Few playwrights are busier than Eduardo Machado, whose most recent play, The Modern Ladies Of Guanabacoa was read at NH's American Stage Festival in August. He also recently wrote and directed his first feature film (Racing Blind), and has spent the last two years writing plays on commission for NY's Public and Roundabout Theatres.
Now, another Machado look at Cuban life, Cuba and the Night is headed for NY's Theatre for the New City. Set just after the death of Cuban revolutionary Jose Marti, the play looks at a rich plantation owner's daughter who marries a capitalistic, pro-U.S. rebel whose motto becomes "profit and family before honor and country." The wife moves from romantic notions to martyrdom as the play shows how, according the show's press materials, Cuba's corruption came from Europe, rather than from the Cubans themselves.
Rogelio Martinez and author Machado co-direct Cuba's world premiere, which begins previews Mar. 12, opens Mar. 14 and runs to Apr. 5. The show stars Tatyana Yassukovich, Yul Vasquez, Jaime Sanchez, Heather Sims and Ed Vassalio. Robert Maiorano choreographs, with Katherine Roth designing the costumes.
As if these projects weren't keeping him busy enough, Machado has been tapped to head the Playwriting Program at Columbia University's School Of The Arts Theatre Arts Division. He teaches first, second and third year graduate students, as well as an undergraduate dramatic writing class. He started in the beginning of September, taking over for previous head, Romulus Linney.
Plays by the Cuban-born Machado include Once Removed, Steve Wants To Play The Blues, Rosario And The Gypsies, Why To Refuse and the four play cycle, Floating Islands, of which The Modern Ladies of Guanabacoa is the first. In 1995 he served as playwright-in-residence at CA's Mark Taper Forum. He's taught at NYU, Sarah Lawrence and the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis. Machado told Playbill On-Line (Sept. 30) he has a very specific theatre theory which he's trying to implement at Columbia. "For a lot of years Stanislavski has become a dirty word in this country," said Machado. "But I really believe in his idea of the Method. And playwrights should write plays that are motivated from action, dramatic action, rather than from symbolism and word pyrotechnics. The theatre right now is divided into avant-garde wordplay and boulevard comedies passing for drama. Most directors and dramaturgs really don't know how to break down plays through the dramatic action."
Asked if there's any real way an educator can change the shape of a playwright's work, Machado answered, "I think you can influence people by giving them this knowledge. Of course, you want everyone to find their own play in their own voice. A teacher shouldn't want his students to sound like himself. But I've taught for the past six years, concentrating on creating exercises for the playwright equivalent to Stanislavski's exercises for the actor."
Machado does admit to one career stumbling block: "Oddly enough, my plays are never produced in Latin-America. I thought that would change when they started getting done in New York, in Spanish, but it didn't happen, which is incredible to me. Ah well, but the truth is, I love working."
-- By David Lefkowitz