Playhouse Cubano

A controversial theater troupe finds a new home in Miami

In Miami the chances of a low-budget theater company finding a permanent home are as good as discovering a ramshackle HUD house in ritzy CocoPlum, but seven-year-old, Spanish-language troupe La Má Teodora has done just that. It opened La Magagna,a 150-seat warehouse space off Bird Road and SW 74th Court. Inaugurating the room: Manteca, a Spanish-language work by Cuban playwright Alberto Pedro, which debuted in 1997 at a black-box theater downtown. When the playhouse was demolished, the run was halted, so it's fitting that Manteca would christen La Magagna. "The play is about human beings struggling for their dreams and hopes," explains co-director Lillian Manzor. "It's about the search for utopia. In the case of the three characters, that utopia is partly food. But for us, our utopia is to have a space where we can perform whatever we want."

Two years ago La Má Teodora director Alberto Sarrain spoke against the Cuba ordinance, which outlawed touring Cuban artists from performing in Miami-Dade County. Not surprisingly the group's first International Monologue Festival inviting Cubans from all over the world received plenty of flak last year. But the event sold out. This year at the last minute, two venues allegedly cancelled agreements to stage part of a La Má Teodora minifestival because exiles had threatened to protest the presence of Cuban actress Veronica Lynn. A few weeks ago, one of those venues urged the company to stage Manteca elsewhere since the play's author would travel from Cuba. Hence the troupe's new home.

The word magagna is Italian for fiction, theater. Literally, it is the substance eyes secrete that changes vision. Obviously La Má Teodora has foresight, having planned several shows for summer and fall. Among them: the first collaboration between Cuban actors -- five from Miami and five from the island -- who will debut the play Se Parece Blanca here and in Cuba. Eventually La Magagna may foster clearer vision for all.

 
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