The Cuban Revolution at Dream Up 2016

The Cuban Revolution at Dream Up 2016

Step aside Castro, there’s a new revolution brewing, and it’s happening at TNC’s Dream Up Festival. “Alpha 66” by Robby Ramos is a new drama that explores the ways a Cuban family is thrown into disarray in the wake of the communist revolution in the 1960s.

Cuba is now, as it has always been, a hot topic in the American sphere. From the beginning of the nation’s history, when Cuba was a colony of Spain, America displayed ambitions to annex, or at least gain de facto control over the island. After Spain’s defeat in the Spanish-American War, the US declared Cuba a protectorate, installing a government whose initial pro-American attitude dissolved into bitter dislike. As a result, it’s little secret to the average passerby that the US and Cuba share a bit of an abusive relationship. Cuba had a rough breakup with America in the 1950s after Dictator Batista’s regime was overthrown by Fidel Castro’s revolutionary movement. Tensions would continue to build between the nations culminating in the Missile Crisis of October 1962- a thirteen day showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union concerning the placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba. And things have been shaky between the two ever since. It wasn’t until the later years of the Obama presidency that a reestablishing of relations between America and Cuba has occurred.

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Papo’s choice between nation and family.

Hence, “Alpha 66” comes at a time when there is a resurgence of interest in Cuba and Cuban goods in the mainland United States, after nearly fifty years of embargoes and travel bans. Tourism in Cuba is expected to increase sharply over the coming years, and famous imports such as Cuban rum and cigars are expected to begin filtering into American markets.

The narrative of the play follows a single family of common people during the apex of the Cuban Missile Crisis. As the American radio host Bill Kenny sends anti-Castro broadcasts into the island nation, the cruel warden of a prison, Madre, has the soldier Papo interrogate his own brother, Rafa, an illustrator who stands accused of distributing a propaganda poster of Che Guevara in drag. As the two brothers confront one another, their younger sister Ava is brought in for interrogation by Madre. As the play progresses, the family’s association with the terrorist group “Alpha 66” becomes evident, and Papo must choose between nation and kinship.

The parallel of the nation and the family is constant throughout the play, and the line between them is often blurred despite it never being crossed. The government in the play focuses on “control through nourishing,” said Aminta de Lara, artistic director of the Sinteatro-Intimus Company and the actor playing Madre, “dictatorships make and effort to turn people into children.” Hence, the play sees the government taking on stern, almost motherly, qualities while Papo’s family begins to resemble politics, focusing on issues of freedom of speech and thought.

The play is also concerned with democracy and freedom and the fragility with which they exist. “We’re hoping very much that we can make them think about such important values about freedom…how important democracy is, and how quickly it can go away,” de Lara said, “People take it for granted.”

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From L to R : Katia Martin as Ava, Txai Frota as Rafa, and Robby Ramos as Papo. Photo by Remy.

The title of the play is derived from Alpha 66, an anti-Castro paramilitary group formed in 1961. Largely based in Miami, Florida, and active during the 1960s and 1970s, Alpha 66 planned several assassinations of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro. Though none of these attempts materialized, and hopes of an invasion to free Cuba from communist rule dissipated with the failure of the United States’ Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961, the group is officially still active today.

“Alpha 66” is written by Robby Ramos of Sinteatro-Intimus, whose family migrated to the United States from Cuba. Sinteatro-Intimus is dedicated to preserving and rediscovering the most basic essence and elements of theatre. “Theatre is about taking photographs of the human soul,” Aminta de Lara said. “Alpha 66” is the first original play the company has produced that is not written by de Lara, and the first play directed by company member Marion Elaine.

“Alpha 66” will premiere at TNC on September 9 at 9:00 PM in the Community Theater. For a full performances schedule, ticket prices, and more info about the play or the festival, please visit www.dreamupfestival.org. For more information about “Alpha 66” please visit http://www.sinteatrointimus.org/.

By Tim Esteves

Dream Up Returns

The annual Dream Up Festival returns to Theater for the New City for its newest season. The Festival annually presents fifteen to twenty new works of theater, with participants from genres of drama, comedy, musicals, experimental theater, physical theater, dance, and staged journalism and non-fiction plays. This year, the Dream Up festival has a range of enticing and challenging new works. Here’s a preview of some of the particularly interesting ideas that crossed our desk.

The play “Alpha 66” by Robby Ramos is a drama set in a Cuban prison during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s. It follows the story of Papo, a pro-Castro revolutionary as he is Alpha66postercalled into the prison in order to interrogate his brother, Rafa, who stands accused of distributing posters of Che Guevara in drag. A work of historical fiction, “Alpha 66” raises questions about duty and family, and how long the bonds of loyalty can hold out under pressure from an omnipotent, oppressive regime. The play arrives at an interesting time, considering a resurgent interest in Cuban culture and politics, following the easing of travel and trading restriction imposed upon the island nation by the United States for nearly half a century. Audiences are invited to view the workings of the Cuban government from the viewpoint of a family caught up in it, all while enjoying newly imported Cuban rum and cigars (finally!).

Another notable participant is “The Joint,” a musical with book by Curtis Jones. This play is set in 1960s Virginia, and features a rocking soundtrack reminiscent of the times. The story follows the young Corrida trying to get back on her feet after a failed career as a singer in New York. She is dragged into a web of secrets, intrigue and romance under the roof of The Joint, a juke club located under her house that has become a point of gathering for the community. With music composed by Timothy Graphenreed of “The Wiz” and choreography by industry veteran and tony award winner Kenneth L. Roberson, “The Joint” promises to be a wild and lively ride through the 1960s.

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“Missamma” performed in Dallas, Texas on March 27, 2016. L-R: Gayathria Kandadai, Kalyani Siddhartha, Rajeswari Udayagiri, Vijaya Bhaskar Rayavaram, Uttej Akupatni. Photo by Bytegraph Productions.

 

“Missamma” is a play written and performed in Telugu, a South Indian Language, with English subtitles, based off the 1955 movie of the same name. “Missamma” follows the story of two Indian immigrants of different religions in 1970s America, who, in order to find employment, must pretend to be a married couple. As the plot thickens, the two begin to develop feelings for one another, while a local detective uncovers a secret that changes their lives forever. Written as a comedy, the play is a family production, accessible to English-speaking audience with humor that is inspired by film legend Charlie Chaplin.

Ivette Dumeng as Charlie Chaplin

“The Chaplin Plays” Ivette Dumeng as Charlie Chaplin. Photo courtesy of Nylon Fusion Theatre Company.

Speaking of Charlie Chaplin, Dream Up is also presenting “The Chaplin Plays: A Double Feature,” by Don Nigro. Performed by Ivette Dumeng of the Nylon Fusion Theatre Company, “The Chaplin Plays” present two new short plays featuring the likeness of everybody’s famous tramp, bowler hat and mustache and all. Both plays explore the question of identity, and follow Chaplin’s ideas about life, death and, oddly enough, monkeys from Siberia. Abandon everything you thought you knew about Chaplin before strolling into this production.

All of these plays will premiere as part of the Dream Up Festival 2016 at Theater for the New City. We invite you to join us from August 28 to September 18 for these plays and more! For information about scheduling, ticket prices, and performance reservations, please visit http://www.dreamupfestival.org.

See you then, and never stop dreaming!

By Tim Esteves