El Público Takes Production of Antigone From Havana to Miami

El Público Takes Production of Antigone From Havana to Miami
Courtesy of Artburst Miami

Miami’s Fundarte planned to bring a searing production of Sophocles' Antigone — or more precisely Antigonon, un Contingente Epico (perhaps best translated as a really big, maybe the biggest Antigone, ever) — to town last year. Everything was in place. Except visas.

The production hails from Havana, Cuba, and though the visas weren't acquired in time before, they're here now, and the internationally celebrated El Público company will perform this weekend in Miami.

The story line may be a classic, but El Público's founder and longtime director, Carlos Diaz, has built his reputation on reimagining things traditional. Indeed, his company is nicknamed “the most irreverent on the island.” This production is a genre-bending collaboration with a number of Cuban artists, beginning with dramatist Rogelio Orizondo’s script. But Antigonon arguably owes as much to emerging Cuban artists' work in dance, music, and even cinema, considering the production’s use of projected archival photographs and film clips. Let’s not forget the costumes — wild and woolly, some reminiscent of the Tropicana, some scantier still.

As one might expect with work out of Havana, metaphor is at the heart of the production.

El Público Takes Production of Antigone From Havana to Miami
Courtesy of Artburst Miami

Let’s take a step back: Antigone is the story of two brothers fighting over a kingdom. The battle is terrible, and when it's over, the winning brother is cruel in his victory. He forbids his sibling the minimal respect due to him; there will be no burial. His body is left to rot until the brothers’ sister steps in. Soon, more hell breaks loose as even the gods urge moderation while the winning brother essentially insists, “It's my way or the highway.” Long story short: Everybody loses, including the kingdom itself.

Sound familiar? El Publico’s production includes guest appearances by José Martí and archival footage from the Stalin years in the former Soviet Union.

After a premiere at the International Theater Festival in Havana, the company presented the work more than a hundred times in theaters in the Vedado section of Havana. Each performance was sold out.

And this was tolerated by the state? “In Cuba, theater is more free than film,” says Ever Chavez, a Cuban native whose organization, Fundarte, is presenting Antigonon in Miami. “Even if a show has a long run and is sold out, far fewer persons will see the work. Film, with its huge audiences, has far more trouble. It is film that the authorities shut down in an instant.”

This is not the first time Fundarte has brought El Público to South Florida. Most recently, last November in a collaboration with the University of Miami and Miami-Dade County Auditorium, Fundarte presented Yellow Dream Road, another Carlos Diaz and Rogelio Diaz combined effort, this one concentrating on the Miami/Havana affair.

Miami audiences may also remember the company’s reworking of another classic, Caligula, as well as its rendition of the Fassbinder film The Bitter Tears of Petra Van Kant. The company also gave its particular twist to the Nilo Cruz Pulitzer winner, Anna in the Tropics.

El Público Takes Production of Antigone From Havana to Miami
Courtesy of Artburst Miami

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If El Público's work is all about rethinking borders, so is Fundarte’s Chavez. It's no small surprise, because Chavez worked closely with Diaz for years in Cuba as the producer for El Público. These days, Chavez is busy facilitating more and more cultural exchange between Miami and Havana, including opportunities for Miami actors to train with some of the best of the island’s directors.

“A great deal of talent can finally come together,” he says.

– Elizabeth Hanly, artburstmiami.com

Antigonon, un Contingente Epico
8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday at the Black Box at Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flager St. Performances are in Spanish with English subtitles. Tickets cost $30. Visit fundarte.us or call 305-316-6165.

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