Miguel Pinero life and biography

Miguel Pinero picture, image, poster

Miguel Pinero biography

Date of birth : 1946-12-19
Date of death : 1988-06-17
Birthplace : Gurabo, Puerto Rico
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-08-27
Credited as : Actor and playwright, produced A Midnight Moon at the Greasy Spoon 1981, won New York Drama Critics Circle Award 1974

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Miguel Pinero, also known as Miguel Antonio Gomez Pinero born December 19, 1946 in Gurabo, Puerto Rico - died June 17, 1988 in New York, New York, United States was an American actor and playwright.

"Sidelights"

Miguel Pinero was hailed by Joseph Papp, head of the New York Shakespeare Festival Public Theater, in the New York Times as "an extraordinarily original talent," and "the first Puerto Rican playwright to really break through and be accepted as a major writer for the stage." Pinero's fame came suddenly, with the 1974 production of his first play, Short Eyes: The Killing of a Sex Offender by the Inmates of the House of Detention Awaiting Trial, when the author was still in his twenties and fresh from the prison experiences he drew upon for his first play. Pinero's rapid rise to a place at the head of the Hispanic theatre world came as a surprise to the young man: "Here I was with $60 one day and all of a sudden somebody was giving me $15,000," Pinero told People interviewer Leroy Aarons. "I was being asked to lecture at Princeton, at Rutgers, at Pratt Institute. Here I have no education whatsoever and I am working as a mentor to the top students at Pratt Institute. What the hell am I doin' here?"

The brevity of Pinero's life after his first success attests to the notion that he never became more comfortable with his sudden rise to fame than this. Born in Puerto Rico, Pinero and his family moved to New York City when he was four years old. A few years later, his father abandoned the family of four children, who were forced to live on the streets of Manhattan for several months until their mother (who was pregnant) could find a source of income. Pinero's young life was punctuated by brushes with the law, spending time in juvenile detention centers and, eventually, serving two terms for robbery and drug possession at Riker's Island Prison in New York. It was during his third incarceration, for armed robbery at the infamous Sing Sing prison, that Pinero began to turn his life around. He had written some poetry in his cell, when he decided to join the prison repertory group known as "the Family." While working with this group of inmates, Pinero wrote a number of short plays, among them one that would become Short Eyes, which were performed for New York Times theater critic Mel Gussow when he visited Sing Sing. Gussow's resulting article inspired the director of the Theater at Riverside Church to contact Pinero with an offer to produce his play after his release.

Short Eyes rapidly graduated from the Riverside Church theater to Joseph Papp's Public Theater and from there to the Vivian Beaumont Theater in Lincoln Center. It garnered the New York Drama Critics Circle award for best American play of 1974, among other prestigious awards, and was made into a film. Short Eyes is set in the dayroom of a detention center, where a group of mostly black and Hispanic prisoners waits out the pretrial period. Among them is a white man named Davis, the "short eyes" of the title, who is being held on suspicion of child molestation, a crime considered the most despicable by prison inmates. "The picture is one of people restricted by poverty, ignorance, disease and social corruption, through which one perceives traces of the originally healthy fiber," observed Harold Clurman in his review in the Nation. In the first act, Davis confesses his crimes to one of the other inmates, and in the second act he is subjected to increasingly severe harassment by the other prisoners, culminating in his murder. In the play's Epilogue, a guard informs the remaining prisoners that Davis had not been positively identified by the child-victim and was arrested by mistake.

Critics differed about the emotional impact of Pinero's violent play. "Short Eyes is an astonishing work, full of electrifying exuberance and instinctive theatricality," wrote Jack Kroll in Newsweek. On the other hand, Stanley Kauffman contended in the New Republic that the truths Pinero's play reveals have become too familiar through revelations in the press and in other creative works to be intrinsically interesting. "Once the facts are familiar--and Pinero's facts are by now very familiar--only the telling can be interesting. And Pinero hasn't much skill in telling." Though Michael Feingold in the Village Voice credited Pinero with possessing the skill Kroll called "instinctive" and that Kauffman felt was lacking, he claimed that this first play is nonetheless flawed structurally by the Epilogue's surprise ending. But, Feingold added, Short Eyes does exhibit Pinero's certified theatrical talent: "Even his mistakes, which mostly center on the alleged sex offender and his position in the play's structure, are the mistakes of someone struggling to see the world whole and put it in the shape of art, instead of whining about what a rotten time he had in stir." Writing more than ten years later in Contemporary Dramatists, Gaynor F. Bradish concurred with this positive assessment: "The play, richly imbued with the detail and insight gained from [Pinero's] own prison experiences, is the most ruthlessly authentic and exciting drama with a prison setting so far produced by the American theater."

