Today: Jun 17, 2024

Motivate the Mic spotlights local New Haven artists

DJ Dante Capuano mixes it up for the crowd at Motivate the Mic.

Brianne KaneStaff Writer

Open mic nights are nothing new, usually pretty average performers sing a karaoke version of a song, a few people clap and everyone goes home feeling cultured. Not anymore. The Open Mic night has been turned upside down by Eliezer Santiago and the Bregamos Theater. The rough and tough exterior reminds visitors of the warehouse district in NYC, but the inside is the oasis in the desert. High ceilings filled with paintings, posters, photographs and a humble stage in the front with a few couches and chairs gives the entire building a feeling of being home, a safe place to be creative and expressive. The Bregamos Theater, located at 491 Blatchely Ave, New Haven, CT lists their mission statement as “Bregamos Community Theater’s mission is to create community based theater from the diverse stories and lives of New Haven residents, while providing theatrical workshops and participating in other artistic and cultural community events.” But for a community theater in a city like New Haven, the mission is much bigger than giving workshops on how to become an actor – the mission is to change lives. Motivate the Mic, an open mic hosted by Eliezer Santiago with the help of friends, William Barnes, Avery “Slay” Washington as MC and Dante “Capo” Capuano as DJ, is not only a public open mic for local artists of any kind but it is it’s own kind of family, who greets anyone willing to listen with wide open arms.

DJ Dante Capuano mixes it up for the crowd at Motivate the Mic.
DJ Dante Capuano mixes it up for the crowd at Motivate the Mic.

Eliezer Santiago, an SCSU alumni and former photographer for the Southern News, started Motivate the Mic with the help of Bregamos Theater director Raphael Remos during the summer of 2012, with the first Motivate the Mic held July 11, 2013. Santiago “always wanted to do something in New Haven with art” and that is what makes Bregamos Theater distinctive – they’re a community of artists who are proud to be from the New Haven area, and want New Haven to have the artist community seen in cities like New York, Miami, or Los Angeles. The first Motivate the Mic was only expected to have 20 audience members but 3 times that showed up – needless to say, the New Haven artist seems to be starving for a stage. The “cool, really chill, laid back vibe” of the space is purposeful to make sure everyone feels at home, among friends and safe. As Remos explained, lower socioeconomic neighborhoods have higher gun violence but giving kids a safe place to resolve their issues calmly, to work together, to express themselves in an environment designed to encourage them rather than dishearten them – the children are our future, and the Bregamos Theater is trying to make it a brighter, safer, more artistic one. “Within the last two years, there’s a growing community of hip hop heads, artists, fashion designers” and unlike cities known for their artists community like New York, New York, New Haven is just a blip on a map but Santiago and his artist family “really want to push this out there so people can hear what New Haven sounds like.” It is a humbling experience for Santiago to see New Haven’s talent find theaters like Bregamos Community Theater and to see “our city is starting to work together.” Remos wanted the theater to be an “agent of change” for New Haven, so he insists that no one is turned down – “we don’t have any money, but we always have a blast!”

The Motivate the Mic itself this month was small, a few poets and a few singers, but there’s a special kind of beauty found in the small community theaters. A huge dark room, a stage, a spotlight, and a crowd of smiling faces eagerly awaiting – there is no fear in this theater, no stage fright or nerves, just friends telling friends poems, and friends singing friends a song. As William Barnes said, theaters and open mic’s like this are necessary because “people respect each other through the love for music. Up here there is a lot of hate, which is bad” and events like this are just the beginning.

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