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Édgar Ramírez wants people to understand that the fight against COVID-19 is not overBy SIGAL RATNER-ARIAS Associated PressJuly 22, 2021, 9:14 PM• 2 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — Édgar Ramírez wants people to understand that although the world is starting to come out of the pandemic, the fight is not yet over.The Venezuelan actor told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his own family is suffering gravely because of COVID.“Many families … continue to be affected, including mine in a terrible way,” Ramírez said in a remote interview from Los Angeles. “At this very moment that I am talking to you, I have family members dying of COVID, so it is very important that we remain alert and attentive to this disease because it has not ended.”While he did not specify which relatives he was referring to or where they were, he stressed the importance of avoiding fake news, trusting science and getting vaccinated.“Remember that our grandparents and our parents defeated polio and smallpox with vaccines, and that it is very important to be very careful because in times of fear there is a lot of misinformation,” Ramírez said.”We need to trust science and follow the recommendations and be very responsible with the way we handle information in times of fear and uncertainty.”Vaccinations are beginning to rise in some U.S. states where COVID-19 cases are soaring, White House officials said Thursday, and hospitals are running out of space because of the delta variant, which is “spreading with incredible efficiency.”Ramírez spoke to the AP while promoting Disney’s upcoming movie “Jungle Cruise,” in which he plays the villainous Spanish conquistador Aguirre opposite Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt.“Jungle Cruise,” an adventure movie inspired by the iconic Disneyland theme park ride of the same name, opens on July 30 in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access.Ramírez said that being in this film “means a lot” to him because he grew up watching Disney movies. He also hinted at the possibility of a sequel or new franchise.“It’s beautiful to be part of the Disney universe in such an iconic movie which we’ll hope becomes the adventures saga of this decade,” he said.———Sigal Ratner-Arias is on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sigalratner.
It took Marisa Monte 10 years to release a solo album, but the four-time Grammy winner never abandoned musicBy SIGAL RATNER-ARIAS Associated PressJuly 7, 2021, 7:20 PM• 5 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — It took Marisa Monte 10 years to release a solo album, but the four-time Grammy winner never abandoned music.Far from being away, the Brazilian singer-songwriter remained extra busy over the last decade with projects including Tribalistas — her group with Arnaldo Antunes and Carlinhos Brown — as well as producing for other artists and touring, until the pandemic hit.Last week she released “Portas,” a 16-songs effort that follows 2011’s “O Que Você Quer Saber De Verdade” and includes the single “Calma,” which she co-wrote with Chico Brown. It opens with the song that gives the album its name and closes with the uplifting “Pra Melhorar” featuring Seu Jorge and his teenage daughter, Flor de Maria.“Portas” — which means doors in Portuguese — seems like an appropriate title for the times.“In the beginning of 2020, I was ready to start to record this new album and then everything happened, the doors closed, we were locked at home,” Monte told The Associated Press in a recent interview from Rio de Janeiro.The 53-year-old star, who has sold 15 million albums worldwide with a musical versatility that ranges from pop to pop rock, samba, jazz and folk, also spoke about the way she works and about “Segue o Seco,” a song about the Brazilian droughts she sang at an outdoor concert in 2016, when it famously rained the moment she finished.Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.AP: Many doors closed during the pandemic, but it seems like others opened. Is that why you named the album “Portas”?Monte: Yeah. (It comes from) the song “Portas” (that) I did before the pandemic, but it’s about a very atemporal issue: How to deal with choices, decisions, changes and new situations. There are doors that you can open to the outside, but there are also inside doors. And all the symbolic figures that surround the door were there in the song telling people: “Well, people try to chose one door, but you can chose more than one. You can go in and out if you don’t like it. And it’s better to let them open to let them breath.” It’s a song that I did maybe four years ago, but it’s very current.AP: Any other “old” new songs in the album?Monte: There are songs even older than 10 years. (Laughs.) “Praia Vermelha” was ready before my last album. So the creation — they have their own time, their own life. After all this time I had 14 songs and since I had to wait (because of the pandemic,) I did four more, (two of which will be released later, including one with Uruguayan singer-songwriter Jorge Drexler, an Academy Award-winner for the song “Al Otro Lado del Río” from “The Motorcycle Diaries.”) They came out super beautiful.AP: You’ve kept very busy throughout the years as a musician, but how was it going back to recording solo?Monte: Well, I’m not really ever solo because I have a very collective work