Broadway in a Cuban’s Pocket

By: Alberto Dolz
Translated by Yanely Interian
 Revised by Emilio R. Febles Hernandez
From: Cubanow

One of the most persevering playwrights of the Island is awaited in New York for Confesión en el barrio chino (Confession in Chinatown).

Though this is not the first time Nicolás Dorr travels to New York, it’s the first time he will receive an award there for one of his plays. And for that reason, he’s very “excited”.

Confesión en el barrio chino (Confession in Chinatown), premiered in Havana in 1983, starring vedette Rosa Fornés, has been granted several awards by the Association of Show Reporters (ACE). The play, staged by the Puerto Rican Teatro Rodante, received awards in the categories of best actress, best supporting actor, best set design, best production and best playwriting. This last award went to the hands of the Cuban author.

In addition to that, the New York Hispanic Organization of Latin Actor delivered their annual HOLA award to the best text premiered in 2010 to the play by the Cuban writer, who entered the Cuban stage when he was a child prodigy. He was 14 years old when he made his debut with Las pericas –a funny comedy with flashes of absurdity, vaudeville rhythms and ghoulish situations, whose referents were the adolescent-writer’s grandparents and granduncles. It was a resounding success!

Rine Leal, a Cuban critic whose analytical opinions no one questions, said in relation to Dorr that “he is an author unlike any others in Cuba.”

Unwittingly, Las pericas was Nicolás Dorr’s first link with New York. He so recalls in an interview with Cubanow during the rehearsals of his most recent premiere La profana familia (The Profane Family).

“In 1967, the prestigious NY Spanish Repertory Theater made its debut with my play –which was recently presented by the Ecuadorian Teatro de Ensayo Gestus at Havana’s Hubert de Blanck Theater, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of its debut. The premiere of Las pericas by the NY Spanish Repertory Theater was a real success. As a result, this group established itself in an outstanding position among the most important Latin theater groups in New York. It also won the 1970 ACE award to the best production of the year.”

Dorr first traveled to Broadway in 1996 at the invitation of the Spanish Repertory Theater –though at the time Las pericas was not on showing. The Cuban playwright said that “they did something wonderful. They conducted a series of dramatized readings of some of my plays with the company actors. But they also performed a drama recital in which I played some of my characters, at their request.” Dorr was born in 1947 at Havana’s west town of Santa Fe.

Though not a professional actor, he took the risk and went to the stage in the monologue Nicolás Dorr y otros personajes (Nicolás Dorr and other characters). It was a drama guaguancó, a sort of stage recital in which he portrayed 17 of his most renowned stage characters. His success was so resounding that he then staged it in Spain, Puerto Rico and Argentina.

Four years later, the Cuban playwright returned to the Tower of Babel to stage the same show at the Thalia Theater, in Queens. “I’m so happy to go back, especially because this is the first time I will receive an award in such an important place as the Manhattan’s Kaufman Center. The official ceremony will be held there on April 23.”

Confesión en el barrio chino, the story of a young man that tries to know the turbulent past of a lady through an exchange in that colorful Havana area, had a great start. It was the first Cuban play to be taken to the cinema in Mexico under the title Violeta, starring Blanca Guerra. It was also presented in Argentina a couple of years ago.

“The play has been taken through several paths. So, what’s happening now in New York was a surprise”, Nicolás Dorr said. His plays, of great dramatic quality, have looked at the Cuban society’s problems and development and have always had a large audience.

“I had no contact with the Puerto Rican Teatro Rodante. This prestigious group was created in 1967 by Miriam Colón, a great Latin actress. I don’t know how they got my most recent books, including the anthology published by the Letras Cubanas publishing house, where the play appears. They somehow traced my email address, sent me a message and asked my consent to premiere it. I have not seen the staging but I’ve seen some photos and some correspondence. I am very enthusiastic, not only because of the award but because I will also meet the actress that has received an award thanks to my play,” says the writer, who has also written a novel.

Nicolás Dorr has never stopped writing for the theater, except for a decade of silence when he was taking stage classes and during his studies of Hispanic literature at the University of Havana. Plays such as Mediodía candente (A burning hot noon), Una casa colonial (A colonial house), Vivir en Santa Fe (Living in Santa Fe), Nenúfares en el techo del mundo (Water lilies in the roof of the world) and El agitado pleito entre un autor y un angel (A tough fight between an author and an angel), among others, have been either staged or published in Spain, Russia, France, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina and Puerto Rico.

“Fortunately, it’s easy for me to make a dialogue. And I work the characters from deep inside, as if I were an actor that’s performing them,” he adds.

Dorr, who has a fertile imagination, says he has a human zoo inside his head –it couldn’t be otherwise. He was born of a very peculiar family. His mother, a violinist, took his three children to the adult theater (his brother Nelson, a stage director, won the National Theater Award, and his sister Daysi is an actress).

When he was a child, he never went to a puppet theater. When he was 10 years old, his mother made him enrolled the drama academy and his grandmother gave him Lorca’s Romancero Gitano. “Those were wonderful presents,” he recalls.