off Immediately.

As is true of so many NPN encounters, we talked about how nice it would be to have Teo come to Dallas and present his work, and as is also true of so many NPN encounters, this would not become a reality until four years later! But in February 2010, I was finally able to make good on my promise to bring Teo Castellanos’ NE 2nd Ave to the Dallas community. The South Dallas Cultural Center and Teatro Dallas co-sponsor Teatro’s International Theater Festival biennially. This exciting festival enabled the SDCC to present our dear friend Jennylin Duany’s Cabaret Unkempt in our space, an experience our patrons are still talking about! I don’t know, maybe Miami does something to make its artists magical, but Teo came to town and left us with that same sense of “we gotta get you back and soon!”

Teo worked with three different communities, all of which thoroughly enjoyed him. His hardest group to engage ended up being his biggest fans, the kids in the Texas Youth Commission halfway house. I have to admit I was a little nervous about this residency choice when we walked into the building and discovered that the guys hadn’t really been prepped for Teo. Two kids were asleep on the desk, two looked blatantly bored and two were doodling. Only one kid seemed genuinely interested in the prospect of participating in a poetry writing workshop. Well, within minutes Teo had the two doodlers’s attention and a minute later the sleepers were wide-awake! I was dumbstruck at how Teo engaged these kids, who by the end of his third day when he was about to leave, group-hugged and begged me to bring him back. Oh, and by the way, they wrote some very profound poetry! The social worker shared with me that one of the kids had not spoken in the entire two weeks he’d been there and that she was amazed that Teo got him not only to write but also to read out loud!

The students at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing & Visual Arts had a similar experience with Teo, sans the initial reticence. They wrote and performed monologues for him as he critiqued them upon finishing. Since they were in a play writing class, this was an invaluable experience for them. And the professional artists who attended his informal sharing session on touring couldn’t get enough of Señor Castellanos either! But the icing on this marvelous Teo Castellanos cake was his performance. All I can say is, he wowed us and left us wanting another two weeks of his magnetic presence.

The Community Fund is made possible by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts (a federal agency), the MetLife Foundation, and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

August 2010

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