Actor Luis Avalos to Speak at Benson's "¡A Viva Voz!" Celebration

The Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection hosts its sixth annual celebration of Latino culture, "¡A Viva Voz!," on Thursday, April 3 at 4:30 p.m., with a reception following a talk by noted actor Luis Avalos. The public is invited.

Cuba-born Avalos, whose family immigrated to New York City while he was an infant, is best known for his acting as a regular on 630 segments of the Emmy and Grammy award- winning program, "The Electric Company" (1972-1977). He has also starred on several series, including "Condo" (1983) and "Ned Blessing: The Story of My Life and Times" (1993). His guest starring credits include, among many others, "Soap," "Fame," "E. R." and "NYPD Blue."

Avalos has also directed noted films in the United States and Mexico. He wrote, directed and produced the award-winning special for the Telemundo Network, "El Regalo de Paquito" (1993) for which he received an Emmy nomination for Best Director and honors from the Columbus Film Festival and UNICEF. His musical "Paquito's Christmas" premiered at the Los Angeles Theater Center in 1994 and earned the Hispanic Association of Media Arts and Sciences Annual Achievement in Theater Award and the 2002 Imagen Award for Best Theatrical Production.

Avalos translated, adapted and directed the North American premiere of the Inca classic, "Ollantay-Warrior of the Sun" (2004), a play set in 15th-century Cuzco, Peru. Avalos used Benson Collection resources while researching the translation and costuming of the play, whose earliest manuscript version in Quechua and Spanish dates from the 18th century.

In 2000 Avalos founded "The Americas Theatre Arts Foundation" in Los Angeles and now is its artistic director. The foundation supports U.S. productions of Latin American- inspired drama, provides venues for school children to experience live professional theater presentations and showcases the talents of actors, singers, musicians, set designers, choreographers, lighting designers and technicians. Avalos and the foundation have been lauded for their achievements by the Congress of the United States, the Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles, the New Horizons Psychology Center and the March of Dimes.

The "¡A Viva Voz!" celebration will also include an exhibit of photographs by Damián Dovarganes from the play "Ollantay-Warrior of the Sun" through the end of the spring semester.

Dovarganes received international acclaim for his work on the earthquake that devastated his native Mexico City in 1985. He has been a staff photographer for the Associated Press's Mexico City bureau covering major stories in Mexico, Cuba, Haiti and Guatemala. He is a staff photographer at the Associated Press's Los Angeles bureau, covering Hollywood.