Cuban Children on Front Stage in Audiovisual/Theater Production

Manuel y Orlando.

By Helson Hernandez

HAVANA TIMES — Orlando Mora Cabrera and Manuel Ojeda Hernandez, two young people who have come together to do creative work, are tracing a future for themselves in the world of film and are already advancing novel ideas. “We wanted for children to explore their own reality,” Orlando tells us during his interview for Havana Times.

HT: What issues do you invite people to reflect on in this theater piece with children?

Manuel Ojeda: It all begins when a group of children gather in a very symbolic place in Havana: the Malecon ocean drive. These children, on seeing a shooting star, make wishes. The spiritual concerns of these children thus come to light and turn into conflicts which drive the plot of the piece.

For instance, one of the characters, a child like all other actors in the play, has bulimia. Another child wants to be a ballet dancer, in spite of his mother’s conservative prejudices. A little girl’s father is in jail and her mother forbids her from keeping any photos or memories of him. There’s also a character who has leukemia and his best friend is a Jehovah’s Witness, a religion he does not yet understand, as he faces a number of contradictions, like being forbidden from donating blood, saluting the flag – things, in short, that distance him from reality.

HT: Does the recurrent motif of the star have any concealed dramatic intention?

MO: We use the star as a symbolic element that contrasts with the realism of all of the play’s conflicts. The reflections that the play prompts, regarding the realization of personal and spiritual dreams, the wish to accomplish something seemingly impossible, given a certain social reality, all revolve around the star. We want for all of that to convey a refusal to give up the innocence and naivety of that stage in life, childhood.

HT: It isn’t the traditional play with children acting.

Orlando Mora: We know that theater pieces for or by children are developed on the basis of traditional or fantasy characters that sometimes have little to do with the reality we face every day. In our play, we wanted for children to explore their own reality and take on characters that have little to do with the typical fantasies of children’s theater, to experience feeling that are part of life itself, like the proximity to death, illness and the acceptance of differences and religion. All of that is implicit in each of the character’s story.

HT: Tell us about the use of audiovisual materials in the play.

OM: We use it to justify the absence of adults in the play, supporting the plot, perhaps, with images that take us back to the origin of the conflicts between these kids, the characters of the play.

For instance, we shot a morning activity at a primary school, which is where the story of the Jehovah’s Witness, Santiago, takes place. These materials give the play much realism, a realism one doesn’t often see in the theater, perhaps because of space issues. These moving images have a documentary feel because of the real locations and lighting we used and, for these, we used mostly improvisation.

HT: How old are you and what are you studying now?

OM: I’m 20 and I’m currently studying at the Faculty of Communications at the Higher Institute for the Arts (ISA). I am particularly interested in directing after completing my studies.

MO: I’m 25. In my case, I initially studied fine arts at the Vicentina de las Torres Academy in the province of Camaguey. Now I’m pursing the same program of studies as my friend Orlando, I’m in second year of the Audiovisual major. I would like to specialize in photography.

HT: How does the audiovisual medium express your personal interests?

MO: I take on this medium through experiments in video-art and photography. I understand it as a means of grasping my reality.

OM: The audiovisual world is the means I use to convey an entire world of inner sensations and perceptions of the social environment. Sometimes these are simple dissatisfactions and concerns that affect me as an individual. My aim is to develop a series of skills and to place these at the service of society, and this medium gives you the possibility of developing a whole series of genres.

HT: You’ve worked creatively as a team

MO: We decided to work together months ago in two independent productions, two short films we produced at school: Miopia (“Myopia”) and Vaiven (“To and Fro”). We had worked together in photo series before and, at the 12th Havana Biennale, we took part in a collective exhibition titled Mi ofrenda es tu casa (“My Offering is your Hunt”), at the Antonia Eiriz gallery. Now, we’re working together on the play we were talking about, for the Abril children’s theater company.

HT: Where will the play premiere?


OM: There’ll be three premieres in Havana, on July 17, 18 and 19. Then there’ll be a more regular series of showings at the Loyola de Fe y Cultural Center. The address is Estrella, between Belascoain and Gervasio. The entrance is at the back of the Sagrado Corazon church in Centro Habana.

HT: What audiovisual project would you like to work on after graduating?

OM: I couldn’t say right now, I would first need to discover many things. The concerns I have now may not be the same ones I have a few years down the line.

MO: I would like to do independent cinema, but, bearing in mind the economic reality of the country I live in, we’d have to wait and see what the future holds in store for us.