Though Pinero wrote and saw produced numerous other plays, his reputation rests on Short Eyes, a dramatic presentation of the brutal morality of prison life from the prisoners' point of view. His subsequent plays, notably A Midnight Moon at the Greasy Spoon, The Sun Always Shines for the Cool, and Eulogy for a Small-Time Thief, center on other members of the underclass, usually small-time hustlers and drug dealers living in poverty. He published a collection of his poetry, La Bodega Sold Dreams, in 1979 and is considered the founder of a movement of Puerto Rican poets in New York dubbed the NuYorican movement, whose anthology he edited with Miguel Algarin. He occasionally worked as an actor, and played small roles in several feature films and television series. But Pinero continued to get in trouble with the law even after fame found him, usually for drug possession. He died in 1988 at the age of forty-two, of cirrhosis of the liver. He left a play, Every Form of Refuge Has Its Price, set in the intensive care unit of a hospital, unfinished at the time of his death. Plans were set in 1999 to shoot a film about the poet titled Pinero, to be written and directed by Leon Ichaso and star John Leguizamo. The film is to be co-produced by Lower East Side Films and Greenestreet/SKE Films.

PERSONAL INFORMATION

Family: Born December 19, 1946, in Gurabo, Puerto Rico; emigrated to the United States in 1950; died of cirrhosis of the liver, June 16 (some sources say June 17), 1988, in New York, NY; son of Miguel Angel Gomez Ramos and Adelina Pinero; married Juanita Lovette Rameize, 1977 (divorced, 1979); children: Ismael Castro (adopted). Education: Attended public schools in New York City; received high school equivalency diploma.

AWARDS

New York Drama Critics Circle Award, Antoinette Perry Award Nomination for best play, Obie Award, and Drama Desk Award, all 1974, all for Short Eyes: The Killing of a Sex Offender by the Inmates of the House of Detention Awaiting Trial.

CAREER

Writer and actor. Served prison term in Riker's Island Prison for burglary, 1964, and another for drug possession; served sentence for burglary, Ossinging Correctional Facility (Sing Sing prison), Ossinging, NY, 1971-73; founder of Nuyorican Poets' Theatre, New York City, 1974. Actor, appeared in the film adaptation of his play "Short Eyes," as well as in Fort Apache, the Bronx, Times Square, and Alphabet City, and the television series Baretta, Kojak, and Miami Vice.

WRITINGS BY THE AUTHOR:
PUBLISHED PLAYS


* Short Eyes: The Killing of a Sex Offender by the Inmates of the House of Detention Awaiting Trial (produced in New York City at Theater of Riverside Church, January, 1974, produced on Broadway at Vivian Beaumont Theatre, 1974), Hill & Wang, 1975.
* The Sun Always Shines for the Cool, A Midnight Moon at the Greasy Spoon, Eulogy for a Small-Time Thief, Arte Publico (Houston), 1983.
* Outrageous: One-Act Plays, Arte Publico, 1986.

PRODUCED PLAYS

* All Junkies, first produced in New York City, 1973.
* Sideshow, first produced in New York City at Space Theatre, 1975.
* The Gun Tower, first produced in New York City, 1976.
* The Sun Always Shines for the Cool, first produced in New York City at Booth Theatre, 1976.
* Eulogy for a Small-Time Thief, first produced Off-Off-Broadway at Ensemble Studio Theatre, 1977.
* (With Neil Harris) Straight from the Ghetto, first produced in New York City, 1977.
* Cold Beer, first produced in New York City, 1979.
* NuYorican Nights at the Stanton Street Social Club, first produced in New York City at NuYorican Poets' Cafe, 1980.
* Playland Blues, first produced in New York City at Henry Street Settlement Theatre, 1980.
* A Midnight Moon at the Greasy Spoon (two-act), first produced in New York City at Theater for the New City, 1981.

Also playwright of Paper Toilet, first produced in Los Angeles, c. 1979.

OTHER

* (Editor with Miguel Algarin) NuYorican Poets: An Anthology of Puerto Rican Words and Feelings, Morrow, 1975.
* Short Eyes (screenplay adapted from Pinero's play) Film League, Inc., 1977.
* La Bodega Sold Dreams (poetry), Arte Publico, 1979.

Also author of scripts for television series Baretta, and of the unproduced and unpublished play The Cinderella Ballroom. Author of a play published in the collection Action: The Nuyorican Poets Cafe Theater Festival, edited by Miguel Algarin and Lois Griffith, Simon & Schuster/Touchstone, 1997.

MEDIA ADAPTATIONS
The biographical film Pinero was written by Leon Ichaso and released in 2001.

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