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Melody Betts on Touring the Country with The Sound of Music

first_imgMelody Betts in ‘The Sound of Music'(Photo: Matthew Murphy) View Comments In the final moments of The Sound of Music’s first act, Melody Betts takes center stage as Mother Abbess as she delivers the last verse of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” with a pure, commanding soprano. Before taking on the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical in the current North American tour, Betts had audiences giving mid-show standing ovations as a featured soloist in Invisible Thread off-Broadway. Below, the unforgettable performer talk to Broadway.com about bringing her own faith to the stage, feeling inspired by Audra McDonald and her secret off-stage riffing.Hi, Melody! How’s touring life treating you?It’s good! I thought it was going to be difficult, but it’s not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I’m finding my way around. The hardest thing is probably laundry.How did the opportunity to play this role arise? They were looking for another Mother Abbess as Ashley Brown was pregnant, and my manager said, “I think you should go in.” Now, I’m thinking there’s no way. The Sound of Music is traditionally cast all white. For me to come in, I thought, was a huge adjustment for the audiences. But I decided, “What the heck?” I caught up with my friend Matt Gould [co-writer of Invisible Thread], we had some voice lessons, and then I went in.What was the audition process like? It was really great. I was the only one who looked like me in the room, which was intimidating. But by the end of it, we were all in tears. I was hoping I would have the job by the end of that. But I left, and by the time I got off the bus, I got the phone call.Did seeing Audra McDonald play the role on NBC provide any comfort or assurance? Absolutely. If I ever get the chance, I’d love to thank her. I’m a huge advocate for respect and love to the ones who have gone before me. It meant a whole lot that Audra did the role, and that she did it so beautifully; that allowed people to see that a woman of color could do this. She is one of the reasons why I could be put in this place.I know faith is an important part of your life. How does that inform your performance as the Mother Superior? It makes it a lot easier. As myself, I’m always tapping into my relationship with God, so I’ve added that to my performance. You’ll see me [on stage] actually taking a moment to ask God what to do next. I’ll look up, have an internal prayer and actually thank the Lord for the answers. I know what it’s like to come to a decision of whether or not I’m going to follow God.You also played a religious figure in Invisible Thread. In both, your character goes against what others in the church community might expect. Is that something you relate to personally? I think Christians get a bad rep because there are people in the world who claim Christ but forget that when Christ walked the earth, He hung out with everybody. Sometimes when people become Christians, they focus on the legalism of it instead of the love. There has to be a balance. The world is in need of love.That certainly rings true in both performances. One of the major differences, though, is your vocal style. In Invisible Thread, you belted up a storm. Here, it’s all classical. How do you find the balance between the two types of singing? When I hit the stage, I sing classically. When I’m singing backstage, I riff. I have to keep that part of my voice active. I started out singing in the church, and that’s where you learn that riffing. But I actually trained classically, too. Even though I don’t use that part of my voice that much, it’s in my bag of skills. I was able to go back into my bag and dust that off. And yes, there was some dust collecting!What’s your earliest memory of The Sound of Music? Like most people, Julie Andrews in the movie. It was always “My Favorite Things.” There was something about that song that always made me happy. I remember as a child singing those lyrics just out of the blue sometimes.And unlike the movie version, you’re the one who gets to sing it. Exactly! Now I know the real words; I don’t have to make them up.Representation and diversity are integral to this Broadway season, and hopefully that’s not just a trend. What does it mean for you to be a part of that this year off-Broadway and on tour? I’m so elated. I’m not going to be at the Tonys or anything like that, but I am a part of theater at this time. That alone is everything. Right now, Hollywood is not making the mark when it comes to acknowledging people of color. In theater, it’s a different feeling. I’m proud of the theater community for stepping up. That’s exactly what we need.Do you find that that resonates with audiences across the country? I realize there are a lot of little people who look like me–or some form of me–out in the audience. Even if they don’t want to be an actor, I just need them to know that whatever it is they’re looking toward, it’s possible. I grew up in the hood of Chicago. I was discouraged and was told my future wasn’t very bright. That was a lie, and now I’m living the truth. You don’t have to be left to despair and doubt. You can believe and work hard, and you can see all your dreams come true. You have the power to make that happen. That’s why I’m here.last_img read more

FUSINA Repels Honduran Drug Gangs in Mosquito Coast Region

