Teatro El Publico + Carlos Diaz (Director)
There are theater companies in every province of Cuba, both for adults and children. Even some of the more remote towns have produced important groups such as the Teatro de los Elementos in Cumanayagua, Cienfuegos. In Cuba, the Camagüey and Havana Theater Festivals are the most important of the theatrical events. Both Cuban and foreign theater companies put on emblematic plays and premieres but they also bring together actors, playwrights and critics in order to examine the activity of artists on the Island. The festivals are great celebrations that beckon huge crowds into the theaters.
It is impossible to speak of Cuban theater without going over some of its history. Back in pre-Columbian Cuba, areitos were magical-religious ceremonies that expressed aboriginal Cuban culture, mixing singing, dancing, oral traditions and pantomime. As the aboriginal communities disappeared, the areitos also vanished and the Spanish occupation brought with it their Corpus Christi festivities that consisted of religious dramas accompanied by dance and song.
Between 1730 and 1733 the first theatrical work in Cuba made its appearance and on January 20, 1775, El Coliseo, the first theater on the Island was born. From 1800 onwards, temporary theaters began to appear, many of them in simple sheds covered with awnings. But just a few years later on February 28, 1838 the people of Havana had a new theater that was described as one of the best in the world: the Tacón Theater, today, the beautiful García Lorca.
From early days, there were popular characters, talkative and sarcastic, who would deliver social criticism and the joking around that was characteristic of the nineteenth century opéra bouffe. Francisco Covarrubias was the actor and playwright dubbed the founder of the national Cuban theater; he adapted short popular Spanish plays, sainetes (one-act farces), to conditions and personages in Cuba, using popular language and creating the figure of the negrito.
The nineteenth century also belongs to Romantic Cuban theater with its precursor the successful poet and playwright José Jacinto Milanés who committed suicide after twenty years of madness caused, so they say, by his forbidden love for his cousin. His life was as romantic as his work. Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda was another Romantic playwright who left Cuban literature a treasure trove of twenty works for the stage (tragedies, comedies, dramas, adaptations and one-act plays). And National Hero José Martí was also a Romantic; his dramatic oeuvre is not extensive within the huge body of his literary output but it does begin to announce the arrival of Modernism in Hispano-American arts and letters.
There was also more “serious” theater during the Republican Era. It was less popular and had a smaller following and less government funding. Besides, it had to compete with the vernacular theater and the attractions of movies and that new invention of television. Frequently ,it would be financed by the actors and playwrights themselves who would have to earn the money by doing all kinds of other jobs and live on the brink of poverty. This was the case of Virgilio Piñeira, playwright and creator of very Cuban characters and situations that went beyond the superficiality of vernacular theater in the overwhelming milieu of a country that apparently had no solutions.
The triumph of the Revolution brought huge changes to the stage. In the wave of optimistic euphoria, under the auspices of a State that supported culture, new groups and theaters were created and the work of directors, playwrights and actors received hitherto unheard of social acknowledgement. The Teatro Nacional de Guiñol (National Puppet Theater), created before 1959 by the Camejo Carril brothers, expanded into all the provinces. Each province now has a theater dedicated to puppetry and child audiences. Teatro Estudio was an extraordinary group started up by the brother and sister team of Vicente and Raquel Revuelta. It premiered important contemporary plays and enjoyed both critical and public success throughout its existence.
Teatro Nacional de Guinol
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