Brownsville’s Mitte in Motion festival connects local talent to entertainment industry professionals

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Musician and vocalist Irene T.G. Salazar leads a vocal workshop Saturday, April 29, 2023, during the Mitte in Motion: A Dynamic Arts Festival at the Camille Playhouse. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

BROWNSVILLE — A thrilling hush fell over the theater of the Camille Playhouse Saturday morning as singer and flutist Irene T.G. Salazar performed the aria “O mio babbino caro” from the opera Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini. The impromptu performance was just one part of an hour-long vocal workshop where Salazar shared her experiences and advice for local students wanting to pursue a music and vocal career.

This free workshop was one of nine during Mitte in Motion: A Dynamic Arts Festival, which sought to foster the arts community of Brownsville by connecting emerging artists, creatives and actors to professionals within the arts and entertainment industry for training and relationship-building opportunities.

The workshop series took place from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. across four venues within the Mitte Cultural District: Cummings Middle School, Camille Playhouse, the Children’s Museum Pavilion and Gladys Porter Zoo.

Brownsville resident and actor R.J. Mitte, best known for his role as Walter “Flynn” White Jr. in the AMC series “Breaking Bad,” opened the festival at 9 a.m. in the Cummings Middle School cafeteria. Mitte organized the festival as part of a joint effort between himself, his mother Dyna Mitte, community partners and the Mitte Cultural District, named for his grandparents Roy F. and Joann Cole Mitte, founders of the Mitte Foundation.

Student and actor Drake McElyea reads opposite acting coach David Wells Saturday, April 29, 2023, during the Mitte in Motion: A Dynamic Arts Festival workshop with Wells at Cummings Middle School. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

In his opening speech, Mitte described the struggle of starting his career and the importance of persevering and learning through rejection and failure, whether in acting or life. Organizing and facilitating an opportunity for others in his community to learn was a big driver for bringing together the people Mitte said provided him with knowledge and leadership in his career.

“There are not many events, and this is not just within the Valley, in the world where you get together so much learned experience in the art, in the craft, in the struggle of working in the industry,” he said to attendees about the day ahead of them.

Attendees received special workshops starting at 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. with Jordan Ancel, an award-winning writer and director, serial entrepreneur, author and artist; professional vocalist and flutist Irene T.G. Salazar, a member of the 12-member, all-female folk and Celtic touring band The Merry Wives of Windsor; Brianna Ancel, a veteran of the talent-management field; actor, writer, model and comedian Monty Geer; artist Bitsy Harris; film and music video producer and director Nik Tizekker; acting coach, actor, and film and theater producer David Wells; and M.J. Dougherty, a film and television writer, producer, international college lecturer, actor and author of “Life Lessons from a Total Failure.”

Student and actor Julianna Nicart stands onstage as acting coach David Wells works with her on her performance Saturday, April 29, 2023, during the Mitte in Motion: A Dynamic Arts Festival workshop with Wells at Cummings Middle School. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)
Students Yajahira Jaimez and Michael De Anda perform a scene from the movie “High Moon” Saturday, April 29, 2023, during the Mitte in Motion: A Dynamic Arts Festival workshop with acting coach David Wells at Cummings Middle School. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

At Salazar’s workshop at 10 a.m. in the Camille Playhouse, the musician shared her story of growing up in a low-income area in east Los Angeles and the path she took for her career as a musician. In addition to her personal experiences, Salazar shared advice for vocal health, education and keeping a good mindset. One of the most important aspects she emphasized was for students to learn to protect themselves from feeling defeated by rejection in auditions.

“You have to learn that it is not about you. They are looking for something, but it is nothing negative about you. You are just not what they are looking for at that moment. In your next audition, you could walk in, and they are like ‘That’s the star, that’s who I want,’” Salazar said.

In the audience, Mireya Tovor, an eighth-grade student at Besteiro Middle School who plans to pursue a vocal career, came with her fellow choir students for the workshop.

“She gave me this idea now that everything is possible. She is an example to me now that I can do it,” Tovor said of Salazar.

Acting coach David Wells shares insight into quickly creating and understanding your characters from a cold read Saturday, April 29, 2023, during the Mitte in Motion: A Dynamic Arts Festival workshop with Wells at Cummings Middle School. (Denise Cathey/The Brownsville Herald)

In the Cummings Middle School at 11:30 a.m., acting coach David Wells led a workshop with several local aspiring student actors to cold read scripts with him, one-on-one or in pairs, to teach and hone each student’s delivery and character-building skills during an audition.

“The two main things you want to make sure you are doing, and that’s where your choices come in, is you are coming from somewhere, and you want something,” Wells advised the students during a performance by Veterans Memorial Early College High School student Drake McElyea.

During the exercise Julianna Nicart, a 16-year-old Veterans Memorial Early College High School student, read for Wells as the character Katara from a scene in “Avatar: The Last Airbender” in front of the workshop. The experience, she said, and the questions Wells asked of her gave her new insight into her craft.

“I learned to commit to the act. That’s what makes a good actor because when you believe it, then you aren’t really acting, are you,” Nicart said.