Federico García Lorca said that theater is poetry that rises from the book and becomes human, and by so doing it speaks and shouts and cries and despairs. All the more reason for us to celebrate Cuban Theater Day this January 22, in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The said date was chosen as a tribute to the 1869 events at the Villanueva Theater, when the cry "Long live Céspedes, long live Cuba!" was heard at the end of playwright Francisco Valerio’s piece Perro huevero aunque le quemen el hocico.
Now, the reality of the country is different, and actresses, actors, playwrights... all those who have made the stage their life, had to remake and rethink themselves for their audiences as the new coronavirus appeared and the theaters had to close their doors. Everything changed.
Under these circumstances, how to keep alive an artistic expression so closely linked to presence? As productions, rehearsals, seasons and festivals came to a halt, it was urgent to find other ways to keep the flame, and that both professionals and the public continued to find in art a refuge, in the face of the past and ongoing problems that COVID-19 involves.
Digitalization made theater available to those interested in enjoying it, online exchange brought authors and performers closer to the audience, and although it may seem contradictory, the use of these electronic means to unite people and provide spiritual support to each other made the poetry that rises from the book even more human, as Lorca said.
Far from its natural state, Cuban theater remained alive, growing, beating, waiting for the slightest opportunity to reach someone and return to the traditional stage, which it did.
Between breaks of the quarantine, the plays continued face to face, even if theater capacity was reduced to 40%, but there were opportunities for everything and everyone: circus, humor, dance and theater.
It may be necessary to encourage rehearsals, improve some proposals, be patient with this new pause caused by the vertiginous increase of contagions, but what must always be remembered is that Cuban theater survived by displaying great resilience. Rather than getting cold, it proved to be a living, organic entity, a full human being.