Ricardo Barber, the Cuban-born stage actor who dedicated the entirety of his career in America as a core member of the award-winning Off-Broadway theatre company Repertorio Español, died December 17 at the age of 81. Repertorio Español, which served as his artistic home for three decades, announced news of his death.
Born in Placetas, Santa Clara, Cuba, Barber studied acting at Universidad de La Habana, where he graduated in 1961—only three years after the Communist revolution that placed Fidel Castro in power. In the years that followed Barber helped form the National Dramatic Group, and later performed with the theatre group La Rueda and Teatro Estudio. His career was abruptly cut short in 1968 when he was imprisoned in one of Castro’s agricultural labor camps, which targeted homosexuals and others deemed undesirable.
Following the abolition of the labor camps, Barber left Cuba for Spain in the mid 1970s to work with Alonso Paso’s Compañía de Comedias. He arrived in New York in 1981, and swiftly found work as a member of the Off-Broadway company Repertorio Español, where he remained until 2012. He became a beloved fixture who dedicated the entirety of his 30-year career in the U.S. to the repertory company that produced the work of Spanish playwrights, such as Calderón, Lope de Vega, and García Lorca, while also embracing the work of Latin American writers and writers who captured the Latin experience in the U.S.
Barber’s numerous stage appearances included the critically acclaimed Spanish-language premiere of Nilo Cruz’s Pulitzer-winning Anna in the Tropics plus Gloria González’s Café Con Leche and Carmen Rivera’s La Gringa; he also starred as Don Quijote in El Quijote. He returned to Cuba in 1998 along with Ana Margarita Martínez-Casado as the first actors in exile to return to their homeland to perform Eduardo Machado’s Broken Eggs.
Barber retired from acting in 2014. He is survived by his sisters Rosa and Violeta Barber, his nephew Luis Mallo, his wife Ana Nery Fragoso, and his grandnephew Sergio Mallo.