New York’s Repertorio Espanol continues its Cuba-related theatrical presentations with the Oct. 13 opening of Obscure Rumors by Abelardo Estorino, one of Cuba’s most prominent playwrights.
The sensual drama about a poet’s haunted journey of self-discovery was first presented by Repertorio in 1996. The remount, with Estorino directing, is part of the ongoing “CubaTeatro” cultural exchange which brings Cuban artists to Repertorio’s space at the Gramercy Arts Theatre, 138 E. 27th St., in New York City.
Presented in association with Havana’s Teatro Estudio, the play will eventually become part of Repertorio Espanol’s permanent repertory acted by the resident company.
Also planned for the “CubaTeatro” series are the New York premiere of Estorino’s She Looks White (a colonial-set drama about slavery) opening Oct. 29; and, in February 1999, the return of Estorino's 1996 solo monologue, Troubles Don't Go Away.
Repertorio Espanol productions are performed in open-ended runs in Spanish with simultaneous English translation available. Founded in 1968, Repertorio Espanol is the oldest Spanish-language theatre in the country. The production schedule varies, so call (212) 889-2850 for reservations or information. *
Repertorio company members returned Oct. 6 from a weeklong tour of four Cuban cities, including Havana, to plunge into rehearsals toward their Obscure Rumors opening.
The 11 Repertorio company members returning from Cuba were joined by 8 Cuban artists who will contribute to the troupe’s “CubaTeatro” initiative, which began earlier this year with the February staging of Strawberry and Chocolate (with Cuban actor-brothers Omar and Jorge Ali).
One of the usual aspects of Repertorio Espanol’s repertory system is its utter flexibility, publicist Susan L. Schulman told Playbill On-Line. She said groups may request a special performance of one of the many scripts in the rep, meaning specific “runs” of the show are sometimes unclear to chart.
Repertorio's Cuban visit Sept. 26-Oct. 6 is thought to be the first time an American theatre company has toured the communist nation. The troupe traveled to four cities and performed Eduardo Machado’s Broken Eggs , a comedy about a Cuban family’s life in California.
Of the 11 Repertorio members touring Broken Eggs (Revoltillo in Spanish), 8 were Cuban. Among them: Playwright Machado; executive producer Gilberto Zaldivar, who initiated “CubaTeatro”; and leading actors Ricardo Barber and Rene Sanchez, who were well-known in Cuba before their exile.
"It's very moving, the idea of seeing friends they haven't seen in 30 years," said Rene Buch, Repertorio Espanol artistic director, who left Cuba in 1949 and didn't return for this trip due to directing commitments. "We're establishing relations with our own country -- we extend a bridge of understanding where there is little understanding; and we want to keep it an artistic experience, not political."
Broken Eggs, meanwhile, will continue in the troupe’s season repertory of 8-12 scripts.
Repertorio executive director Zaldivar got the notion for the Cuba oriented program in 1995, when he returned to the island he had fled 34 years before. Meeting old friends and colleagues, he thought that his New York company might be reinvigorated by a cultural and personal reunion with the Cuban people. The goal of the exchange, he said, was “to act as a catalyst for a constructive, personal and professional exchange between American and Cuban artists and audiences."
The "CubaTeatro" exchange is sponsored by the Arca Foundation and was made possible by an invitation from Cuba's Union of Writers and Artists (UNEAC) and has been authorized by the Cuban and American governments.
The 1998-99 repertory season will include:
GARCIA LORCA CENTENNIAL SERIES
*El Publico begins Nov. 14.
*Yerma begins Oct. 23.
*The House of Bernardo Alba begins March 18, 1999.
LATIN AMERICAN CLASSICS
*I Swear Jane, I Have an Itch For You by Mexican playwright Emilio Carballido, in repertory.
*She Looks White , a stage version of the Cuban novel, “Cecilia Valdes,” by Estorino, begins Oct. 29.
*Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, begins Jan. 28, 1999.
*Obscure Rumors , by Estorino, begins Oct. 13.
*Strawberry and Chocolate in repertory.
*Broken Eggs in repertory.
*The Blond Man by Louis Delgado, in repertory.
NEW VOICES SERIES
*La Gringa by Carmen Rivera, in repertory.
*The Barber Shop by Candido Tirado, in repertory.
*The Next Stop a world premiere by Carmen Rivera, set in New York City, begins April 1999.
-- By Kenneth Jones