In this series, we ask interesting Miamians for their favorite spots that make them feel like locals. Then we go there with them and talk about it. Today, we explore with actor and writer Teo Castellanos.
“I spent Art Basel at a zen temple in Pearland, Texas.”
So, Teo Castellanos might be a bit wiser than most of us. He saw the shows of a few friends, explored a fair, and then went to Texas to learn and reflect. The scheduling wasn’t deliberate, but it was nice to get away.
Castellanos was born in Puerto Rico, but his family moved to a house in Carol City when he was five. Now 53, he’s seen Miami grow and overcome challenges as he has. His one-man play Third Trinity, which premiered last fall, tells semi-autobiographical stories of evolution and redemption, following people and places as they change over the years. Many of his shows feature multiple art forms or large casts of colorful characters. Often, as in Third Trinity, he plays them all himself. He is transformed twenty times in as many minutes using the light touch of a prop or an accent. In Fat Boy, which he recently restaged at the Arsht Center, stories about abundance and waste are told through the combination of dance, voice, and music from DJ Le Spam. His play NE 2nd Avenue, based on Miami characters, toured extensively around the world and won numerous awards.
His ingenuity has earned accolades, but Castellanos is quick to point out that his creativity stems from discipline. Careful ritual allows successful unorthodoxy. “You have to be passionate, diligent, train, study. There are no dilettantes in my world.”
As we’re sitting on metal chairs watching sunset over Museum Park, it seems much of his inspiration comes from being present, observant, patient. “I see legit artists who are always like this,” he says, burying his head in his iPhone. “I’m out here. How many times do we see people at a live event” — now he’s holding it up over a pretend crowd, taking a photo — “missing the moment because they’re trying so hard to cling to it?”
Castellanos coaches a local youth spoken word team, WordSpeak, at Tigertail Productions. They’ve won awards, released books and CDs, reached the later rounds of national competitions, and “gotten a reputation for being unorthodox.” He seems proudest of that last one.
“When I was young and I was the dilettante, I took a creative writing class, suddenly I was a poet. Then I realized, I’m not a poet. I’m an actor.” He spent years seeking artistic balance. He seems to have found it, now. We ask for his secret.
“I found my truth. God knows I racked my brain, what else can I do but be an artist? The answer was nothing. I did have a choice. I could choose to be an artist, or I could choose to be miserable. I chose not to be miserable. And I’m so glad I did.”
Here’s where to find Teo Castellanos around Miami, and maybe share a bit of his creative inspiration. They’re well-loved places, but many who visit may not realize how deeply rooted they are in stories of reinvention.
Perez Art Museum Miami, Downtown
“PAMM put Miami on the cultural map. I come here and I write. It serves my need for sunlight. We know nature is calming and conducive to the creative process. When I go on a writing retreat, I ask: is there a window and is there a desk? Then I can pull the desk in front of the window. That’s all I need.”
“Their mushrooms are the best. The cafecito’s pretty good, too.”
“I’m shocked skaters haven’t discovered this place. To me it says skaters are welcome, which is dope. I started skating last year. We were rehearsing with the team. I skated on that [Miami Beach] boardwalk, and in 15 minutes I was hooked. How can you not love that?”
South Pointe Park, Miami Beach
“South Pointe has evolved, but it’s been my beach for a long time.”
“I spent a week at the Betsy Hotel, doing the writer’s residency. I didn’t realize how many languages were being spoken on Miami Beach.”
Panther Coffee, Wynwood
“Wynwood was a place I hung out in the 80s. Now I’m in line and I’m hearing French, Spanish. I see people from all over, and I have to start talking to them.”