Friday, November 21, 2008

2008 HOLA Awards Report

By Blanca Vásquez

The Ninth Annual HOLA Awards was an evening of friends, good food, networking and proud Latino artists. Every year on that night we come together at The Players (a theatrical club overlooking Manhattan’s Gramercy Park) to celebrate our achievements as performers on stage, in front of the camera or on radio. It always seems that right after the HOLA Awards we have a rush of new members at our office, hungry to become a part of HOLA. The event makes such a significant impact on guests and supporters of the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors; and hence inspires to lengthen HOLA's mission.

We started out the evening with our traditional tapas reception, a perfect opportunity for casting director Elsie C. Stark (of Stark Naked Productions/Elsie Stark Casting) to catch up with talent agent Wendy Curiel, for new members to introduce themselves to veterans like actor-producer-director Miriam Colón, for master of ceremonies Jorge Ramos to fill up on an empanada and the press photographers get a glass of wine. As people filled in, the energy in the room grew high. Wendy Curiel mentioned that she enjoyed the whole evening but especially the networking portion. She said she got to meet people she'd never met, like actors she sees everyday on the HOLA Pages online directory. She goes to our website on a regular basis for castings. Wendy thought it was a great affair with a great turn out and she had a good time.

Then, the awards ceremony began. The opening number was from the HOLA award winning production La muela del rey Farfán (I was in that production too!) with fellow castmates Annette Cortés singing, Daisy Payero manipulating one of the many puppets in that show and Kat Sherrell on piano. As I sat in the audience, watching actors receive their plaques with much appreciation, I was moved by their acceptance speeches and the video presentation of HOLA Lifetime Achievement awardee Ricardo Barber. It's great to know that HOLA is present in the hearts of Latino actors.

When I asked Jorge Ramos his thoughts, he told me, “It was maravilloso! ¡Me encanta como lo organizan!” He loved that the event had it all, including “la elegancia, entretenimiento, la comida, los artistas.” He said that HOLA has a spokesperson in him. He believes that the work that HOLA does is very important. His favorite part of the awards, besides John Leguizamo's speech, was the video presentation for Ricardo Barber, saying that his career served as an inspiration to those which stays true to their craft and profession.

Some of the most memorable highlights would be Ricardo Barber's video presentation compiled by HOLA and featuring Ricardo's friends and colleagues who have worked with him in the past. His speech was so touching. Then there was the comment from Cándido Tirado. A winner of the playwriting award along with his wife, fellow playwright Carmen Rivera, he admitted that the awards ceremony fell on the same day as his first colonoscopy and the two events would always be united, much to the chagrin of his wife. Carmen Rivera then thanked HOLA for recognizing the work of the writer. Other highlights included mistress of ceremonies Odalys Molina receiving a surprise award from Jorge Ramos (she was teary-eyed, but recovered quickly and gracefully); the very vivacious and beautiful Xiomara Laugart, with her Special Recognition Award, who thanked co-stars/awardees Selenis Leyva and Pedro Capó for helping her along as she is “a singer, not an actress;” Eduardo Machado and his appreciation to getting the Raúl Juliá HOLA Founders Award; and the many recurring jokes over the title of one of the awarded solo shows: No seré feliz, pero tengo marido (translated roughly as I Won’t Be Happy, But At Least I Have A Husband). Everyone did a good job of keeping the show moving along. Ultimately, I'd say my favorite part of the evening would have to be John Leguizamo coming up to the stage. He said he felt comfortable being in a sea of familiar faces.

The majority of the actresses that received the Outstanding Performance by a Featured Female Actor thanked their mothers and in particular Jezabel Montero acknowledged her mother saying "who infected me with this disgusting virus called the theater bug, Zully Montero," as well as Pablo Tufiño, who expressed his appreciation to Repertorio Español, HOLA and dedicated his award for Outstanding Performance by a Featured Male Actor to his father, the recently deceased painter Rafael Tufiño, "who taught me to have integrity as an artist." Awardee Fred Valle also shared and his appreciation to HOLA and proves that the HOLA Pages work! In Spanish he remarked that he has gotten more jobs than any other sources, saying, "He conseguido más trabajo a través de las Páginas de HOLA que los demás" and that he is very proud to be an HOLA member.

Also noteworthy was Blanca Camacho's speech where she told those in attendance to “keep at it [and] keep working.” It was a tearjerker. A moment before she presents an award to Luis Salgado, she mentioned supporting "the little show that could" [a reference to the 2007 Tony and HOLA Award winning musical In the Heights] and actually becoming a cast member the following year. She said, "Don't give up on your dreams and maybe they won't give up on you!" After that, Luis (along with José López and Alberto Morgan) received their awards for Outstanding Achievement in Technical Production. Luis was very happy and honored to receive an HOLA award and to "be accepted by my own community represented to know that I can keep on dreaming and I can keep on walking and have the support of my people."

HOLA Excellence in English Language Media Award recipient Mario Bósquez mentioned his involvement with Martha Stewart and added that "nuestro trabajo, our involvement in communications and performing arts, it's really only a reflection of the pioneering ground work and the continuing efforts of organizations such as HOLA, so we are gathered here tonight to say gracias to you," adding with "we ain’t nothing if we don't represent." Upon receiving the HOLA Excellence in Spanish Language Media Award, Odalys Molina said, "Cuando yo digo que hay que apoyar el teatro, es porque hay que hacerlo porque nosotros no estamos pensando en ahora sino en el futuro de nuestros hijos." She proudly announced that she'll take it home and put it on her wall. Later, Adam Moore, an HOLA Executive Boardmember and the Associate National Director, Affirmative Action/Diversity for the Screen Actors Guild came up to acknowledged those artists who passed away the previous year.

Sweet and talented Tere Martínez received an award for Outstanding Achievement in Playwriting thanked HOLA for recognizing her play Borinquen vive en El Barrio. The first public reading was sponsored by HOLA. "Así que esto vale mucho. Keep nurturing the new playwrights, HOLA!"

I'd like to take this time to give thanks to Noemí de la Puente for coordinating the video presentation and volunteers and her phenomenal job of having my back because on that very day, I had an audition. In addition, I'd like to thank the volunteers who so selflessly helped until the end of the evening. Christina Luna, Tatiana Dellepiane, Bernardo Cubria, Jean-Marc Berne, Ernesto López, Mónica Delgado, Amber Rivera, Basílica Bliachas, RKZ… thank you for helping HOLA throughout the year and on the day of the Awards.

In particular, I want to thank Phoenix Ximénez, for designing our recent Friends of HOLA brochure, the Gala invitations as well as the Gala Program; José A. Esquea for his professionalism in stage-managing the event and Jesús E. Martinez for being HOLA's technical support. Special thanks also go to Ronny Navarro, Manuel A. Morán and Richard Marino from Teatro SEA and Luis Vázquez of Casa de Vinos (who so generously provided wine at no cost to HOLA). Thanks also to fashion designer José Luis Victoria for letting me borrow a beautiful black and white dress that won an award in Ecuador.

I am satisfied when actors can come into the office and further their acting careers with HOLA's services and programs. Thank you all for supporting HOLA.

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