Cuba’s Powerhouse Theater Duo Comes to Webster in 2015

FloraandRaquelofficial
Lauten (left) and Carrio

This February, Webster University will welcome Cuba’s most celebrated theater duo – Director Flora Lauten and playwright Raquel Carrio – to the University’s home campus in Webster Groves. The co-founders of Cuban theater company Teatro Buendia will spend five weeks in St. Louis as the College of Arts & Sciences 2015 Global Leaders in Residence, sharing their expertise in literary adaptation, translation, and production with the community through a four-week course, a series of workshops, and public events.

“We’re pleased to provide this kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to our students — particularly those in our creative writing program,” said David Carl Wilson, Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. “Flora and Raquel are gifted artists and innovators whose work transcends boundaries and shapes the theater scene worldwide.”

The poster for Otra Tempestad at London’s Globe Theater

Lauten and Carrio will open their residency with a keynote presentation at 7:00pm on Thursday, February 5th titled La Tempestad: Theatre as a Game.” The event takes place in Winifred Moore Auditorium on Webster University’s Webster Groves campus, and admission is free and open to the public. Through discussion and multimedia, the keynote will give participants insight into Teatro Buendia’s distinctive approach to writing, staging, and producing Otra Tempestad (“Another Tempest”) – Lauten and Carrio’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Their version combines Shakespeare’s familiar characters with the characters of Afro-Caribbean mythology, bringing elements of music and dance to the stage alongside Shakespeare-in-translation.

The theater duo will also lead a four-week workshop (ILC 2150) that focuses on two adaptations of The Tempest (including their own) on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 12:00pm – 1:00pm. Lauten and Carrio will guide students in thinking about theatrical adaptation across cultures as a “game of ideas” in which a play’s characters are re-imagined in different places, cultures, and times. The course will have students reading texts, watching theatrical productions, and participating in theatrical exercises to get the full experience of adapting works to the stage. All students at Webster are welcome to register, as are non-degree-seeking students from the community (Interested students should contact Dr. Silvia Navia at navia@webster.edu.)

According to Henry Godinez, resident artistic associate at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and native of Cuba, Otra Tempestad is characteristic of Lauten and Carrio’s larger body of theatrical adaptations. “They take what we would consider ‘Western classics’ and… they loosely adapt them to reflect Cuba today.”

Teatro Buendia staged Pedro Paramo for Chicago’s Biennial Latino Theatre Festival in 2013. (Photo courtesy of the Goodman Theatre of Chicago.)

Godinez invited Teatro Buendia to perform as part of the Goodman’s fifth biennial Latino Theatre Festival, which he curates. Of the typical Teatro Buendia production, Godinez says “it’s unlike anything we ever see in the United States — because of its power, but also because of its simplicity. I think that’s the beauty of it. It’s not a lot of bells and whistles; it’s all about the writing, the performing, the performance, the power of the actor, and the music.”

Anne McIlhaney, professor of English at Webster, regularly teaches The Tempest in her courses and has done research on Otra Tempestad. She is pleased that Lauten and Carrio’s visit “will provide an exciting opportunity for students from across the university to explore issues related to literary and theatrical adaptations that cross cultures and traditions.”

Though their work has taken them around the world, Lauten and Carrio’s residency at Webster is one of very few professional visits to the United States – a rarity due, in part, to ongoing diplomatic tensions between the US and Cuba which limited travel. Lauten and Carrio’s forthcoming residency at Webster, however, arrives on the heels of President Obama’s recent decision to re-open diplomatic relations with Cuba. They will live in Webster Groves as Global Leaders in Residence through the month of February – the longest stay in the history of the program.

“Having Flora and Raquel here for a month will allow as many students at Webster as possible, as well as members of the larger St. Louis community, to gain access to award-winning artists whose work and expertise are typically an ocean away,” Dean Wilson said.

The Global Leaders in Residence program extends Webster University’s long-standing commitment to partnerships around the world. The program, housed in the University’s Office of Corporate Partnerships, enables Webster to host distinguished individuals who are considered thought leaders in their fields from across a wide spectrum of disciplines. While in residence, Global Leaders interact with students to assist in real world learning by connecting theory to practice. Leaders share their unique perspectives based upon their experiences in forums that are free and open to all students, faculty and the general public.

Economist and author Richard Wolff served as the College of Arts & Sciences Global Leader in Residence for 2014.