Cuban Director Cremata Speaks of Censorship

Vicente Morin Aguado

Juan Carlos Cremata

HAVANA TIMES — Monologo de la Presidenta (“A Monologue by Madam President”), a one-act play and testimony by Juan Carlos Cremata, has been circulating around the Internet since last week. The piece offers details of the meeting where the film and theater director was informed that his play El rey se muere (“The King is Dying”), an adaptation of Romanian-French playwright Eugene Ionoesco’s work, was being censored.

When I asked about the short (three-page long) text, Cremata replied:

“I am reluctant to answer your questions because I would rather speak in artistic terms and not have more doors close on me after I’ve mentioned full names (if the cap fits, wear it, I say). They’re already breathing down my neck a lot and I don’t know whether this will continue. Better said, I have no doubt they’ll try and corner me even more.”

Referring to such repression, the interviewee offered us a preview of what’s to come: “For the time being, the most recent and most aggressive measure taken was depriving me of my ICAIC email account. That prevents me from connecting to the Internet and continuing to condemn this injustice.”

It is striking how the Internet “benefits” afforded Cuban professionals by the State confirm the verdict pronounced years ago in a song by Carlos Varela:

“In his Majesty’s shire, everyone does what the King says. He gives them bread and wine, but later comes around to collect.”

The monologue can be obtained via email or through person-to-person contacts. Without digressing into a review of sorts, the play centers on an authoritarian woman (obviously “Madam President”) who calls a meeting where only she will speak (or hand down a ruling, more precisely). The dramatic peak is reached when she explains the reason behind the censorship of the work:

“The worst part of all is that this is clearly making a mockery of the leader of our revolution. It’s truly disrespectful towards a person who has done so much for all of us in this country, someone who is now very ill, poor man.”

“And we won’t put up with that! Not I nor anyone present here today. (She looks at everyone) Isn’t that so? (Everyone lowers their head in agreement). This is why, in the name of the freedoms secured by our theater movement in the course of all these years, we are forced to censor your play.”

Cremata has also just published a new brochure, titled El evento que viene (“The Coming Event”). One need only read a few fragments to grasp the deep roots of such ferocious attitudes towards artists:

“We still recall the day when we attended the much-announced and needed reopening of Havana’s Marti Theater. We know of at least three people who fell off theater seats that had been poorly secured. The blow-driers in the bathroom weren’t working. What will the Alicia Alonso Cultural Center bring us tomorrow, when the general impression of the public is that it was reopened with a great song and dance but that, in fact, it hasn’t been properly refurbished yet?

This account far exceeds Havana Time’s length restrictions and it can also be obtained through personal email exchange. That said, I could not help but transcribe another fragment of this critical text:

El-Rey-se-Muere“Incidentally, who had the bright idea, during the previous restoration process, of painting the stalls at the Sala Avellanda light yellow? It was obviously someone who has attended many official meetings but who has no clue that dark colors, preferably black, are essential to the interplay of lights required by the stage arts. Who built the bathrooms of the Raquel Revuelta Cultural Center, which are devoid of ventilation points and located right next to the stalls? Why, a few days after their inauguration, were the Raquel Revuelta Complex and the Miramar Theater (next to the former) flooded after the first and timid rains of the month? How is it that the Amadeo Roldan concert hall was again in poor shape shortly after it was refurbished? How long will the once-fabulous Hubert de Blanck theater be left to suffer, after its essential and historical aisle between stalls has been destroyed?

In a country where stage arts can only be carried out within institutions under State control, the censorship, repression and ostracism of intellectuals of proven talent are particularly reprehensible practices.

Prior to the interview, the writer of these lines shared the artist’s view regarding the relative worthlessness of many of the countless “events” organized in our country every year.

I want to thank Juan Carlos Cremata for the suggestive phrase with which I will end this post:

Merry are the naive, the indolent or the meticulously and wisely indoctrinated!


Vicente Morín Aguado: [email protected]