Controversial Cuban Play Taken Off the Stage

It only lasted one weekend of performances

Luis Rondon Paz

From the play The King is Dying.

HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban website Cubarte informed Internet users last week that the play El Rey Se Muere (“The King Is Dying”), a production staged by the El Ingenio theater company, was suspended on instructions from the National Stage Arts Council (CNAE) and Havana’s Theater Center. According to the note published, “the Tito Junco Theater at the Bertolt Brecht Cultural Center will offer an alternative program.”

“I liked the play. It’s a shame these things continue to happen, considering the times we’re going through,” Juan Jose, a retired man commented, pointing out how counterproductive he felt the CNAE’s decision is and blaming the institution for not encouraging debate and exchange through the theater. He added, quite convinced, that he did not see many similarities between the play’s king and the leader of the Cuban revolution, as the latter always opposed using his name and image for monuments and the like.

“He can go to hell, for all I care,” said Javier, a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Havana, reproaching Juan Carlos Cremata (the play’s director) for having granted an interview to the opposition Marti Noticias (“Marti News”) after the play was suspended.

Many different opinions – in favor of and against the play – have been heard. Now, it’s been suspended and many have been left eager to see something different, transgressive and challenging.

“If the shoe fits, then take it off. It’s time to mature and grow. We’re an educated people capable of making our own decisions, or aren’t we?” a theater expert who wished to remain anonymous commented.

Even though the play El Rey se Muere was taken off Cuban stages, its director Juan Carlo Cremata declared in an interview: “Neither prohibitions nor censorship are going to shut us up. This is not the time to keep quiet. We won’t keep quiet and we’re going to continue doing and saying what we have to where we know how, through our art, through theater, through cinema, even if this means doing it under different conditions. We’ll see.”

8 thoughts on “Controversial Cuban Play Taken Off the Stage

  • Could you please provide evidence that “Hair” was banned in Canada 3 years ago?

    I found a 2011 production of the now classic musical at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, and a 2014 production at the Randolph Theatre, also in Toronto. Also in 2014, a production of the musical was performed in Orillia, a sleepy, rather conservative town north of Toronto.

    I found no mention of any production being banned. Are you sure you didn’t make that up?

  • “Hair” was banned here in Canada only 3 years ago, and try yelling “I like Fidel Castro and his beard” at la Carreta or Alliestarán on a busy night and see what “freedom of speech” protection under the USA Constitution is good for in Miami.

  • You are correct but those things have changed. In fact that’s 40 years ago! Even then it was news! And “fortunate Som” (awesome protest song) was still a hit even then! We are in the second decade of the 21st century and Cuba still has trouble with the simplest forms of free expression!

  • Right here in Canada, a free, democratic country by all accounts, the play “Hair” was banned from the stage because it had “NUDITY, BAD WORDS and OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE”. I remember the banning and blacklisting of Credence Clearwater Revival over “Fortunate One”; or the fraudulent winning of Song of the Year by “the Ballad of the Green Berets” when the actual winner was “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire. Censorship is everywhere, my friend, every government exercises some control over what you hear and see, Canada and the USA are no exception and neither is Cuba…in fact, no country or government thereof is free of sin here, so go blow your horn to fight against this trend where you live as it affects your life and that of your family, your friends and your country of residence. Let Cubans in Cuba handle that “problem” if they feel they must.

  • Freedom of the individual.

  • Control, control, control Moses and IC. We all know that. It’s getting tired and could backfire!

  • Hey!….Castros. It’s only a play. These decrepit old men should watch old episodes of Saturday Night Live to see how the comics skewer US Presidents. Guess what? No pasa nada. Why are frickin’ socialists so thin-skinned? What are the Castros afraid of?

  • “….We’re an educated people capable of making our own decisions, or aren’t we?” I’m so sorry. The Castro’s repressive mechanisms will always error on the side of censorship. They don’t want you making your own decisions. The Cuban government looks askance at those who make their own do so, especially those that decisions that deviate from the government line. Towing the government line is what its all about, as the young journalism student quoted above so clearly demonstrated.

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