first_img“In order to prevent the inhabitants of Gracias a Dios from developing direct and indirect activities for the benefit of common and organized crime, state forces have currently been deployed on land, sea, and air to take full control of this region,” Col. Paz Escalante said. “We are implementing a strong social development program that seeks to improve the living conditions of indigenous communities.” By Dialogo June 16, 2015 Such collaboration was crucial in the operation that led to the capture of Zambulá Thompson. “The arrest was the result of coordinated work done by various government agencies, which are currently operating in the area of Gracias a Dios, all part of FUSINA and deployed by land, air, and sea to shield this area of operations,” FUSINA commander Infantry Colonel Gustavo Adolfo Paz Escalante told Diálogo. And in July 2014, U.S. federal authorities in Florida arrested Miguel’s and Luis’s sister, Digna Valle Valle. Honduran daily La Prensa reported in April that she had pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges and agreed to cooperate with U.S. federal prosecutors in exchange for a reduced sentence. Inter-agency and international cooperation is a key component of these efforts; for example, 400 Marines and pilots work in shifts to patrol sea and air routes throughout the day, while two ships patrol inter-oceanic waters. Meanwhile, a Military unit in the area coordinates these efforts with forces from U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). That initiative is being carried out by FUSINA, an organization comprised of 4,400 highly trained, equipped, and specialized men and women of the Armed Forces, the National Police, the Attorney General’s office, the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), the Immigration Agency and the Directorate for Intelligence. And their efforts have led to several successful security operations, including two major drug interdictions in the Mosquito Coast area. In mid April, FUSINA together with Navy personnel seized 691 kilos of cocaine on the Caratasca Lagoon in Puerto Lempira, the capital of Gracias a Dios department. The drug was hidden in six fishing boats traveling on the lagoon. And a week later, FUSINA agents conducted an operation that led to the capture of Jorge Zambulá Thompson, a Miskito man allegedly carrying 175 kilos of cocaine on a fishing boat in the department of Gracias a Dios. That initiative is being carried out by FUSINA, an organization comprised of 4,400 highly trained, equipped, and specialized men and women of the Armed Forces, the National Police, the Attorney General’s office, the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), the Immigration Agency and the Directorate for Intelligence. And their efforts have led to several successful security operations, including two major drug interdictions in the Mosquito Coast area. In mid April, FUSINA together with Navy personnel seized 691 kilos of cocaine on the Caratasca Lagoon in Puerto Lempira, the capital of Gracias a Dios department. The drug was hidden in six fishing boats traveling on the lagoon. And a week later, FUSINA agents conducted an operation that led to the capture of Jorge Zambulá Thompson, a Miskito man allegedly carrying 175 kilos of cocaine on a fishing boat in the department of Gracias a Dios. Government disrupts gangs in Gracias a Dios For example, in the Caribbean region of Honduras, some drug trafficking organizations are exploiting members of the Miskito indigenous people, using threats or promises of large amounts of money to persuade them to transport drugs. But the Honduran government is fighting back — aggressively focusing air, naval, and land forces against drug trafficking organizations as part of an overarching security plan known as Operation Morazán. Such collaboration was crucial in the operation that led to the capture of Zambulá Thompson. “The arrest was the result of coordinated work done by various government agencies, which are currently operating in the area of Gracias a Dios, all part of FUSINA and deployed by land, air, and sea to shield this area of operations,” FUSINA commander Infantry Colonel Gustavo Adolfo Paz Escalante told Diálogo. Agents with the Honduran National Inter-Agency Task Force (FUSINA) have made important inroads in the fight against transnational criminal organizations that operate in the Mosquito Coast region — particularly in remote areas that have become a haven for drug trafficking in recent years. As a consequence of FUSINA’s efforts, the Mosquito Coast region “can’t be regarded as a paradise for drug lords anymore,” said Eugenio Sosa, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH). Those forces have contributed to several major drug seizures and arrests of organized crime kingpins in recent months, including the captures of several leaders of Los Cachiros, a drug trafficking gang, and the leaders of the Los Valles drug trafficking group. The two busts in April denote a broader trend in Gracias a Dios, where transnational criminal organizations have pulled some Miskito people into drug trafficking by threatening them or offering them large amounts of money, Col. Paz Escalante said. The Miskitos are located in the Northeast region of Honduras, an area known as “The Honduran Mosquitia” — specifically from the mouth of the Rio Wanks (also known as Rio Coco or Rio Segovia) to Rio Tinto (also know as Rio Black) in Gracias a Dios. That organization, based in the department of Copán, was led by brothers Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle and Luis Alonso Valle Valle. In October 2014, Honduran law enforcement authorities captured the two brothers; the Honduran government later extradited them to the United States, where they face federal drug trafficking charges. U.S. federal prosecutors allege the brothers led an organization which transported tons of cocaine from Colombia to Honduras and finally to the United States. Strategic security initiative Dismantling groups like Los Valles and Los Cachiros is part of the Honduran government’s broad security strategy. At least four drug cartels, including at one from Mexico and one from Colombia, operate in Honduras; and FUSINA operations have hit them hard, seizing some of their assets and capturing some of their operatives. Those efforts have reduced violence and overall