Miami, March 15, 2019 – Miami Dade College’s (MDC) MDC Live Arts & Miami-Dade County Auditorium present AMAL, a provocative and inspiring spoken word theater piece that delves into the social impact of war, told by those who understand first-hand. Written and performed by military/war veterans, The Combat Hippies, with direction and dramaturgy by award-winning theater artist and MDC alumnus Teo Castellanos, and original AfroRican-Punk soundtrack produced by DJ Brimstone 127 with live percussion by Angel Ruben Rodriguez Sr., AMAL premieres Friday, Mar. 29 and Saturday, Mar. 30, at Miami-Dade Country Auditorium.
The Combat Hippies, as the word-slinging veteran group has come to be known, started through a creative writing workshop of MDC Live Arts’ 2014-15 season, part of a veterans’ initiative funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The writing lab was led by Castellanos and culminated with a reading of works that was so strong—it led to a commissioned theatrical piece. Conscience Under Fire debuted the following season to packed houses and positive reviews. The group continued to meet, developing spoken word events, healing workshops, and community engagement offerings. A couple of members departed, a new one joined, and Castellanos remained as Artistic Director. Since, they have become a nationally touring theater ensemble, with funding from Knight Foundation, National Performance Network (NPN), New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), National Ensemble of Theaters (NET), and the MAP Fund.
While Conscience Under Fire focused on the theme of turning Post-Traumatic Stress into Post-Traumatic Growth, The Combat Hippies’ next work, developed for MDC Live Arts at Miami Dade College, tackles new themes with equal parts humor and urgency. Tough and tender, AMAL relays stories of veterans’, refugees’ and civilians’ adjustment to life after war. Drawing from personal narratives, and connecting significantly with the Syrian refugee community here in South Florida, AMAL shares the unifying experiences of combatants and noncombatants as people of color. It also explores the quest for meaning, purpose and identity sought through enlisting in the military. And, with its all Puerto Rican/ Nuyorican cast, it places a focus on Puerto Rico’s cultural and military heritage.
In a coming-full-circle kind of way, The Combat Hippies’ commitment to conveying tales of resilience have made them more resilient—and now they hope to share the heal.
As member Hipolito Arriaga states, “We’ve been working on this project for the last 2+ years. It’s been a ridiculously grueling process full of blood, sweat, and tears. It’s also been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. So many times throughout, I thought it would break me, and it did. It’s broken me open so we could delve deeper into the pain, into the hurt, into the darkness in order to venture towards the magical elixir of healing to bring back and share with our community. NEVER did I imagine myself as a performer/shaman, least of all baring my unadulterated soul in front of others as a means of medicine, but life has an interesting way of putting you where you need to be. “
More About the Combat Hippies
The Combat Hippies are a Miami-based group of military/war veterans who’ve turned to the arts to heal and inspire.
Born and raised in the South Bronx, Hipólito “the BeardMan” Arriaga was profoundly impacted by his childhood. In 2003, at age 19, he joined the US Marine Corps despite the US already being at war with both Afghanistan and Iraq. Following four years, including two deployments to Iraq, he separated from the military honorably. His experiences overseas pierced him heavily, and after returning home he began seeking healing for the various injuries he had sustained, physically, emotionally & spiritually, leading him on a journey of self-discovery. Hipólito is trained in Baptiste Power Yoga & Trauma Conscious Yoga. He also serves as a Wilderness Expedition Leader with No Barriers Warriors, guiding veterans on transformative curriculum-based adventures in nature and serves as a Peer Facilitator with Warrior Writers. Besides yoga and the outdoors, his passions include healing, reading, writing, community service, activism and assisting others in their growth journeys.
Anthony Torres, Jr. was born in Brooklyn and raised in Utica, New York. He began his military career as a Civil Affairs Specialist in the Army Reserve from 1999-2002, then on active duty as a mental health specialist at Fort Hood, Texas from 2002-2006. In 2004 he was attached to the 115th Field Hospital and served on a 12-month deployment to Abu Ghraib Prison, Iraq. While deployed, he provided mental health treatment to both U.S. troops as well as Iraqi detainees. Following an honorable discharge he relocated to Miami, Florida and worked as a psychology technician at the Miami VA Medical Center from 2008-2013. He holds a MS in Psychology from Carlos Albizu University and a Master’s degree in Social Work from Barry University.
Angel Ruben Rodriguez, Sr. is a musician, singer, poet, composer, arranger, actor, producer & educator born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico in 1954. He started playing drums at the age of nine; his first paid performance was at the age of 13. Angel volunteered for the US Army in 1972 at age 17 and served as a cook. He was promoted to Specialist (E-4) and was in charge of a mess hall until his discharge in 1974. For the past 45 years, Angel has dedicated himself to preserving & maintaining Puerto Rico’s rich musical culture. He has recorded and performed with important Latin musicians, and served as percussionist at the world-famous Apollo Theater Amateur Night with Ralph Cooper Sr. Some of his theater credits include “UBU Enchained” directed by Wiesaw Gorski and Steven Sapp and Full Circle Productions’ “Soul’er Powered”. One of Angel’s lasting legacies is helping to fund and run the Point CDC, a Bronx-based community center with the mission of developing and mentoring youth through the arts.