and I’m very horizontal as a leader. I really like to listen to everybody and to collaborate. I love to work with partners and musicians and technicians. I listen to everybody, so that’s the way to feel less solo (laughs.) I knew that it was the moment to come back to myself after a lot of collaborations and a lot of works with other artists, which is of course always a learning (experience) to me and always a challenge and a pleasure, but I wanted to take back my solo voice.AP: Tell us a little about “Calma,” the first single of the album.Monte: It’s a song that I did maybe three years ago. It’s a song about relationships, about someone that is telling to the other to have faith in the future, that things are going to get better, and not to give up in a very assertive, very positive way. It’s a very hopeful love song, and because we are living in such dark times in Brazil, in such a tragical historical moment here not only because of the pandemic… this song is good for people to listen to.AP: You famously sang “Segue o Seco” at an outdoors concert in Belo Horizonte and it started pouring right when you finished. Are you singing it now to help bring some rain to your country?Monte: (Laughs.) I recorded this song in 1993. Carlinhos Brown was the composer and he told me: “We have to sing that because it’s an issue that is not solved yet.” Of course, in Brazil we always have historical droughts. It was ’93 and it’s maybe getting worse because of this climatic change and everything. So I have to keep singing to make people conscious about that. And to maybe help rain to come down.———Follow Sigal Ratner-Arias on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sigalratner.
It started last fall in a series of vacant storefronts along an iconic Miami Beach thoroughfare as a safe way to offer theater during the coronavirus pandemicBy SIGAL RATNER-ARIAS Associated PressJuly 2, 2021, 4:16 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — It started last fall in a series of vacant storefronts along an iconic Miami Beach thoroughfare as a safe way to offer theater during the coronavirus pandemic. Now Moisés Kaufman has brought “Seven Deadly Sins” to New York City, with seven new short plays about pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth.Originally conceived by Michel Hausmann for Miami New Drama, the new show — produced by Tectonic Theater Project and Madison Wells Live — officially opened Tuesday in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District for a “strictly limited engagement” that has already been extended one week, through July 25.“I think that one of the greatest joys has been seeing the audiences’ faces eager and so hungry to be back. That’s been incredibly rewarding,” Kaufman, who directs and wrote the play about greed, told The Associated Press on Thursday in a phone interview. “You see how much they missed it. It’s a sense of elation, of joy.”“Seven Deadly Sins” has theatergoers watching actors perform inside the stores through display windows, while listening in with headphones.“It feels festive in a way that I didn’t expect,” Kaufman said. “I knew that the plays were good and I knew that they were going to have a good response to the plays, but what I didn’t expect is how joyful the audiences are and how much they are thrilled to be able to be back in the room with actors, even though they’re outside.”While the construct is very similar to the Florida original, Kaufman wanted new material not only to make it a “New York event,” but also as an opportunity to give more people work. The show arrives while the city’s theater community is making steps toward reopening after the pandemic.The new playwrights are Ngozi Anyanwu (Gluttony,) Thomas Bradshaw (Sloth,) MJ Kaufman (Pride,) Jeffrey LaHoste (Envy,) Ming Peiffer (Wrath) and Bess Wohl (Lust.) Performers include Tricia Alexandro, Shuga Cain, Shavanna Calder, movement artist Donna Carnow, Shamika Cotton, Brandon J. Ellis, Brad Fleischer, Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Kahyun Kim, Morgan McGhee, Caitlin O’Connell, Cody Sloan, Eric Ulloa and Bianca Norwood.Of his own piece, Kaufman said: “It’s a family comedy about how greed has a way of kind of tearing down even the nicest of families. I wanted to do greed because, unfortunately, it’s one of the most common sins.”To maintain COVID-19 safety, ticket holders are socially distanced and masks are required. Actors stand behind a glass barrier to isolate themselves from their colleagues, the audience and production staff.Kaufman, a Venezuelan artist based in New York City who’s best known for “The Laramie Project” and has received awards including the National Medal of Arts from president Barack Obama in 2016, is set to direct the Broadway musical “Paradise Square” next year.He is hopeful that people will go back to the theaters “very quickly” when the curtains rise again. He also believes that the format of “Seven Deadly Sins” will stick around long after the pandemic is over, with its endless possibilities.“Michel’s idea is a brilliant idea and this is a proof that it works,” he said of it’s success both in Florida and New York. “It’s an experience that you don’t get in the theater. It’s an experience about being outdoors, about the short plays. It’s an adventure!”———Online: https://www.sevendeadlysinsnyc.com———Follow Sigal Ratner-Arias on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sigalratner.