crime in the departments of Olancho, Copán, Cortés, and the city of San Pedro Sula. Additionally, FUSINA, in cooperation with the United States government, has also disrupted Los Cachiros. In September 2013, the U.S. Treasury Department designated seven individuals and five businesses tied to the Honduran gang; and in January, the group’s alleged leaders — Javier Eriberto Rivera Maradiaga, alias “Javier Cachiro,” and his brother Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga — surrendered to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in January. Strategic security initiative Overall, since its launch on January 27, 2014, Operation Morazán has led to the seizure of more than 11,000 kilos of cocaine, most of it at sea; the execution of 3,927 arrest warrants, including extradition orders; and the dismantling of 55 criminal gangs. As a consequence of FUSINA’s efforts, the Mosquito Coast region “can’t be regarded as a paradise for drug lords anymore,” said Eugenio Sosa, a security analyst at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH). Those forces have contributed to several major drug seizures and arrests of organized crime kingpins in recent months, including the captures of several leaders of Los Cachiros, a drug trafficking gang, and the leaders of the Los Valles drug trafficking group. For example, in the Caribbean region of Honduras, some drug trafficking organizations are exploiting members of the Miskito indigenous people, using threats or promises of large amounts of money to persuade them to transport drugs. But the Honduran government is fighting back — aggressively focusing air, naval, and land forces against drug trafficking organizations as part of an overarching security plan known as Operation Morazán. And in July 2014, U.S. federal authorities in Florida arrested Miguel’s and Luis’s sister, Digna Valle Valle. Honduran daily La Prensa reported in April that she had pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges and agreed to cooperate with U.S. federal prosecutors in exchange for a reduced sentence. “We are tackling crime in the countryside, towns, and neighborhoods,” Col. Paz Escalante said. “We trust in God that we will be cleaning and increasingly reducing the crime rate in each of the neighborhoods of the different municipalities.” Additionally, FUSINA, in cooperation with the United States government, has also disrupted Los Cachiros. In September 2013, the U.S. Treasury Department designated seven individuals and five businesses tied to the Honduran gang; and in January, the group’s alleged leaders — Javier Eriberto Rivera Maradiaga, alias “Javier Cachiro,” and his brother Devis Leonel Rivera Maradiaga — surrendered to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in January. Overall, since its launch on January 27, 2014, Operation Morazán has led to the seizure of more than 11,000 kilos of cocaine, most of it at sea; the execution of 3,927 arrest warrants, including extradition orders; and the dismantling of 55 criminal gangs. The two busts in April denote a broader trend in Gracias a Dios, where transnational criminal organizations have pulled some Miskito people into drug trafficking by threatening them or offering them large amounts of money, Col. Paz Escalante said. The Miskitos are located in the Northeast region of Honduras, an area known as “The Honduran Mosquitia” — specifically from the mouth of the Rio Wanks (also known as Rio Coco or Rio Segovia) to Rio Tinto (also know as Rio Black) in Gracias a Dios. That organization, based in the department of Copán, was led by brothers Miguel Arnulfo Valle Valle and Luis Alonso Valle Valle. In October 2014, Honduran law enforcement authorities captured the two brothers; the Honduran government later extradited them to the United States, where they face federal drug trafficking charges. U.S. federal prosecutors allege the brothers led an organization which transported tons of cocaine from Colombia to Honduras and finally to the United States. Agents with the Honduran National Inter-Agency Task Force (FUSINA) have made important inroads in the fight against transnational criminal organizations that operate in the Mosquito Coast region — particularly in remote areas that have become a haven for drug trafficking in recent years. “In order to prevent the inhabitants of Gracias a Dios from developing direct and indirect activities for the benefit of common and organized crime, state forces have currently been deployed on land, sea, and air to take full control of this region,” Col. Paz Escalante said. “We are implementing a strong social development program that seeks to improve the living conditions of indigenous communities.” Government disrupts gangs in Gracias a Dios Inter-agency and international cooperation is a key component of these efforts; for example, 400 Marines and pilots work in shifts to patrol sea and air routes throughout the day, while two ships patrol inter-oceanic waters. Meanwhile, a Military unit in the area coordinates these efforts with forces from U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Dismantling groups like Los Valles and Los Cachiros is part of the Honduran government’s broad security strategy. At least four drug cartels, including at one from Mexico and one from Colombia, operate in Honduras; and FUSINA operations have hit them hard, seizing some of their assets and capturing some of their operatives. Those efforts have reduced violence and overall crime in the departments of Olancho, Copán, Cortés, and the city of San Pedro Sula. “We are tackling crime in the countryside, towns, and neighborhoods,” Col. Paz Escalante said. “We trust in God that we will be cleaning and increasingly reducing the crime rate in each of the neighborhoods of the different municipalities.” In the area of La Mosquitia Excellent In my view this is an excellent magazine, positive and informative.last_img read more