'Clemente' musical shows life, struggle of Roberto Clemente

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"Clemente: The Legend of 21," a musical, tells Roberto Clemente?s tale of struggle and triumph. (WLS)

Roberto Clemente was not only a Baseball Hall of Famer, he was also a humanitarian.

Clemente's life ended tragically at age 38. He was the victim of a plane crash while flying relief supplies to Nicaraguan earthquake victims.

"Clemente: The Legend of 21," a musical, tells Clemente's tale of struggle and triumph.

Clemente, a Puerto Rican native, played 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates, paving the way for Latino players. The musical chronicles Clemente's life from enduring poverty and racism to becoming an inspiration for generations to come.

Actor Modesto Lacen plays the role of Clemente and says he, like Clemente, is a black Puerto Rican who came to this country to pursue his dream.

"I can totally relate to what Roberto went through in terms of racism, the cultural shock and language," Lacen said. "The injustice you face in the United States when you are Latino and a minority."

"We try to bring shows that have social commentary to the Chicago theater scene," said Paul Packer of Nightblue Performing Arts Company.

Acclaimed writer, theater and film director Luis Caballero wrote the music and is the playwright.

"He was an activist, so I needed people to know besides his baseball about his human side," Caballero said.

Clemente was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame posthumously.

"Besides our differences of language, color, sexual orientation and religion, we have to respect people, no matter what we are human beings," Lacen said. "And in the same journey of life, what Roberto stood for was respect and dignity."

"Clemente: The Legend of 21" opens Friday at Stage 773 in the city's North Side and runs through Sept. 14.
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