Vivian Martínez, director of the Theater Department of the Casa de las Américas, stated that the guest companies will perform pieces that have the imprint of their cultures and countries. Photo: Courtesy of Casa de Las Americas

The Season of Latin American and Caribbean Theater, Mayo Teatral 2016, to be held in Havana offers a solid program of plays, in which guest companies will dialogue with each other and Cuban audiences.

The event represents a special opportunity to be entertained in the capital’s theaters, to have a good time, while being obliged to think, as these are not superficial or simplistic dramas, but thought-provoking proposals that play to emotions.

An overview of the Mayo Teatral program, presented by thespian Vivian Martínez Tabares, director of the Theater Department of the Casa de las Américas and director general of the Season, supports this view.

Speaking during a press conference in the Manuel Galich Hall, she noted that curating is more than a making a selection, it is about assuming a position on what is considered the best to have been presented. “We have 15 guests companies, our event is small, but of high quality,” she added.

The coincidence, this 2016, of significant anniversaries of five theater groups from Latin America and Cuba sparked the idea of bringing some of them together and dedicating this edition of Mayo Teatral to the theme of ensemble theater, Tabares explained.

Teatro La Candelaria from Colombia, is celebrating 50 years of uninterrupted work, as an emblematic reference on the continent. The Colombian group will perform Camilo, based on the memory of sociologist, guerrilla and priest Camilo Torres. This is not a biographic piece, but rather this figure is brought into the present.

The Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani of Peru, which turns 45 this year and is dedicated to exploring Peruvian identity and the actor’s conduct on stage, presents Cartas de Chimbote, based on the collected letters of José Maria Arguedas, a key figure of Peruvian culture, together with the solo pieces Confesiones and Vibraciones.

Other guests include Teatro Gayumba, from the Dominican Republic, with the piece El Quijote no existeby Argentine-Chilean playwright Jorge Díaz Gutiérrez, a contemporary look at the life of Don Quixote and its author Miguel de Cervantes.

Also celebrating their first two decades of existence are Cuba’s Argos Teatro, led by the 2016 National Theater Prize winner Carlos Celdrán, and El Ciervo Encantado, headed by Nelda Castillo.

Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani presents Cartas de Chimbote, based on the collected letters of José Maria Argueda, a key figure of Peruvian culture. Photo: Courtesy of Casa de Las Americas

El Ciervo Encantado will perform their latest successful premiere, ¡¡Guan Melon!! ¡¡Tu Melon!! which, as the Casa notes in the comprehensive program, is “another urgent performance. It presents the scene in no uncertain terms and without concessions. Civic engagement and exorcism that brings to the ring a gallery of people adrift. Stricken characters that cross the battlefield that is Cuba today.” The group is also presenting Triunfadela again, the one-person play with a winning performance by Mariela Brito.

Argos Teatro is putting on another of the pieces that saw a full house for weeks, Mecánica, offering the opportunity to enjoy a magnificent performance by Yuliet Cruz, accompanied by Carlos Luis González, Rachel Pastor, José Luis Hidalgo or Waldo Franco and Yailín Coppola.

In addition to the three aforementioned international groups, three others were invited to participate: La Tribo de Atuadores Ói Nóis Aqui Trabéis from Brazil, with Evocando a los muertos-Poéticas de la experiencia, a stripped-down show by actor Tania Farias; Chilean company Viajeinmóvil, presenting an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Othello, through an elaborate game of manipulation of objects; and Los Colochos, a young Mexican company directed by Juan Carrillo, who will perform Mendoza, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth, approaching the classic through their own references.

Nine Cuban companies are participating in this year’s Mayo Teatral, offering the best of their works from the past two years.

Teatro El Público will present Harry Potter, se acabó la magia, a graduation piece by actors from the National Theater School. Directed by Carlos Díaz, the play presents the aspirations and concerns of a group of young people, which transcend generations and contexts, to embrace the human condition.

