Although a Spanish-language version of playwright Samuel Beckett's masterpiece Waiting for Godot helped inaugurate Little Havana's new Latin Quarter Cultural Center, Tony Wagner, artistic director and owner, waited for no one when it came to creating a truly multipurpose arts venue. With a shoestring budget, some grant money, and the help of a few talented artists, he recently opened the 13,000-square-foot complex at SW Eighth Street and Fifteenth Avenue that will serve as a performance space, gallery, dance studio, and more.
The center houses the Latin Quarter Grand Orchestra directed by Omar Torres, as well as a gallery, which currently features a 40-year retrospective by photographer Asela focusing on plays, concerts, and performances that filled the Miami-Dade County Auditorium. In addition the space offers theatergoers an eclectic variety of Spanish-language plays, opening with the aforementioned Esperando a Godot, directed by Rolando Moreno and performed by Mario Martin, Carlos Cruz, Jorge Hernandez, and Olga Flora. If theatergoers missed its first run, the tragicomedy will reappear as a matinee when the stage reopens on January 11.
Debuting too will be three short pieces called Tres en Uno or Three in One. First up is Yo Prefiero a Caballero (I Prefer Caballero), a short play by Christie Sanchez, which takes place in the day room of a Little Havana activity center as two lifelong friends plan their funerals. Will it be Caballero or Rivero funeral home? As the discussion progresses, the friendship begins to unravel into a comic farce of stories, secrets, and misperceptions. Julio O'Farrill's comedy Esto No Tiene Nombre (This Defies Description) revolves around a conversation between a bossy, loudmouthed Cuban wife and her henpecked husband, who remains anonymous behind the sports page. Closing the trilogy is writer/composer/actor Jorge Hernandez's Canciones Que Rompen La Rutina (Songs that Break the Routine), a medley of Cuban standards from son to bolero that incorporates poetry, humor, and narrative.
After an intense opening play, it's not surprising that center honchos chose a lighthearted trio of works for the new year. As executive producer Vivian Ruiz explains: "2002 was tough on many levels. We want to start out 2003 with something that will make people laugh."
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