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  • Lillian Manzor

    Thank you, Sage Lewis and American Theater, for this timely article. I would like to offer a note of historical clarification
    and a note of warning. History: We should not forget the role that Cuban and Latino/a artists living in the US have played in paving the groundwork for these collaborations. In addition to Repertorio Español’s Cuba Teatro, in 2001 Alberto
    Sarraín with his Miami-based La Má Teodora brought 22 Cuban theater artists to the US, to Miami to be exact (see Festival Internacional del Monólogo http://cubantheater.org/festival/Occurrence/403). Furthermore, the first collaborative theatre work between Cuba and the US was the coproduction of Abelardo Estorino’s Parece Blanca, directed by Alberto Sarraín. Seven theater artists from Miami worked along side Cuban theater artists in Havana and created, against all odds, a new staging of Estorino’s play in 2002. It was presented at Havana’s National Theater, Matanzas’ Teatro Sauto and La Villas’ Teatro Caridad (see Parece Blanca, http://cubantheater.org/production/338/). The coproduction could not travel to the US because the Cuban actors were denied visas as a result of Bush’s change of policy towards Cuba.
    I second Sage Lewis’ advise to “Listen closely.” Theater, as he points out, gives us the ability to critically think about “details of culture, time, and place,” to think about how we want to forge future engagements with Cuban artists. I would urge us to consider our own role as US theater artists, practitioners, and scholars, and would argue that future theatrical engagements
    with Cuba need to be taken out of the race mentality of the business world. Not only should we avoid the “ready, set, go” approach, but we also need to get involved in a serious critique of it, and avoid its replication at all costs. While we could certainly ask ourselves “will the light reach the stage” of economic exchanges, the light has never left the stage of Cuban theater, not even during the Special Period when there were literally no lights. Carlos Celdrán says it best: “What’s most essential is that the artistry and the passion is always here.” In other words, Cuban theater on and off the island has a lot to offer to US contemporary theatrical practice. We should listen to Cuban theater artists closely before we put on our marathon shoes.

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