U.S. theatre production Big Love travels to Cuba

Posted: 14-Oct-15 17:40

Participating in the upcoming Havana Theatre Festival that's to be celebrated at the end of this month, a group of U.S. students from Webster Conservatory of Theatre Arts will join University's 2015 Global Leaders in Residence Flora Lauten and Raquel Carrio in Havana to bring their Big Love production to the Cuban capital.

U.S. theatre production Big Love travels to Cuba

The cast of Big Love; from the Webster’s Conservatory of Theatre Arts in St. Louis, Missouri; is currently packing up their bags amidst in the process of making the last preparations and rehearsals before they head to Cuba on 19th October, where they will be taking part in Havana’s Theatre Festival and staging their production – Big Love.

Included in the trip are two faculty members, three student crew members and 15 student actors and three of these have already graduated from Webster University since the show’s first run. They will all spend a week in Havana, giving them enough time to navigate the trickier aspects of staging a production this size and scale overseas, especially in a country with several infrastructure limitations and limited capacity to obtain props. During this time they will not only work on getting the set ready but will also have to manage finding prop pieces that couldn’t be shipped to Cuba.

A challenge in more ways than one but also an immense privilege and reward, as revealed by Associate Professor of Theatre Arts and director of Big Love Jef Awada, the Big Love production is rearing and eager to go;

"This is a chance for our students to intersect with fellow artists from around the world, to show their wonderful work to an international audience, and to experience what it is like to make theatre under much less comfortable conditions than we are used to in the US,"

The plan is to wow Cuban crowds at Teatro Las Carolinas in Old Havana, where Big Love’s production will run alongside other shows put together by professional theatre companies from Brazil, Russia and Spain, among other participating countries.

For now the Big Love crew is concentrating fully on getting everything down to perfection before the big day comes but they intend to make the most of their time in Cuba while there. Awada added;

"There will also be other performances in the festival for us to see and workshops and panels to attend with theatre makers from around the world,”

“[Students] will see performances and encounter ways of thinking about theatre that will force them to consider new possibilities and paths for their careers."

Student Kyle Twomey, who will act in the production as Giuliano, said that Cuba’s “less than comfortable conditions” made preparing for the festival in Havana quite different from organising the show’s initial run for the first few seasons. He noted how everyone in the Big Love group had spent a lot of time just learning abut Cuba and working through the challenges of the logistics, which involved not only planning how to get there, but taking every essential item they would need to stage the play.

"We have to take all sorts of props like fake blood and weapons, our costumes, makeup. Reviving a show, regardless of travel, is also a different experience. We go back to rehearsals… to try to find the show we had a few months back. The rehearsal process will be much faster this time. So we are all expected to show up [in Havana] at performance level, ready to go."

Speaking about the many possibilities for further cultural exchange that the renewal of political ties between Cuba and the U.S. brought to the table, Awada concluded;

"Obviously, that Cuba is opening up to Americans, or the other way around – it is fantastic to be part of that conversation. We have an email from our contact in the Ministry of Culture in Havana that says they see us as excellent cultural ambassadors. We all feel lucky to be on the leading edge of this change."


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