Playwright Migdalia Cruz, one of the country's best known Latina dramatists, has been researching the effects of war on children for over two years. Her efforts have paid off; Connecticut Repertory Theatre has officially commissioned her to write a play on the subject.
Cruz becomes the first-ever Sackler Artist-in-Residence at the University of Connecticut's School of Fine Arts, for which Connecticut Rep is the producing wing. (The Sacklers are Greenwich residents and long time, generous arts supporters.)
"She is a unique Connecticut voice," said the Rep's artistic director, Gary English. "Her writing is honest and uncompromising. Our students will gain valuable experience and insights from the opportunity to work with her in the development of this new play." Cruz will stay at UConn this coming winter, while the play gets a workshop at CRT.
The author's most recent work was an Off-Broadway adaptation of Lorca's House Of Bernarda Alba, titled Another Part Of The House. Other plays include Miriam's Flower, Dreams Of Home, Telling Tales and Occasional Grace.
Director of Theatre Programming at Latino Chicago, Cruz recently saw her play, Fur, revived at Chicago's Steppenwolf Studio Theatre. She's now working on a play called Salt, about "a family of child prostitutes that lives in a salt mound on the highway of Chicago's South Side," Cruz told Playbill On-Line. "It's based on a true story of young boy prostitutes who used to live near the East River. These are rootless children forced to find family and spiritual healing. The play shows how the mechanics of a city and politics can destroy children." Cruz added that there's also "a priest -- and a Messiah" which leads to the question of whether her work falls into the category of "magic realism" -- a label given so many current Hispanic playwrights. "I think my work falls more under "poetic realism." I wouldn't call it magic realism; if you believe, say, in ghosts, then it's not magic. I try to give voice to people in society who often aren't considered worthy or capable of poetry. Even with Lorca, I was inspired by his play and wanted to explore it further. But I didn't deconstruct it or make it something else. It's like that potion that children's book character Encyclopedia Brown has called `everything moreso.' It's the same, but moreso."
Asked about future projects, Cruz said her next play, being developed for New York's Public Theatre, will be about poet and doctor Ramon Betances, considered "the first father of Puerto Rican Independence. The play will show the 1860s movement to break from Spain. It's the second work in Cruz's Puerto Rican political history series for the Public, the first being Lolita de Llares, about the 1950s' Lolita Lebron, who spent 27 years in prison for storming Congress and wounding five Congressman in the cause of Puerto Rican independence.
Recent world premieres staged at CRT include Brad Korbesmeyer's Open Window and a Second Stage mounting of Tania L. Katan's Stages.
--By David Lefkowitz