Good morning, y’all! I want to start doing something a little different with these weekly theatre news posts. In addition to a round-up of important, surprising, and exciting happenings in the theatre world, I want to start highlighting a different city each week by examining its theatrical traditions, performance spaces, and current theatre news. I figure that even when I’m not physically traveling, I can explore the world (it is 2015, after all.) First up, Havana, Cuba. (If you want background music, check out my current obsession “The River” by sister duo Ibeyi).
Havana seems like a natural first choice, considering the recent renewing of diplomatic ties. With its complicated sociopolitical history and a rich cultural and artistic heritage, Cuba has long been major inspiration for creative expression. Latin America, though a region with similar cultural roots as our own, has many significant differences to North America, ranging from language and customs to the complex racial politics of a largely mestizo (mixed-race) population. Cuba has developed a particularly unique culture, partly by virtue of being an island, and partly by virtue of, you know, the whole 50 year embargo thing.
For centuries, Cuba has had a rich musical theatre tradition with elements of both European and African performance. Havana’s first theatre, the Coliseo, opened way back in 1775. Musical comedic traditions such as bufo and zarzuela relied on satirical humor as well as the use of archetypes (like in commedia dell’arte) such as “the Spaniard,” “the Mulatto,” and “the Negro.” The performances of race and gender seen on stage during the 19th century were complicated and problematic, yet served as an important aspect of the delevopment of Cuba’s artistic voice.
After a period of stagnancy following Spanish independence at the turn of the century, a more avant-garde and experimental genre of theatre began to flourish on Havana’s stages, developing from small “pocket theatres” to larger scale productions. With a staging of Sartre’s “The Respectful Prostitute” in 1954 came nearly a decade of robust theatrical performance of productions from Cuba, Europe, and the United States. After the sixties, though, Cuba faced a period of artistic and political repression, with a resurgence in meaningful theatrical work in the 80s and 90s. From Eduardo Machado to Marga Gomez, Cuban playwrights have continued to make their voices heard from Havana and Miami, to New York and LA. For a more in depth history of Cuban theatre, click here. To read works and see original materials from hundreds of Cuban productions, visit the Cuban Theater Digital Archive.
With the loosening of the borders comes more opportunity for artistic exchange. Recently, Havana saw its first Broadway musical in half a century, a rendition of Rent produced directed by Andy Señor Jr. (who played Angel in the Broadway production). I can’t what kind of work we will see in the next few years, and writing this post kind of makes me want to hop a plane and find out for myself.
A couple other theatre/entertainment-y things:
The upcoming London production of Bend it Like Beckham (which opens in June) has been extended through October. Nothing like a good soccer rom com turned musical to warm the heart.
She Loves Me (which inspired beloved Meg Ryan film You’ve Got Mail) is returning to Broadway next year, and will star Laura Benanti and Josh Radnor. This is great news, because I’ve been dying to see “Where’s My Other Shoe” performed live.
PaleyFest has announced its line-up for this years “Ultimate TV Fan Festival.” My inner tv-nerd is squealing.
And for you inner child, here is a list of the Disney movies premiering in 2015.
Though my travels will take place behind a computer screen for a while, I’m always planning my next trip. My roving spirit yearns for strange cities and fresh faces, and sometime this spring I’ll probably plan a weekend trip to somewhere I’ve never been, either in the U.S or our friendly neighbor, Canada. Santa Fe, Austin, Montreal, and Portland come to mind. With the right combination of air-miles (commandeered from my dad, thanks dad) and long weekends, who knows where I’ll end up next. No matter where my next destination is, I’ll be taking you with me.
Love and theatre,