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“Theater in a Cuba” – Boyd Taylor

For my presentation, I will be addressing the prevalence of theatre in Cuban society as well as the process through which a company must go in order to stage a production in a socialist country. In the United States we are free to say what we want and produce what we want; however, in Cuba it is different. Not only can one not produce anything too persuasively anti-socialist, the government must also make sure that whatever they produce grosses a large profit.

By talking to Julian Toledo, the president of the Consejo Nacional de Artes y Escenas, I plan to find out just how difficult it is to put on a show in this country. In Cuba, if any show is going to be put on or any concert is to be played, it must go through Julian first. I also plan to get a general idea on what role theatre plays in Cuban life and how it has been used as propaganda in favor of Castro’s regime.

In the United States, the main problem that people run into when putting on a play is money. The question becomes “how much can we pay for costumes and props and a stage?” In Cuba, the question is not simply how much one can afford, it is also a question of how much of what is needed they will be able to find. Seeing as all workers are paid by the state, carpenters for specific props and workers for an intricate set are near impossible to find as none of the state workers would be specialized enough to satisfy such a necessity. Also, the government heavily controls paint and, as a result, painted backdrops and props are almost nonexistent.

In March, the University of Alabama’s theatre department will have the opportunity to have a production in Cuba. I also plan to interview members of this production in order to get an idea of how difficult it is for an American organization to put on a show in a country with which political relations are a little strained to say the least.

By talking to Cuban natives, I hope to gain an understanding of how important it is for them to get to see, and even escape into, a production. In the United States, especially since the recession, there has been a decline in attendance to theatrical production and television and cinema have largely replaced the family outing to the theatre. In Cuba, though cinema and television are still prevalent, I hope to find that the theatre still maintains the popularity it once had in the United States.