In celebration of the centenary of the birth of controversial Cuban playwright Virgilio Piñera, the University of Miami’s Jerry Herman Ring Theatre and the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures will present five of his brilliant plays under the title of “Absurd Celebration: The First International Festival of Virgilio Piñera’s Theatre.” The plays are produced by a combination of national and international companies and the UM College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Theatre Arts.
“Absurd Celebration” has been chosen as the kick-off event for Taking Flight: The Year of the Humanities and the Arts at the University of Miami.
The five plays and their associated production companies are:
Aire Frío (Cold Air) by Argos Teatro, August 17-19;
El juego de Electra (Electra’s Play) by Mephisto Teatro – Artes y Producciones Artísticas, August 24-26;
Los siervos (The Serfs) by Teatro de la Luna, August 31 through September 2;
Una caja de zapatos vacía (An Empty Shoebox) by La Má Teodora, September 7-9;
Carrying Water in a Sieve, an Evening of Two One-Act Plays: You Always Forget Something and False Alarm by UM Department of Theatre Arts, September 14-22.
Aire Frío, El juego de Electra, Los siervos and Una caja de zapatos vacía will be performed in Spanish with English supertitles. Carrying Water in a Sieve will be performed in English with Spanish supertitles.
All performances are at UM’s Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, 1312 Miller Drive, on the Coral Gables campus; Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m.; Sunday shows are at 5 p.m. Tickets are $20 for general admission and $15 for students and seniors. There is also a discounted festival package that includes admission to all five plays. Festival packages are $75 for general admission and $60 for students and seniors. To purchase tickets, or for more information, call the box office at 305-284-3355 or visit www.miami.edu/ring.
In addition to the performances, there will be a three-day international symposium called “Sexual and Cultural Politics in Virgilio’s Theater” at the University of Miami Wesley Gallery, August 31 to September 2, and an exhibit of Piñera’s materials at the University of Miami’s Cuban Heritage Collection at the Richter Library from August 15 through December 15.
About Virgilio Piñera
Virgilio Piñera Llera (1912-1979) is one of Latin America’s most important playwrights. He is credited for having brought modernism to Latin American theatre and for having written the first theatre of the absurd play. For 12 years he lived in Argentina, where he befriended writers such as Jorge Luis Borges and Witold Gombrowicz, and collaborated with the literary magazines Sur (Buenos Aires) and Orígenes (La Habana).
He died in Cuba, ostracized for his misunderstood creativity, his homosexuality, and his unprejudiced and irreverent personality. As the consummate artist and rebel, Virgilio has become a symbol for the quest of artistic freedom and renovation of styles in literature, the visual arts, and mass media.
Additional support for “Absurd Celebration” comes from the Joseph Carter Memorial Fund, City of Coral Gables, Centro Cultural Español, ABC Charters, Xael Travel, and from the following University of Miami entities: The Cuban Theater Digital Archive, Program in Women’s and Gender Studies, Center for Latin American Studies, Center for the Humanities, and the Richter Library’s Cuban Heritage Collection.
SUMMARY OF VIRGILIO’S PLAYS
Aire Frío (Cold Air)
Internationally renowned director Carlos Celdrán comes to the U.S. for the first time with his version of Virgilio Piñera’s masterpiece. We see the Romaguera family for a dazzling period of 20 years, obsessed with their frustrations and dreams. The protagonist, Luz Marina, is struggling to make ends meet due to their family’s dire economic condition. Art, filial relationships, marital conflicts, and the heat are some elements of this play that, although written 50 years ago, continues to be relevant.
El juego de Electra (Electra’s Play)
Based on Virgilio Piñera’s classic Electra Garrigó, the play that marks Cuba’s entrance to Modernism, Liuba Cid’s version brings to Miami a Cuban-Spanish cast of stars, including Strawberry and Chocolate’s Vladimir Cruz as Agamemnon. Centered on the play’s classic myth, this version underscores seduction and the psychological, sociological, and human depth of its main characters. The non-realist staging, however, is stylized by the avant-garde theatrical languages of Virgilio’s times.
Los Siervos (The Serfs)
After three sold-out performances of Delirio Habanero last October at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium, Teatro de la Luna returns to Miami with Los Siervos. Written in 1955 as a mockery of the false ideology of Soviet Communism, it is an anti-bourgeois farce that derides hierarchies, dictatorships, and the many uses and abuses of power that determine human conduct. Its director takes advantage of absurdist techniques, singing, and dancing to bring us a brilliant and funny play that from stage design to acting techniques is far from the realism we are used to seeing in the contemporary American stage.
Una caja de zapatos vacía (An Empty Shoe Box)
Twenty-five years after the world premiere in Miami, Sarraín brings back to the stage a new version of Piñera’s classic about power relationships. Teresa María Rojas, the grand dame of Spanish theater in Miami, stars as one of three characters who rehearse the transfer of power to the mightiest. This new production highlights the interconnections between gender, sexuality, and politics through the use of black humor.
Carrying Water in a Sieve, an Evening of Two One-Act Plays: You Always Forget Something and False Alarm
Produced by the University of Miami’s Department of Theatre Arts and Jerry Herman Ring Theatre, these two delightful one-act comedies highlight Piñera’s playful sense of humor. The first, You Always Forget Something, is a fanciful comedy about four eccentric women who try to make order out of a capricious society, but by doing so they create chaos, disorder, and mayhem. The other, False Alarm, hilariously portrays the predicament of a man charged with murder who struggles to save his crumbling sanity in the face of a demented widow and an irrational judge. Both short plays exemplify Piñera’s unique writing style and his wonderfully absurd sense of humor.