Once on an Island: Yaki Yim Bamboo takes 13th Street by Storm!

IMG_0178INOLA McGUIRE  and the cast

REVIEW: Yaki Yim Bamboo @ the 13th Street Repertory Theater

The performance that I have seen is “Yaki Yim Bamboo, The Musical” written by Fred Rohan-Vargas, directed and choreographed by Alex Acevedo, Lyrics by June Rachelson-Ospa, music by Jay Griggs, arrangement by Noriko Sunamoto; and starring Kristina Calo, Andrew Clarke, Azuza “Sheshe” Dance, Bobby Gamez, and Janaki Gerard.

The setting of this musical shows a kaleidoscope of colors for the audience to appreciate and love at the same time.  The singing and the dancing of the performers allow the audience to sit back and enjoy the view of a slice of life from the Caribbean.  The portrayal of a mongoose and an iguana permits the audience to broaden its understanding about wild life in the region.  In the performance, the mongoose surely lives up to its reputation of being a very sly animal.

The audience experiences a part of life that represents the washing, the hanging, and the folding of clothes.  The chore of cooking for the family is a big part of life, and a specific dish that is made from corn meal is on the menu for the day.  One mother in particular awaits the return of her son, Bobotwee, from the magical island of Yaki Yim Bamboo.  She stays hopeful for his safe return back to St. Thomas.

The children on the island of Yaki Yim Bamboo enjoy their childhoods, and they treasure their fond memories of this magical place where all of their dreams come through.  Other animals, mainly the domesticated ones, display their calling cards for the audience to hear.  One of these children refuses to grow up and leave the island, and he grants himself the position of guard of the inhabitance in order to prolong his transition into adulthood.

Now, Bobotwee assumes the role of grand master, and he implements his power on the island of Yaki Yim Bamboo.  He experiences growing pains, and he refuses to acknowledge his problem.  He dislikes children and animals, too. He tries to be in control and he is out foxed by two cunning animals, mongoose and iguana.  Mongoose lives up to his reputation of being the slyest animal in the Caribbean!  There is a folk song in the Caribbean that backs up this claim.  The song goes like this, “Sly mongoose, dog knows your name….”  Bobotwee intends to eat the sly mongoose and the bare-faced iguana for dinner, but they anticipate his plan and they dodge the bullet.  Yet, they deliver the sack of onions to him.  It is known that Iguana soup is a specialty dish in the Caribbean.

They create a plan of their own to trap Bobotwee.  Mongoose and Iguana plot to get rid of Bobotwee.  They intimidate him, but mongoose gets caught and he has to talk his way out of danger.  Mongoose and his good buddy Iguana force Bobotwee to realize that change is a scary thing.  It is the bumpy ride of life.  Iguana tells Bobotwee that a hurricane is coming.  There is an imminent danger ahead for the inhabitants of the island of Yaki Yim Bamboo.  Bobotwee focuses his concerns on the safety of others, and he joins in with the clapping and singing of the Caribbean beat.  After, Bobotwee’s mother tells the audience that her son comes back.  Perhaps Bobotwee returns in time to eat some of the savory “fungie” cooked corn meal for lunch or dinner.

Some of the children in the audience participate on stage, too.  They seize the opportunity to create fond memories of their own.  This musical gives a glimpse of life in the Caribbean, and it allows the use of the imagination where all of our dreams can come to fruition.  The audience gets the opportunity to go beyond its boundary, and it creates another world to explore in terms of culture.

The writer’s message resonates with the audience in the portrayal of culture, geography, and zoology.  In addition, he addresses the emotional side of life where some children refuses to grow up.  There are many people in our society today who refuses to or they do not know what it means to grow up.  Recently, I have seen a seventy-year old behaving as though he is a nine-year old child.  There is a great divide between chronological aging and growing up.  There is no place for them on the island of Yaki Yim Bamboo.  I have a few chosen words for them.  Grow up!


Cast consoling Bobotwee

Life on Earth via Pluto

Inola on the Aisle

Reviewed by Inola McGuire

The performance that I have seen is “One Way to Pluto” written and directed by Seane Sugrue; and starring Patrick Brian Scherrer, Courtney Torres, John Warren, Myles O’Connor, Mary Tierney, Peter Halpin, and Jenni Halina.


The presentation of this play is an investigation into the nature of truth, and the audience comes away with the knowledge of certain social ills and the collapse in judgement that permeate society.  The audience sees Peter, a man who can’t afford his female escort, and he ends up stealing money from her pocket book after she steps away from the room.  After she returns to the room, Peter pays her with her own money.  Before the escort departs from his place, his landlord comes in to collect the rent from him.   Peter owes his landlord, and he negotiates an extension to secure a place to live.

The play further highlights a level of consciousness with the audience that demonstrates a glimpse of hope when one realizes his or her shortcomings.  Throughout the duration of the show, the audience sees what’s wrong and what’s good in New York City beyond its universal appeal in general.  One has to wonder how many Peters and Dwights, characters in the play, are out there sleeping in Central Park or other locations in the Big Apple because homelessness has become an epidemic.

The writer gets his point across and his message vibrates in the mind of the audience in a very momentous way.  It recognizes the depth of depredation that exist in New York City.  Yet, drug addiction, prostitution, and homelessness are not just confine to this city.  The writer forces the audience to scrutinize and see at least an ounce of truth in and beyond the sphere of human existence.  The audience comes away with a satisfied or motivated spirit to aim for the stars or land on Pluto.

Real Stories become REEL stories: Cop-turned-filmmaker Eliana Ujueta continues her cinematic journey


Article by Joan Lesly

Eliana Ujueta is a native New Yorker, born and raised in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn. The Brooklyn College grad (film major) was a New York City Police Officer in the east village for years prior. One can only imagine what she saw during those years. Actually you don’t have to imagine, she’s writing those stories and commitment them to film.

In 2008, she began earning her MFA from the School of Visual Arts. Inspired by her thesis advisor to direct her first feature, Ujueta created the dark parable Beneath the Rock – serving as writer, director, and producer.

This is Ujueta’s dream, to create movies that enthrall and educate. Her stories from her years in blue are slowly becoming her stories in celluloid.  Maybe it was the allure of recording history or maybe it was more personal as she suffered family tragedy due to street crime.  “I saw it all growing up on the streets of Bushwick, and then again as a police officer in the East Village,” she told the Daily News prior to Rock’s opening at the SoHo International Film Festival.

The fictitious tale of murderous cops who run a gambling ring on Dekalb Ave. comes from Ujueta’s real life. The same can be said about her next film, The Airport Run.


Your ride to the Airport will never be the same!

The bible’s prophet, Elijah, was tested many times by dark forces. In The Airport Run, Elijah is a first-time offender newly released from prison. But his tests have only just begun. A chance to make some easy money comes along, but it involves going back to his old ways. Will he become involved in a sinister burglary scheme or will his instincts be his salvation.

Ujueta won a grant from the Jerome Foundation for the film. The grant was created by artist and philanthropist, the late Jerome Hill, seeking to contribute to a dynamic and evolving culture by supporting the creation, development, and production of new works by emerging artists. This has given Ujueta the energy – on all levels – to begin work on this next realistic tome.

It’s obvious that Eliana Ujueta’s star is on the rise. Her unique blend of gritty New Yorkishness and sophisticated film-making makes her a master storyteller with a long and fascinating future. The discerning Jerome Foundation sees it clearly. Soon that group will be legion.

Who knows, one day, students may use her works to study this particular slice of New York City history. And who better than an officer of the law to contribute such things?


There is currently an indiegogo campaign for further funding.  For more info, visit http://www.theairportrun.com