For his sophomore album, Anthony Ramos wanted to go “sexy and dark” while adding an R&B vibe in honor of the artists that inspired him growing upBy SIGAL RATNER-ARIAS Associated PressJune 25, 2021, 10:01 PM• 5 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleNEW YORK — For his sophomore album, Anthony Ramos wanted to go “sexy and dark” while adding an R&B vibe in honor of the artists who inspired him growing up.“Love and Lies,” released on Friday, follows 2019’s “The Good & The Bad,” a “more autobiographical” effort, according to the “In the Heights” star. It features 12 songs, including “Échale” and “Right Now.”Ramos, who got his break in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s smash musical “Hamilton,” is having a breakthrough year as an actor, also appearing opposite Uzo Aduba in the HBO reboot of “In Treatment.” His next projects include a sci-fi epic, “Distant,” as well as the next “Transformers” installment.But “music was my first love”, he told The Associated Press in an interview this week from Montreal. And being a recording artist is a “sueñito” (little dream) that only grew bigger with time.Ramos also spoke about the colorism debate around “In the Heights” — “This is a good opportunity for us to hear people” — and the film’s lackluster theatrical box office after being praised by critics and hailed as the movie of the summer. The film was released simultaneously in theaters and for streaming on HBO Max.Answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.———AP: There’s a strong R&B sound in “Love and Lies.” Would you call it an R&B album?RAMOS: There’s definitely a heavy R&B vibe in this album, for sure. I wanted to add that element because R&B music is the music I grew up listening to. It influenced the way I sing, the way I write, and I think I didn’t have enough of that on my first album.AP: Who did you listen to growing up?RAMOS: I listened to Usher and Donell Jones, even now I’m listening to H.E.R., I love Kehlani. There’s one song that I wrote called “Satisfy You” that was influenced by “Just in Case” by Jaheim. (He sings a bit of both to show the similar vibe.) It was that feeling that I wanted to capture when listening to that song.AP: Why “Love and Lies”?RAMOS: I think this album started to shape itself into that. We wrote that one song (“Love and Lies”) and then that title started to linger. I was trying to find a title for this album but I couldn’t, and this one just kept poking itself out. It’s like, sometimes what feels like love is a lie, and sometimes what we sabotage ourselves out of, what we think is a lie is actually love, because we think oh no, it’s too good to be true. This album started to feel like that story. That was the title of the story that was being told.AP: This is your second album in two years and I’m sure every song comes to you in different ways but, have you found any patterns in your creative process?RAMOS: I love to tell stories. You know, even if the beat is about, “We’re going out and we’re gonna have a party,” it’s still like, “We’re gonna have a party AND we’re gonna do that. We’re gonna have a party AND I’m feeling this.” And I started to learn that I’m really enjoying writing songs with my friends too. Sometimes you write the best music with the people you’re close to, who know you the best. The pattern is that the more I write, the more I’m starting to get to know myself not only as an artist but as a person. That’s one of my favorite things about writing songs, you keep finding out things about yourself every time you go to the studio.AP: Back to “In the Heights,” what do you think about the colorism debate and the box-office results? Many expected it to be the biggest release of the summer.RAMOS: I think this is a good opportunity for us to hear people and for us as creatives — I can only speak on behalf of myself — for me as a creative to say OK, when I make my stuff and when I keep going as a creative, how do I see, what did we do good and how can I make sure that I learn from the times that we might have missed the mark. That’s how I feel about the debate, and I feel like there is no debate, right? The people have spoken and there’s no debate about it. There’s nothing to debate.As far as the box office concerns, you know, nobody is ever gonna talk about how many streams it had on HBO Max. If the movie had come out in the theaters only, then who knows what the box office would have been. But at the same time I’m not disappointed at the box office, I’m not, because people are watching the movie. I don’t care how you watch it, as long as you see it. The most important thing to me is the message in the movie and that people see it and they feel it. It will live with them forever.
