‘Ugly Betty’ Star Brings Theatre Program To San Ysidro students



BY Augie Bareño

Local students will soon be reciting Shakespeare and acting out plays during a new after-school program launching in San Ysidro schools.

Tony Plana, actor, writer and director, has been a familiar face in movies, television and theatre during the past forty years. He is best known as Ignacio Suarez, the wise and witty grandfather character on the hit show “Ugly Betty”. Plana’s portrayal of the Ignacio Suarez has redefined and given depth and dignity to Hispanic characters on mainstream television.

Dignity and passion are things he learned from his parents and family, having been born in Havana, Cuba and emigrating to the United States, seeking a better life.

“I was a poor kid from a working family,” Plana said. “ Theatre taught me how to use my voice, body, and emotions.”

Plana plans to use arts and theatre to help students improve their language skills, build confidence, and learn to communicate in ways that will make them better students and ultimately more successful adults.

“Our students will benefit greatly from this program,” said San Ysidro Schools Superintendent Dr. Julio Fonseca. “We are honored that Mr. Plana chose to create this program here in our community,” he added.

The program will bring professional actors to work with the students at various schools. Students will learn acting methods and concepts and be pushed to extend themselves by challenging their comfort zone and trying new things.

Initially the program, called “Language at Play”, will focus on after school hours at 4 school sites within the district, but the long-term goal is to incorporate the ideas into to the curricular offerings.

“We have provided before and after-school care for years but this will be more of an enrichment program,” added Dr. Fonseca. “We will create an exciting program that will be both educational and fun for the students.”

Mr. Plana is a graduate of Loyola Marymount University and was trained in acting at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England. Classically trained in Shakespeare plays, he has endeavored over the years to bring the appreciation of those works to minority communities across the country.

Plana credits a teacher in his childhood for sparking an interest in the arts and showing him how to unlock his self-confidence. Language, he realized early on, can be a powerful tool upon which students can develop their abilities and pursue their dreams. The arts, says Plana, is the path by which passion and ability come together.

Already a recipient of numerous awards and recognitions for his professional and community efforts, Plana is committed to stepping out of his own community to help the students of the San Ysidro School District.

“Binational, bicultural communities like San Ysidro are great places to introduce arts programs,” Plana added. “Our cultures are already used to music and dance so it’s a perfect fit,” Plana concluded.

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