Challenges Posed to Cuban Theater

By Lynn Cruz

El niño que vuela (The child that flies) (2016)

HAVANA TIMES — Theater is one of the cultural forms that has most suffered the blows of censorship and institutionalism in Cuba.

The government has always been very afraid of the power an actor has when they go out on stage, as once the play kicks off, they are free, if they dare to be, and can do whatever they want with their lines, although if they do overstep their mark, there will be consequences.

However, this doesn’t void the possibility of a movement being organized from within the Cuban theater, like in the past when pieces like El perro huevero aunque le quemen el hocico (1870) which gave signs of patriotism in the middle of the repression the country was experiencing.

The fact that Cuban theater, having all of the weapons at their disposal, is the one that bends down the most in the face of censorship, and the one who is most afraid of it, particularly captures our attention.

After the scandal involving El rey se muere by Juan Carlos Cremata, a string of plays that came along that were also silenced in a more calculated manner, such as the case of Kera, the butcher’s daughter by the Victoria Theater under the direction of Eric Morales and Marta Victoria Ortega. They also dealt with reality, taboo subjects such as violence, the persona of Fidel Castro, in a critical manner, opening a clear and brave dialogue.

El rey se muere. (The king is dying)

Those young directors challenged the theater world’s indifference, as well as that of the lead actress, advised by “voices of experience”, who didn’t work with them again claiming that she was about to leave the country and that she didn’t want any problems.

Then with his following play, El nino que vuela, given the fact that the director was “under suspicion”, before the premiere, he was sat down with censorship committee which tried to discourage him from performing the piece, because it supposedly showed a lack of respect for the figure of Jose Marti. In reality it was the complete opposite, a review of Marti’s discourse within the Cuban Revolution.

Any revolutionary idea has been gradually wiped out over time, to the point that Cuban theater continues to put things in code, to such an extent that a lot of pieces aren’t understood, while others make code an art form, such is the case with Antigonon by Rogelio Orizondo, a young playwright who has stood out for his inflammatory character in plays such as La Hijastra. which also suffered the institution’s censorship attack back when it was to be premiered.

There is a tendency to exhibit evasive plays, light comedies with sharp jokes but without passing “the threshold of what is allowed”, converting Cuban theater into a merely digestive and conservative space, which refuses to face the situation that Cuba is living today head-on.

Eric Morales

There are some people who have decided to make theater in the privacy of their homes, this in itself is already a political stand, but they need to take advantage of the freedoms that existing outside of institutional spaces offers, instead of repeating the same standards that theater within government spaces have.

The idea is taking theater outside of the institution of theater so that playwrights, directors, actors and critics are all free of their own masks. The latter are characterized by silence, when it comes to uncomfortable plays. Only the rebellion born out of this freedom will be able to create an authentic and revolutionary stage art.

One thought on “Challenges Posed to Cuban Theater

  • May 13, 2017 at 12:43 pm

    The censorship of a communist dictatorship is necessary to create a proletarian mass and to inhibit and eventually eradicate individual thought. Hence the virulent opposition to free media and the need to prevent access to literature that is regarded in any way as counter to communist/socialist ideals.
    In the final sentence Lynn Cruz mentions “freedom”. To Marxists/socialists, freedom implies individuality and choice, both of which are anathema to them.
    As regards the persona of Fidel Castro, his legacy is of multiple affairs with 12 children by 7 different women, of executions, of persecutions, of hatred (he even proposed an initial nuclear strike upon the US), of the insatiable thirst for power and control and an overwhelming arrogance.

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