NEW YORK — He hadn’t been in a musical since his high school years, but when Jimmy Smits saw the opportunity to play Kevin Rosario in the film adaptation of “In the Heights,” he was happy to check that off his artistic bucket list.“Of course it’s something that you always wanna do if you had done it before. I mean, I don’t sight read music or anything like that, but I figure that, with the proper help, I can carry a tune,” Smits said in a recent interview with The Associated Press.The star of “NYPD Blue” and “The West Wing,” who is of Puerto Rican descent, was even happier to be part of a huge Latino production. He had seen Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first show off-Broadway, where it began its path to the 2008 Tony Awards, and became a “huge fan” of his work.The just-released “In the Heights,” directed by Jon M. Chu (“Crazy Rich Asians”,) is about the dreams and the struggles of the Latino community in New York City’s Washington Heights. Smits’ character, Kevin Rosario, is the widowed father of Nina (played by singer Leslie Grace,) whose Stanford college tuition seems almost impossible to pay through his modest taxi cabs business. The film opened this weekend in theaters with a modest $11.4 million box office tally and is streaming on HBO Max through July 11.“It’s so current. And you have this beautiful collage of people,” Smits said in reference to a range of characters including Usnavi (Anthony Ramos,) Benny (Corey Hawkins,) Vanessa (Melissa Barrera) and Abuela Claudia (Olga Merediz,) among others. “It’s the immigrant experience that’s been part of the fabric of this country since it started. And it’s positive. So we need that right now after the pandemic.”Smits also talked about getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame during the pandemic, his dynamic with Leslie Grace and others on the set, an important change for his character from the original production and whether he plays the lottery.Remarks have been edited for brevity and clarity.AP: You just received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. That must have been something.SMITS: Yeah, I mean, of course is an incredible honor. I’m kind of glad that it worked out the way it did in terms of it being virtual, because I think I would have been mortified if I had to call people and say, “Can you please come?” So it worked out. It was very on the low key, and it was all done, you know, you got to see actually how it was made, and how it was picked and the history of it, so for me it was perfect.AP: In the original show, your character has a wife. In the film, you are a widow parenting Nina alone. What did you think about this change?SMITS: I think it worked in terms of the relationship between the father and the daughter because there was much more at stake because he was by himself. It was even more important that his daughter do well.AP: Leslie Grace described you as a father figure on the set — “el papá de los pollitos” (the father of the little chickens) — in her words. Did you also feel that way?SMITS: You know, I’m marveled at the work that they did. I mean, if they felt that way I’m honored, but we all worked hard and I think everybody understood the importance of what we were doing. Everybody brought their A game. I think that the time that we spent before the actual shooting, which was all of the choreography and the musical rehearsals, everybody coalesced in a very important way and I see that on the screen, I see that in the little intimate scenes that Leslie had with Corey Hawkins and Anthony and Melissa have together. I mean, of course the big musical (numbers) too, but the little moments really resonate in a beautiful way that I think all audiences are gonna be able to connect with.AP: How was working with Leslie?SMITS: Golden, golden voice that she has, but she worked so hard. Como decimos en español, entregó su alma completamente (As we say in Spanish, she gave her soul completely), not only in the scenes that we did, but I see it in the scenes between her and Corey, between her and la Abuela Claudia. She really stepped up her game big time. I just expect beautiful, beautiful things from her. She did a wonderful job.AP: When we first see you in the movie, you’re spending $20 on lottery tickets. Do you ever play?SMITS: Yes, I do, actually! (laughs)AP: Have you ever won anything?SMITS: Never. Not even — No (laughs.)———Follow Sigal Ratner-Arias on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sigalratner.