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Knight Arts Challenge Winner Teo Castellanos Will Bring Third Trinity to the Stage

If Miami's streets could talk, they would have enough unique stories to create a lifetime's worth of plays and films.

Consider Teo Castellanos, an actor, playwright, and director, as the personified voice of Miami. He has dreamed up Third Trinity, a one-act play and film he produced with fellow artist Tarell McCraney that is based on his early life in Miami with two brothers who became involved in Puerto Rican nationalist politics and drug smuggling. McCraney, a fellow company member, director, and playwright, will be providing the direction and dramaturgy. Together, the triple-threat duo have proven to be unstoppable.

Castellano's vision was not only great enough to win him a $25,000 grant as a Knight Arts Project winner, but also an additional $20,000 as the People's Choice winner, beating out four other groups in a vote-by-text campaign.

Teo Castellanos D-Projects, a contemporary dance/theater company whose original work fuses world cultures, ritual, and music, examines social issues through performance. The company has toured as far as South America and China to perform their company piece

Scratch & Burn. Their most recent work is breaking/dub dance-theater mash-up, Fat Boy--a unique tale of rice rituals juxtaposed against hip-hop dance, Jamaican dub, some Balinese aesthetic, and spoken word to explore the themes of scarcity and abundance in America and the world.

We can't wait to see what Third Trinity has in store for all of Miami to see. Cultist checked in with Castellanos to give us the scoop on his new play and what it's like to not only be a Knight Arts Challenge winner but also a People's Choice winner.

Cultist: What inspired your one-act play and film Third Trinity?

Castellanos: I wanted to tell the stories of my brothers, who led two very interesting and contrasting lives. One was an active Puerto Rican Nationalist and the other a became a drug smuggler of the 1980s--two very different philosophies and life styles.

What's it like to be chosen as one of the winners of the Knights Art Challenge?

It's an honor to be among the winners of this important award, not only on a financial level, but also the nod of recognition is humbling.

You also won the People's Choice Award (congrats!). What does that tell you about the community?

It says that I have a lot of Facebook friends! No, I'm joking. I think it says that some have followed my career path from my solo NE 2nd Ave and maybe even earlier, through my company pieces and now back to another solo, and subsequently, my first film. I think this community is excited about local artists creating work that is by us and about us.

What is your main goal with the grants you've received?

I will be taking some writing retreats to adapt my recently finished screenplay Third Trinity into the solo stage version. The funding will also help with production costs and allow me to carry it through workshops, dramaturgy, rehearsals, more workshops and more rehearsals and ultimately all the way to opening night October 10, 2014 at Miami Light Project, who commissioned the work.

Can you tell us what it would have been like if it weren't for the grant?

There would be no time or funding for writing retreats, something that has become imperative to my creative process. I would have to "write on the run" as I have for most of my career, meaning very early mornings then running to catch planes for tour dates and to teach workshops, running at the speed of today's technology filled lifestyles. I can't handle it! Not to mention it would also mean a tighter production budget.

What's it like to be a playwright and filmmaker in Miami? Is it challenging at times?

Being an artist can be challenging wherever you choose to reside. I believe we artists must first change the perceptions we have of ourselves before society begins to change the perceptions they have of artists. Any career path is a challenge, but passion, discipline, and determination can at times override talent.

We need to remove certain jokes and phrases from our vocabulary on how we reference artists. I am so glad that I decided to stay in my community; I have done well here and I am most proud of my city. I will always represent Miami. But the amount of work I have put in would have had to happen anywhere I chose to live. Yes, it's true that some "markets" support certain arts or artists more than others, but I am so excited to be part of the transformation that has happened and is still happening in this city. 305 all day.

What's next for Teo Castellanos D-Projects?

After the film? Another film. I am thinking about a story of a young Haitian man I know.

Send your story tips to Cultist at cultist@miaminewtimes.com.

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