By John Thomason
By Benjy Caplan
By Artburst Miami
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Daniel Reskin
With the first International Monologue Festival barely finished and the sixteenth International Hispanic Theatre Festival just beginning, South Florida audiences are reveling in one of our greatest assets: the abundance of talented local artists who work in Spanish and Portuguese. The International Hispanic Theatre Festival, which runs from June 1 through June 17, will present fourteen companies (including three local) from eight different nations in a variety of venues throughout Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Coral Gables, South Beach, Key Biscayne, and Homestead. The festival will open with Teatro Avante's performance of Cenizas Sobre El Mar(Ashes on the Sea), the story of four rafters who have been adrift at sea for 500 years. Festival director Mario Ernesto Sanchez, like any South Florida resident, assumed the rafters were Cuban when he first heard about the script. But the play actually is by Colombian playwright José Assad, who wrote the script in 1989 to commemorate the 500-year anniversary of the discovery of America.
For aficionados of Cuban theater, Miami-Dade Community College's resident theater company, Prometeo, will be presenting two plays by two of the most well-known writers from the island: Reinaldo Arenas and Lydia Cabrera. Prometeo was lucky enough to get the rights to perform the third act of Persecución, the only play ever written by Arenas. The company also will perform Suandende, a play adapted by artistic director Teresa Maria Rojas from one of Lydia Cabrera's Yoruban tales. Finally a new addition to the festival, the company Femenino Plural, will perform the Spanish play Hombres.Originally commissioned by Spain's critically acclaimed Companya T de Teatre, Hombres consists of five short plays that explore the male psyche but are designed to be performed by women. With Maria Banda Rodaz directing, six actresses will take on myriad dramatically challenging male and female roles.
Besides traveling the globe to bring the best Hispanic theater to South Florida, Sanchez has a tireless passion to share Hispanic culture with non-Spanish speakers: "It's very rewarding when I bring a Brazilian company to the festival and the theater is filled with Brazilians, but I think it should be the opposite, too." To help realize this dream, five of this year's plays will be performed with opera-style supertitles in English. The festival is capitalizing more than ever on the universality of music and dance to reach non-Spanish-speaking audiences. To close the theater festival and open the 23rd annual Florida Dance Festival, which will run June 12 through June 30, the Brazilian company Lumini Companhia de Dança will present a theatrical dance piece called Materiaon June 17 at the Colony Theater. The International Hispanic Theatre Festival also will cohost two additional dance companies with the Florida Dance Association: Compañía Susana Reyes from Ecuador and Fundación L'Explose from Bogotá. Also, for the first time in the festival's history, a concert will be held: Alauda Ensemble from Mexico will perform Latin-American classics at Lincoln Theatre.
Once again South Florida is in the spotlight -- not for its multinational flag-waving or questionable voting practices but rather for its theater. Already the largest Hispanic theater festival in the United States, this year the International Hispanic Theatre Festival will travel to New York City for the first time ever. In a partnership with Cora Cahan of New 42nd Street and Noreen Tomassi of Arts International, five of the companies will perform in the Big Apple. Taking culture to New York is just the tip of the iceberg: The festival is drawing attention from places further west. "I've had calls from people in Albuquerque, San Antonio, and Chicago who are interested in extending the festival to their cities," says Sanchez. He hopes the festival eventually can establish a touring route throughout the United States.