“Life’s Like a Play, It’s not the length but the excellence of the acting that matters.” -SENECA
Celi is the name and the gift of gab seems to be my game. I have my degree in mass communications from Norfolk State University. My love for writing, theater, reporting, producing, etc. began at a very young age. Born to parents Francisco Chapman Veloz (poet, writer, professor & activist) and Santa Altagracia Varela (Economist, Marxist) I grew up in my father’s college classrooms and always had a tape recorder/microphone around interviewing my family members.
By Age 7, I was performing in my father’s dance group for Dominican festivals, parades. My father and I used to go to elementary and junior high schools talking about the culture and history of Caribbean dance.
As I got older I took Ballet classes, piano classes, played basketball, joined the choir, did community service projects and worked hard on my studies. My family moved around a lot and that’s probably what kept me changing. New Town, New Extracurricular. 🙂 I’ve been performing for as long as I can remember, but acting sort of happened by accident or some would say has been there all along and i just didn’t see it. Though I dabbled in many things I didn’t start acting until the summer before my Senior year of High School! I did a Summer Workshop class for College Credit at Lehman College. The director thought I was lying when I told him I never acted before. I decided maybe I should continue to pursue the acting gig and found out about Youth Onstage! A youth theater performance school on 42nd St. I auditioned in 2004, got in, graduated and was now eligible to audition for their Off-Broadway productions. When I auditioned for my first play, Robin Hood(A Political Romance) by Dan Friedman, I was surprised & shocked when Dan called me and asked me if he could cast me as Friar Tuck. Not wanting to give up this opportunity & unsure how I was going to play a FAT MAN, I said YES!
The show turned out to be a success! I pulled it off and we got great reviews in the New York Times & the Amsterdam News. I had begun my career as an actress! (I was 17!) For the next two years I continued to perform in plays with Youth Onstage & Castillo Theater. (Have you Ever Seen a Dream Rapping?, License to Dream, Our City,& others) I co-directed, choreographed and performed in shows on 42nd street, which for this Latina living in the Bronx was a big deal!
When I wrote a rap for the show Have you ever seen a dream Rapping? The rap was then taken to the great stage in Lincoln Center for the AllStars Gala in 2006. Getting to Rap in front of Grandmaster Flash, words can not even begin to describe.
I can go on for days, but to say the least Theater is my home! I LOVE IT!
In 2006, things got rough at home and I felt it was time yet again, to relocate. After my freshmen year of college at Lehman, I decided to transfer to Norfolk State University in Norfolk, Virginia. While at Norfolk, I became a Norfolk State Cheerleader, WNSB- Hot 91 Radio Personality, and continued to my love for theater with the NSU PLAYERS. I loved every minute of it! I also served as Vice President of the Spanish Club and continued my community service, reading to elementary school kids.
Working for WNSB HOT 91. I got to interview all kinds of people like Gorrilla Zoe, Rick Ross, Lalah Hattaway, Jaspects, Ali Vegas, and others. Being a Mass Communications Major definitely made me well-rounded as a performer. Radio helped my diction, and cheerleading defintely helped my confidence.
My college years/experience will forever have an everlasting impact on me. People often ask me where do you think you’d be if you never left NY, but I don’t regret my decision for leaving for a minute. I grew up, and matured a lot while in Norfolk. Losing my dad after my sophomore year, I was determined to go back to NSU and finish what I started. It gave me an independence & a no holds bar kind of attitude. I am forever grateful to all the people at Norfolk State University who helped me along the way to finish my degree. Never forget where you came from! This is my alma mater & it is my home away from home.
Commencement, May 2009. It came rather swiftly and before I knew it I was packing my bags again to New York City. Life after graduation was full of surprises and new things. Branching out into writing, I have contributed for web zine MissMeanShoe and HBCUDIGEST. I wrote a play and in July of 2011, “A Work in Progess” revolving on a young girl’s struggles out of poverty post graduation was produced at the Castillo Theater as part of the Young Playwrights Festival. I’ve been blessed to work with Woodie King Jr, Katori Hall, Lonette Mckee The Cherry Lane Theatre, and The Ensemble Studio Theatre just to name a few.
I hope to continue to inspire and motivate people in everything that I do. Much to be proud of and thankful for, but I give all my praises to GOD, because with out him I wouldn’t be anywhere.. God Speed and God Bless..Thanks for stopping by…