Table of Contents
The Cuban theater, masks and emotions
The theater, an artistic manifestation that moves emotions and thought, has its own history and evolution on the largest island in the Caribbean.
Data from centuries in the world and also Cuba where new horizons towards other manifestations are experienced and sought. Thus appears the ballet-theater; theater-dance and music magazines.
The effort to consolidate the lyrical theater is also considerable.
Even humorous groups have their own annual event, and others that use universal theater classics and other genres like docudrama.
The theater in Cuba has a fascinating history full of nuances, protagonists and characters that invite you to know, it is another of the treasures of the island.
Origin of the Cuban theater
The areítos, the first manifestation of theater in Cuba.
It is recognized by many that the areitos were the highest expression of Cuban aboriginal culture, a word that means to rehearse or recite.
In them came singing, dancing, poetry, choreography, music, makeup, pantomime organized by the tequina or choreographer, teacher, craftsman or expert.
These rites saw the birth of the first Cuban poets, actors and musicians, in an artistic representation full of religious elements that alluded to their own stories, the tribe, their identity and the environment.
They were historical narratives that told the main deeds and exploits of chiefs and lords, as well as day-to-day events related to fertilization and new harvests.
There is no availability of a place or theater as it happened with other aboriginal cultures, it happened in the batey, which was the plaza or in the caney that were their homes.
Their dances, either in a row, or circular, or at an angle with the line of dancers and the makeup of the dancers-actors, made from feathers and flowers, with their bodies painted in red and black resulting in themselves a spectacle.
The music was played with a drum, made of wood, called mayohuacán, and primitive trumpets (guamos) formed by large sea snails, elemental maracas, flautillas, and a kind of rattle, built with univalve shells, which they used on arms and legs.
The voices of the dancers, dance, drink and music, achieve an enthusiasm shared by all and through which an environment conducive to celebrating religious rites is achieved and brings joy to the tribe. With the arrival of the Spanish and the disappearance of the aborigines, the areitos disappeared.
The colonization ended the aboriginal life and propitiated the theater followed its course this time with the patterns brought from Spain.
The Christian festivals of Corpus Christi, dating from 1520, were the first example. They were also called car parties due to the presence of wagons that transported the car phonies, accompanied by music, songs and dances.
The pioneer of the theater was called Pedro de Castilla who in 1520 brought out a Corpus dance, and for a long time he talked about his work in organizing shoemakers, blacksmiths, carpenters and caulkers so that cars and dresses, that is, scenery and costumes, as well as all theatrical machinery and inventions of tramoya, be ready.
Then came Juan Pérez de Bargas and Jorge Ortiz, who managed to win Havana in the presence of string and wind musicians who cheered public parties, not only that of Corpus Christi but also those of San Cristóbal, San Marcial and San Miguel.
Parallel to Corpus Christi, black slaves also began to present their own ceremonial-type demonstrations. They were organized by the councils, simple representations of profane cars showed the strength of African cultures.
First theater play and first theaters.
The first work recognized in the Cuban theater is “The Gardener Prince and Pretended Chloridane” by Santiago de Pita and Borroto, which was published between 1730 and 1733 in Seville.
Away from Cuban reality, he alludes to gallant knights.
It is the first Cuban dramatic text and the prelude to the Cuban popular scene that also gave rise to the appearance of the theater as an institution in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.
In 1775 the Coliseum theater appeared and in 1838 the Tacón theater, now García Lorca, was inaugurated. Then came the Italian opera and the zarzuela and the dramatic theater was delivered to the great Spanish companies. Cuban artists went to the most humble and popular theaters.
The little devils
The very life of the slave community, its struggles and forbidden wishes, as well as syncretism gradually gave rise to ceremonies where they represented everything.
The Three Kings Day brought the little devils, one of the most significant characters in the Cuban theater. There were the culonna or sage, the Egungun, the mojiganga, the kokoríkamo, the furry, dwarves, the anaquillé, ancestor of the rod puppets, the mamarrachos and the snake.
It was in a few words the street theater. They were dramatic scenes, where decimals were recited and songs were sung, that free blacks performed to get a few pennies from their white masters.
A street theater with satire, choirs, criticism with groups of possible Mandinga and Conga influence.
It has been revitalized by the Cabildo Teatral de Santiago, source of national creation, in search of popular expression and traditional popular culture.
The Cuban theater of the 19th century brought the negrito.
In only thirty years the Cuban theater arises. Covarrubias inaugurated the vernacular and the negrito genre, and soon after the playwrights and romanticism appeared.
It was a fertile period because comedy gained ground, melodrama dealt with serious conflicts, new theaters were built, companies organized and excellent national performers appeared.
Cuba became a theatrical plaza of the first order, but with the discrimination and censorship of the Cuban artist, the theatrical struggle began that took the first steps towards Cuban nationality.
The little black
To know the meaning and importance of this character well, it is necessary to know that white authors created the negrito, who was represented by white actors, for white audiences, acting in Spanish or muzzle (the parodied language), and always showing the point from the perspective of slave culture.
It was Francisco Covarrubias who represented him many times, singing and dancing in the style of his nation. Covarrubias becomes the dean of the actors for having laid the foundations of the vernacular genre and for transforming popular characters into Creole and giving continuity to the catch.
Other fundamental authors of the XIX century for the Cuban theater.
José María Heredia: He completely changed the theater scene. He left ten plays and plans and projects, notes and excerpts from ten others.
He was the first of the Cuban authors to commit himself politically and used the theater as a weapon against Spain and the first American playwright who tried to write about the indigenous struggle against the conquest.
José Jacinto Milanés: His works reflected the immediate reality, the Cuban landscape and humble men. Simple and creole works with Cuban language, including Ojo a la finca and El mirón cubano.
La Avellaneda: She left twenty works among tragedies, comedies, dramas, adaptations and pieces in one act. Her theater leads to Biblical-Christian incitement, Hispanic greatness, and sentimentality.
Authors and significant works in Cuban theater of the 20th century
The 20th century opened up possibilities for talent and creativity. The work of Virgilio Piñera, Carlos Felipe, Rolando Ferrer and Paco Alfonso was then known.
Individualist theater for its budgets and solutions, raised the theater language above what was done before and separates itself from the vernacular theater without giving up the search for Cuba.
1959 brought radical changes to the theater in Cuba due to the possibility of premieres, the different theatrical groups and the work of the Dramaturgy Seminar of the National Theater, all of which led to the emergence of a group of authors of consecrated work.
Abelardo Estorino: He was the most important playwright of Cuban culture. He won the Critics’ Prize for his book Teatro in 1985, in which he collected his most outstanding works up to that date and was the National Literature Prize for his work.
José Triana: Winner of the Casa de las Américas Prize and author of works such as Medea in the mirror, The Fraternity Park and The Angel’s Visit, The Death of the ñeque and The Night of the Assassins.
Antón Arrufat: National Literature Prize, another relevant playwright. He conceived works such as The live chicken, The full days, The last train and The seven against Thebes, Prize 1968 UNEAC.
Currently there are hundreds of theaters in Cuba and the groups make theatrical crusades moving to intricate areas throughout the country.
Updated versions are presented, adapted and directed by their authors or others since they marked an important moment in the development of this artistic manifestation and although there is a strong theatrical tradition, it is not sufficiently extended to the entire country.