Actress Angela Meyer commits to making the arts in San Juan shine again as a municipal assemblywoman
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
After a lifetime of working as a performer on various stages in Puerto Rico, the United States, Latin America and Europe; working on television programs on the island with stars such as Luis Vigoreaux, Jacobo Morales, and friend Sandra Zaiter; and contributing as Bayamón’s cultural and educational affairs executive assistant for almost 20 years, actress Angela Meyer is retiring from the stage to contribute as a municipal assemblywoman for New Progressive Party (NPP) candidate for San Juan mayor Miguel Romero to revive the arts scene in the capital city.
“Theater has been my life, to the extreme that, whenever there’s a hurricane warning, my instinct tells me to run to a stage. It’s what I can recognize as a safe space in my life,” Meyer told the Star on Thursday.
Meyer noted that after Romero, who she has known for years since he was the Labor and Human Resources secretary in former NPP Gov. Luis Fortuño’s administration, presented his cultural platform to her, she saw a glimmer of hope. She called the platform “exceptional because he breaks things down by need within a municipality that is bankrupt” by proposing the development of a municipal theater company that focuses on creating educational and social awareness, as well as children’s productions. Inspired, she decided to fully embrace her new job, which she would be doing without pay as municipal assembly members are not permitted to work as public officials in other government entities.
Meyer said that such a project could be possible after determining that the city could obtain funds from the National Endowment for the Arts “to not erode the amount of income that is available today for the city of San Juan to make this possible.”
“The company would help bring theater to neighborhoods and barrios, where it would handle topics that the audiences confront in their daily lives, such as education on what is violence against women and against children, teenage pregnancy, addiction. … There are so many social issues that we could tackle,” she said. “He presented such an excellent project, and the company would be led by educators, artists, a member of the municipal police, officials from the municipal Department of Family office, and personnel from the Department of Justice so that if you feel you identify with the issues or if you’re currently going through something that is being presented, you wouldn’t just sit down and watch, but it could tell you what laws protect you and where to go whenever you need help as we would have professionals on hand who would inform our audience members.”
Meanwhile, the 73-year-old performer said some of the other proposals in Romero’s cultural platform include developing entertainment events and workshops for the elder community at the San Juan Municipal Museum; monthly children’s events at Luis Muñoz Marín Municipal Park to promote puppet theater, musical retreats, and outdoor activities; and cultural events to incentivize and promote street performance from Plaza de Armas to Plaza San José in Old San Juan.
“I noticed that every proposal from every mayor would always focus on tourism -- let’s do this route of whatever, let’s lift up tourism -- and I said: ‘But where is your cultural platform?’ Where is something that doesn’t have to do with tourism? Where is that something that shows the importance of artistic activity that is not only for our tourists, but also to develop an industry where we could live from performing?” Meyer said. “Through this pandemic, I learned that the last thing we give thought to is our artists,” she added. “There has been no project for the industry; we had to reinvent by ourselves, as we had to delve into virtual platforms. No one called us to ask us how we could be useful amid the pandemic.”
Meyer, who is the granddaughter of famed magician Richardine and daughter of actress Margot Debén, told the Star that she is committed to using her life experiences to “make the arts in San Juan shine, to have a reason and purpose again.”
Likewise, another project that moved her was to revitalize the Teatro Tapia to incentivize performing arts once again amid the COVID-19 pandemic by providing producers access to the venue at no cost.
“At this age that I have, there’s a moment in your life that you have to begin, in some way, to give back to people all they gave you. I have had a long career that many have always supported. Every time I had a TV program, people would watch it. I was able to support myself through the arts as both my main and second job thanks to the people,” Meyer said. “I had the luxury to do two things, perform and work as a counselor, as I was able to give a smile back to those who entered my office without any hope to live due to having a terminal illness, and when you are able to hold their hands and listen to them, I feel like I got a standing ovation whenever I was able to help others. If I could help the same way I did back when I was in Bayamón through the arts and culture in all its manifestations, I will do it with so much love.”
Asked for a response about the future of the Puerto Rico Corporation for Public Broadcasting (known as WIPR by its Federal Communications Commission call sign), as WIPR has both the Lucy Boscana Dramatic Workshop and the Radio Dramatic Workshop, Meyer said she hopes the current administration will keep fighting to keep the corporation public because there are many things that it is well suited to work for.
“WIPR is important. WIPR is the official voice of the country. It was a disgrace when we lost funding from the Public Broadcasting System that provided aid to keep cultural programs alive,” she said. “It would have been amazing if we were able to produce programs for the system to teach Latino minorities, which are now an important population in the United States, to help them understand and learn their culture.”