Miami Beach

Teen WordSpeak team to perform Thursday in Miami Beach, prior to Atlanta competition

In 2012: Teo Castellanos coaches the teenage WordSpeak team Alejandra Nuñz, Samantha Turner, 18, and Gio Garced, 19, during practice in Miami Beach.
In 2012: Teo Castellanos coaches the teenage WordSpeak team Alejandra Nuñz, Samantha Turner, 18, and Gio Garced, 19, during practice in Miami Beach. Miami Herald File

Five young spoken-word artists from Miami-Dade County will soon travel to Atlanta for the national Brave New Voices competition. To prepare for the big event, the poetry team will perform for free at Miami Beach Botanical Garden.

“This event at the Miami Beach Botanical Garden will provide the team with an opportunity to perform before a live audience prior to their Atlanta competition,” said Mary Luft, executive director of Tigertail Productions, the nonprofit arts organization that sponsors WordSpeak. “We are very excited about hearing them perform together for the first time.”

The five-member WordSpeak team will perform 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Miami Beach Botanical Gardens.

Every year, Tigertail Productions assembles a WordSpeak team from throughout Miami-Dade County. The teens performs spoken-word poetry, and topics can touch on anything from current events to personal experiences.

The 2015 team is made up of five teens, either current students or recent graduates of Miami Arts Charter and Design and Architecture Senior High (DASH): James Balo, Steffon Dixon, Maylin Enamorado, Momo Manalang, and Christell Roach. Enamorado, Dixon and Roach were members of the 2014 team; Manalang was their understudy. They were chosen from among 1,000 teenagers who participated in WordSpeak programs.

Leading them is Teo Castellanos, an award-winning theater writer, director and teacher who became coach nine years ago. As a role model for the students, he has watched them develop into the stage artists and young adults.

“The team moves me on so many levels, because it’s inspirational to see the growth of these young folks, artistry, intellect and activism,” Castellanos said.

The team’s assistant coach is Celestelle Webster, one of last year’s team members.

Tigertail will send the group to the Brave New Voices national poetry competition in Atlanta from July 15-18. Brave New Voices includes 500 students from 50 cities across the U.S. There, the team will participate in workshops and readings with established poets and performers, in open mic events — and they will participate in the Poetry Slam itself. Before they go, however, they will have a free performance for the public at the Miami Beach Botanical Gardens, for the hometown crowd.

Founded in Miami in 1979, Tigertail Productions is a pioneer of innovative cultural work and produces a full season of contemporary performance, along with projects in the literary and visual arts. WordSpeak and SpeakOut provide Miami students from ages 13 to 19 the opportunity to use poetry as a vehicle of self-expression in an appealing medium that blends poetry, theater and hip hop cluture.

For more information, call 305-324-4337, or go online at