At Washington’s GALA Hispanic Theatre, telling Roberto Clemente’s story

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Roberto Clemente, the Puerto Rican baseball legend, played for the Pittsburgh Pirates and died at the age of 38 in a plane crash; he was en route to Nicaragua on a humanitarian aid mission. The Jackie Robinson of Puerto Rico inspired Luis Caballero, also a Puerto Rican native, to write and direct “DC-7: The Roberto Clemente Story,” named for the icon and the plane in which he was killed—as Jessica Goldstein reports in this article for The Washington Post.

“He was an activist,” said Caballero, whose latest production of “DC-7” begins its run at GALA Hispanic Theatre on Thursday. “He fought for human rights, especially for Latinos and African Americans.” Clemente played in the majors from the mid-1950s until he died in 1972. “He became part of this world and [he] defended minorities through his voice.”

Caballero signed on to bring “DC-7” to GALA after he stepped in with only four weeks left in rehearsals to direct last year’s “Puerto Rico . . . ¡fua!” He’d directed the show’s off-Broadway and Puerto Rican productions, as well.

“DC-7” is performed bilingually, with English surtitles. Caballero described Clemente’s success as “a universal language” but added that he intimately understood the discrimination Clemente faced as a Spanish speaker in United States.

Caballero said that when he moved to New York from Puerto Rico in 1991, “I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t even know how to ask for food. It was very hard for me to survive in a different culture. . . . When you speak the language but are not proficient, basically you have no personality. Because when it comes out, it’s rough. So in that way, you have to start fighting because language defines who you are. And if you don’t speak the language in the country you are living with, you are something different.”

Caballero worked closely with Clemente’s widow and brother.

“I think they trusted me,” Caballero said. “It was a connection. . . . I knew that it was a big responsibility, and I wanted to honor that information that they gave to me.”

Thursday to May 26, 3333 14th St. NW, galatheatre.org, 202-234-7174

For the original report go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/theater_dance/at-gala-hispanic-theatre-telling-roberto-clementes-story/2013/04/16/c5fa4c60-a6ad-11e2-a8e2-5b98cb59187f_story.html

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