About Teo Castellanos
Teo Castellanos is an actor/writer/director, who works in theater, film and television. His award-winning solo NE 2nd Avenue toured extensively for a decade and won the Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Scotland 2003. His most recent solo, Third Trinity, was directed by Oscar winner Tarell Alvin McCraney, whom Teo has had a working relationship and friendship for over 25 years. He founded the Dance/Theater Company Teo Castellanos D-Projects in 2003 and is Artistic Director of the theater company Combat Hippies. Teo has toured solo and company works throughout the U.S., Europe, South America, China and the Caribbean. Some acting theater credits include playing Elegba in Tarell’s The Brothers Size, (Miami) and Santos in The Hittite Empire’s Skeletons of Fish (London). Film credits include playing opposite Matt Dillon in Sunlight Jr. and opposite John Leguizamo in Empire as well as in A Change of Heart with Jim Belushi. He is a United States Artist Fellow 2019 funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and a recipient of several awards and grants including NEA, NEFA, MAP, NPN, Knight New Works, Knight Arts Challenge, Knight Foundation People’s Choice Award, Miami-Dade County Cultural Affairs and also won the State of Florida Individual Artist Fellowship 2005 and 2013. He’s a Sundance Institute Screen Writers Intensive Fellow 2015. Teo is a member of SAG/AFTRA, and Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers and holds a BFA in Theater from Florida Atlantic University.
WHAT: MDC Live Arts & Miami-Dade County Auditorium present AMAL
WHEN: Friday, Mar. 29 at 8 p.m., and Saturday, March 30, at 8 p.m.
WHERE: Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flagler Street
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Tickets are $25, to purchase please visit mdclivearts.org
About MDC Live Arts
MDC Live Arts is Miami’s most eclectic performing arts series. Created in 1990 as Cultura del Lobo, MDC Live Arts has a celebrated history of bringing extraordinary national and international performing artists to Miami. The annual series presents today’s most exciting artists and designs meaningful engagement between these artists, the students of MDC, and the greater community. MDC Live Arts seeks artists from across the globe who push boundaries and honor traditions relevant to Miami’s diverse community, and aims to offer audiences opportunities to discover new ideas, perspectives and forms of expression. For more information, please visit www.mdclivearts.org.
The programs of MDC Live Arts are made possible with the generous support of: Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs and the Cultural Affairs Council; the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners; the State of Florida, Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture; the National Endowment for the Arts; and National Performance Network (NPN). MDC Live Arts is a Partner of the National Performance Network (NPN). Major NPN contributors include the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Amal is a National Performance Network/Visual Artists Network (NPN/VAN) Creation & Development Fund Project co-commissioned by MDC Live Arts in partnership with Su Teatro, MACLA and NPN/VAN.
Ojalá/Inshallah: Wishes from The Muslim World is made possible by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art’s Building Bridges Program. The Building Bridges Program is the grant-making arm of the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art, which is an extension of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The program supports national efforts to advance relationships, increase understanding, and reduce bias between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. The mission of DDFIA is to promote the study, understanding and appreciation of Muslim arts and cultures. For more information, please visit www.ddcf.org/what-we-fund/building-bridges.
Miami-Dade County Auditorium opened its doors in 1951. It has a splendid history as one of South Florida’s premiere performing arts center. Over the years it has hosted countless numbers of operas, symphonies, theatre presentations, ballets, concerts, lectures, presidential candidates, graduations, naturalization services and a host of other programs of great community interest. This popular multipurpose theatre features Art Deco Revival décor. Recently renovated, this state of the art facility has for decades served as the center for showcasing the diversity of our cultural life and celebrating the Hispanic arts community. The operation of Miami-Dade County Auditorium was transferred to the Department of Cultural Affairs in January 2012; the Department has a track record and reputation for innovation and artistic excellence.
It is the policy of Miami-Dade County to comply with all the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The facility is accessible and assistive listening devices are available in the Main Stage Auditorium and the On.Stage Black Box space. To request materials in accessible format, and/or any accommodations to attend an event at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, please contact Javier Siut, Siutj@miamidade.gov, at least five (5) days in advance to initiate your request. TTY users may also call 711 Florida Relay Service.
Miami-Dade County Auditorium is managed by the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs (www.miamidadearts.org), with funding support from the office of the Miami-Dade County Mayor and Board of County Commissioners.
MDC Live Arts Contacts: Alexa Burneikis, Marketing Manager, 305-237-7733, firstname.lastname@example.org
Lisa Palley, Palley Promotes, 305-642-3132, email@example.com