Today in the Miami Herald's Theater section, reporter, Jordan Levin, covers the story of a groundbreaking multimedia theater performance piece created from an unprecedented collaboration between US and Cuban artists that world premiered at the Havana International Film Festival last week and will have its US premiere at the Global Cuba Fest in Miami Beach, March 11 - 14, 2010. Last week, the show played three times at the 1,600-seat Teatro Mella in Havana, with a ticket price of just five Cuban pesos (about 20 cents).
La Entrañable Lejania tells the story of an American man in love with a Cuban woman and the show breaks new ground artistically, politically and technologically, with American actors performing onstage while Cuban cast members appear on large video screens, metaphorically representing the political separation of the two countries. The show evolved over eleven years as 30-year-old California composer, Sage Lewis, traveled half a dozen times between the States and Havana, building the show with many of Cuba's most prominent artists with the idea of using technology to overcome practical and political barriers to collaboration. He and his company traveled to the island using a US government license for artistic and academic research and garnered grants from various foundations to keep them going, including pro bono legal services and individual donations solicited online. Audiovisual equipment was donated and brought to the island by Pastors for Peace.
Ever Chavez, the director of FUNDarte, and Beth Boone, artistic and executive director of the Miami Light Project (who exec produced the documentary I made in Cuba with Lisandro Pérez Rey in 2005 called La Fabri_K) came on board and connected the creators with official Cuban sponsors and will present the show's US premiere in Miami in March. Both artistic organizations specialize in US-Cuba cultural projects. Lewis emailed Boone a year and a half ago, just as she and Chavez began to hear about the project from friends both here and in Cuba.
Says Boone, "What I find significant about this piece right now, given the context of change, is that, as we've known all along in the arts community, art and artists are the most powerful agents of change. I think people who take the time to experience Entrañable will be able to see firsthand that artificially imposed political barriers are folly. Regular people have been making contact for years, whether physical or not, via telephone, the Internet and the making of art."
Lewis says that, "Our generation has a different point of view. We don't really ignore history, but we just want to go back and forth, make art, have a normal healthy relationship." The title The Closest Farthest Away is evocative of the fact that, "We're so close geographically [just 90 miles] and have so much in common culturally, yet Cuba is the farthest country from the US, the hardest to talk to, to travel to. So it's this paradox."
You can watch a preview of La Entrañable Lejania, and also see the exhaustive documentation of its creation on the website.