Key West-Cuba Arts Exchange Takes The Stage

Jan 23, 2017

Three years ago, arts groups in Key West and Cuba started an exchange with visual artists displaying their works on both islands. Now that exchange has moved onto the stage.

"Eclipse" was written by Jazz Vilá, a Cuban actor and director known for his work in movies like "Juan of the Dead." He also appears in one episode of the new Netflix series "Four Seasons in Havana."

Vilá and a cast of Cuban actors are in Key West for the play, which will be presented, in English, at the Key West Theater Tuesday-Saturday. The play is a modern adaptation of August Strindberg's "Miss Julie" — only instead of a country estate, the three characters are contestants on a reality TV show.

And like a lot of reality shows, the audience has a say in the fate of the characters.

"The audience watching at the theater at that moment can select who wins this show — Christine, Julie or Jean," Vilá said.

Vilá said he and the actors are finding Key West to be a special place.

"All the cast wants to stay here and live because they love the way all the people say, 'Hello, good morning.' I've visited different cities in the USA and that's never happened. The people here are happy people," he said. "You will see people smile and look at each other on the street, walking. Old people, young people."

On the other half of the exchange, the Key West Theater will present "Locura" in Havana in May. The play is by Key West Theater Executive Director Michael Marrero.

Marrero said he hopes the exchange will help Key West regain some of the Cuban culture it had when he was growing up on the island, as well as bridging the gap between the cultures.

And he said it's refreshing to see Cuban art.

"It's not cynical yet. It lacks irony, which is great," he said. "The emotion's very on-the-sleeve. You know where everybody's coming from."