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When Mino Lora came to the United States 12 years ago from the Dominican Republic, her sights were set on lighting up Broadway.
But all this changed when Lora saw the opportunity to make an impact on her community through her passion for theater.
Born and raised in Santo Domingo, Lora was five years old when she started doing plays with the National Theater.
While she continued to act on and off throughout the years, Lora “actually never thought there was such a thing as a full time artist” because they were almost nonexistent in the Dominican Republic.
It was not until the first international theater festival in 1998 that Lora was able to meet artists from other parts of the world and see a future in acting.
It was these dreams that brought the actress to the states when she was just 19-years-old.
In 2000, Lora moved to New York City for the opportunity to study theater, English literature, and education at Manhattanville College.
It was here that Lora became aware of the realm of political theater. Through her studies and involvement with the Duchesne Center for Social Justice, Lora learned how theater could be used for more than just entertainment.
After pursuing her own acting career for a few years following graduation, a volunteer trip to Africa in 2005 alerted her path.
During the trip Lora lead theater workshops for young girls affected by AIDS and saw firsthand how empowering personal, community theater could be.
“In that moment, something clicked, “Lora said.
It was then that she knew this was the type of theater she wanted to do for the rest of her life. A few years later, the People’s Theater project was born.
The People’s Theatre Project uses theater to bring awareness to impactful issues, like gang violence and immigration, to the Washington Heights community in New York City.
Working and living in Washington Heights since 2005, Lora was passionate about bringing this idea to life in her own backyard.
Since the Heights is mostly Dominican, Lora had an immediate personal connection with the community.
Made up of 75% Latinos and the lowest income group in Manhattan, for Lora, the Heights was an important place to bring the art form of theater.
Since starting the public program in 2009, the community has been overwhelmingly receptive. Participation in the program has been so positive that in a little over two years, the program has grown from 50 to 1,000 eager people.
Through participation, the community has not only been able to tell their own stories but also help frame the plan of action for the organization.
It is support like this that has helped Lora achieve her dreams, “being here (in America) has given me the opportunity to learn and expand my knowledge in order to then go and start in a place where I am going to be a pioneer.”
“Trying to start from zero is much harder; finding people who believed in me was huge,” Lora said.
She went on, “There’s a family, a sisterhood of us immigrants and Latinas. We are all rooting for one another, we know the work we are doing impacts both the Latin community and the country (in which we live).”