In the opening of the old Latin American fairy tale Martina, the Little Roach, the lead character seeks acceptance and friendship. What she finds is that everyone she meets wants a piece of her, not for herself but to manipulate her. It’s no surprise that Manuel Morán, the founder and artistic director of Teatro SEA @ Los Kabayitos Puppet & Children’s Theatre, sees the show—which he’s staging this week—as a bit of a metaphor for his seven-year journey toward bringing bilingual children’s theater from Puerto Rico to the Lower East Side. “People have definitely used us for their political agendas and quotas, not because they care about what we’re doing,” says Morán. And just as Martina finally finds a home with a mouse who accepts her, Morán has had a successful run at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center and says it’s time to expand his audience, which is made up of both English-only and Spanish-only speakers (amazingly, the shows are pretty easy to follow from either camp). In the short term, a hefty grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation will enable him to renovate, allowing for the now-at-capacity crowd to grow. (He’s managed to stay out of the widely publicized fight over the building’s future and appears to be staying put.) And in the longer view, Morán is checking out sites for a second space in Miami, where the new show for the season will be a Mexican version of Pinocchio. “We’ll deal with the theme of immigration,” says Morán. “It will be a little controversial, but it will be great.”
10/21, 10/28, 11/4 at 3 p.m.; Teatro SEA @ Los Kabayitos Puppet & Children’s Theatre, 107 Suffolk St., nr. Delancey St. (212-529-1545 or sea-online.info); $15 grown-ups, $12.50 kids.