Teatro La Rosa, a company created by Roxana Pineda, dares to take on a text by Eduardo Galeano, with Las venas abiertas (based on Open Veins of Latin America). The piece is a performative recital by Pineda, who joins two musicians, Alejandro Year, on clarinet and vocals, and Juan Manuel Campos, on piano, violin and vocals, responsible for the musical arrangements and production.

Danza Contemporanea was invited to participate with notable pieces including Matria Etnocentra, cherography by George Céspedes. Photo: Courtesy of Casa de Las Americas

Danza Contemporánea, directed by maestro Miguel Iglesias, will provide a concert program that includes three remarkable works, three types of languages and choreographic choices: a rather controversial piece, El cristal, by Julio César Iglesias; Cenit, by Laura Domingo Agüero using the song “La Catedral” by Agustín Barrios Mangoré; and Matria Etnocentra, by George Céspedes, with Cuban electronic music and the song “Vete de mí”, sung by Ignacio Villa, better known as “Bola de Nieve”.

El Portazo, under the direction of Pedro Franco presents a piece they premiered at the last Havana International Theater Festival, CCPC, The Cuban Coffee by Portazo´s Cooperative, with which they re-contextualize the renowned cabaret aesthetic.

Éxtasis: un homenaje a la Madre Teresa de Ávila, the most recent piece by Teatro Buendía, marks the return to the stage of its director Flora Lauten, a real jewel of the Season, but offering only two functions. Éxtasis... by Raquel Carrió and Flora Lauten is a version of the play Teresa, by Cuban playwright Eduardo Manet, which recreates a set of letters by St. Teresa of Avila from the years when she founded the Discalced Carmelite Convents in Spain.

For children, Teatro de las Estaciones, from Matanzas, under the direction of Rubén Darío Salazar presents Los dos príncipes. The inspiration for the piece is the poem of the same name by José Martí, based on a text by Helen Hunt.

Following the presentation of the Mayo Teatral program, Granma International spoke with thespian Vivian Martínez Tabares:

You have selected what you consider the best pieces of the past two years. What are the key trends observed in Cuban theater in these years?

I think contemporary Cuban theatre, based on various expressive languages, diverse creative options, as it is clear that there are many poetic options, is a theater engaged in a dialogue with current social issues. These are works that are talking of tensions, contradictions, and fortunately they are doing so in an elaborate way, sometimes appealing to realism, but sometimes appealing to other types of discourse, and I believe this is why it’s lively theater, because even when seeing plays that may have a fictional context that is not contemporary, which is not present-day or identifiable, they are related to the spirit of the topics being discussed by Cubans, the moment we are experiencing.

Could you give an example?

I would offer the example of a piece such as Cuban Coffee by Portazo, which is a multidimensional creation in its scope. It is a cabaret that has music, theater, sketch, open moments for the public to dance, which also has as its essence the recreation of landscapes of Cuban history such as the Protest of Baraguá, cited in the piece in a very peculiar way, very cabaret, in the sense of good political cabaret. It uses texts of Cuban literature and history, re-contextualized to discuss current issues such as migration, which is such a sensitive topic of our reality and so debatable. This is one example, perhaps the most eloquent, but I think all Cuban theater, including the dance pieces, although the dance is more abstract, more conceptual, are also debating contemporary Cuban tensions.

The Latin American plays come with the same proposal of approaching reality...

Exactly, each one talks about their problems, what concerns their people, but of all the works there is not one that you can say is detached from the context in which it was created. They come with the imprint of their cultures and countries. In this sense the Cuban public will learn to understand and discover, in a poetic, symbolic way, aspects of the realities of these countries beyond what the news teaches us or what we read in the press.

The Season of Latin American and Caribbean Theater, Mayo Teatral 2016, to be held May 13-22, has, since 2001, provided a special opportunity to be entertained in the capital’s theaters, to have a good time, while being obliged to think