An aspiring and successful actor, Che is deeply immersed in the Rochester cultural scene. So much so, we’ve named him Che of The Town!
Exclusively for Talker, Che has solicited and is conducting interviews from about 50 Rochestarians working in a diversity of creative fields.
For the full series, see Che of The Town: Interviews
In this highlight, Che turns our attention to Rochester firefighter Santos E. Cruz.
I asked Santos a series of questions. Here are his responses.
Tell us a little about yourself, where you are from from, grew up, what H.S./College you attended etc.
My name is Santos E Cruz, born and raised until the age of 8 in Rio Grande Puerto Rico. I have always been the clown in the family. My mother and 5 brothers and sisters arrived in Rochester NY in August of 2001. Our first couple of months were spent in a shelter. Eventually I was enrolled in to the Pinnacle School # 35, where I had my first experience of what my American life was going to be like. Some time had passed and eventually I made my way to James Monroe High School. Through out my 5 years there, I was able to get a better understanding of the English language, enroll in a couple honor classes and was introduced to the Firefighter Trainee Program held in East High. Eventually I transferred to East where I spend last 2 years of my high school career training myself to become what I am know. A firefighter for the city of Rochester. About 3 years later, I attained my associates degree in fire science and applied technology from Mohawk community college.
What inspired you to be an entertainer? Early experiences worth sharing?
My inspiration to become and entertainer is a rather dark one. As mentioned, I was always the clown in the family and I loved telling jokes as well as watching stand up comedians. About a year and a half ago, one of my youngest sisters past away in a horrible car accident. Her death remainder me that nothing is for sure, especially not tomorrow. She had just graduated from RIT and had received her first pay check from Rochester General Hospital the day before the incident. After entering a deep depression, I told myself I wanted to pursue the things that I always wanted to do, Stand up comedy being one of them. My first time grabbing a mic was at an open mic event where the friend I went to support asked me to get up on stage. I got a couple laughs and all of a sudden the smiles in people’s faces made me feel at home. For the next couple of months, I attended this open mic where, to be honest, I bombed most of the time, but I kept on writing and practicing.
Getting up in stage over and over again, I had come up with a decent 5-8 minute set. I would not have been able to make it this far with out the help of my girlfriend Katelyn Figueroa Plonczynski and my mentor in comedy Yolanda Smilez. I also got into spoken word after writing and performing a couple pieces I caught the attention of Annette Ramos leader of the Rochester Latino theater company. She was able to help me improve my skills and provided me with the platform in which I was able to perform in front of hundreds of people.
Talk about a time where you have faced adversity/conflict and have triumphed.
I feel like my entire life has been one giant obstacle course in which every time I get over one hurdle, a bigger one seems to take its place: from being homeless to facing cultural and language barriers to the death of my sister. I triumphed when I succeed. I succeed when I reach my goal, I reached my goal because I never stop trying, and I never stoped trying because I wasn’t afraid to fail. For me “fail” stands for FIRST ATTEMPT IN LEARNING. Overcoming my fear was my biggest triumph. Fear number one… my accent. My accent coupled with how fast I talk can leave people lost because the can’t understand what I am saying. At times, I have a hard time pronouncing some words. Since I know this about myself at times, I would find myself staring in the mirror practicing.
I believe that what sets me apart from other entertainers in the city is the fact that I grew up being a part of different culture. By seeing the way that people interact with in different cultures, I can pluck out the things that I find funny from my point of view. I believe that my life stories have captured the attention of many people by being able to relate to people from all walks of life.
Do you have other interests or hobbies?
On June 10, I have what I consider my first show. I say this because I have finally earned a spot with in the fliers and promotions. I’m not the headliner but I have reach a level of comedy that I am proud of.
In five years I would like to be a keynote speaker, I would like to use my life’s stories ,comedy and spoken word skills to inspire others to fallow there dreams and work hard.
What advice can you give to aspiring artists/entertainers?
Take advice. Surround yourself with like minded individuals and F.A.I.L
How can we follow your journey on social media?
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