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Sundial: Nilo Cruz brings his Pulitzer Prize-winning play home for its 20th anniversary

Anna In The Tropics, Miami New Drama, Pictured Nilo Cruz, Photo by Camilo Buitrago Gil, CloseUp
Camilo Buitrago Gil
Courtesy of Miami New Drama
Nilo Cruz is directing the 20th anniversary production of his play Anna in the Tropics through February 12 at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach.

The playwright Nilo Cruz is back in the town where he first found fame.

It wasn’t on Broadway or in New York City. But just off LeJeune Road in Coral Gables where the world first discovered the play that would make Cruz famous.

It was in that defunct theater that Cruz first staged Anna in the Tropics.

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The play is set in a Cuban-American cigar factory in Tampa during the Great Depression. There, a lector reads novels to workers while they hand-roll cigars. A new lector comes into town to read the Russian novel Anna Karenina — and the lives of the factory workers begin to mirror the novel’s love triangle.

The play would go on to win the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 2003. Cruz eventually staged the play on Broadway with an all-Latino cast. It catapulted Cruz’s career and he continues to write dramas that inform Latino life and culture.

Anna In The Tropics, Miami New Drama, Pictured L-R Top-Bottom, Daniel Capote, Brandon Espinoza, Hannia Guillen, Gabriell Salgado, Andrea Ferro, Serafin Falcon, Nilo Cruz, Saundra Santiago, Photo by Camilo Buitrago Gil, V1.jpg
Camilo Buitrago Gil
Courtesy of Miami New Drama
Cruz, center middle, with the cast of Miami New Drama's production of his play.

On the Jan. 24 episode of Sundial, Cruz joins us in-studio to talk about directing the 20th anniversary production of Anna in the Tropics. This time it was met with some unexpected resistance. The play had been staged for high school students in the past, but this time the Miami-Dade County School Board rejected it for its steamy scenes.

The school board eventually relented and allowed high school seniors to see the work created by a man who was once a Miami-Dade public school student — just like them.

Anna in the Tropics is showing at the Colony Theater on Lincoln Road through Feb. 12.

On Sundial's previous episode, we spoke to David Ovalle in the midst of his move to Washington, D.C., for his new role at the Washington Post. Ovalle covered crime and the courts for the Miami Herald for two decades.

Listen to Sundial Monday through Thursday on WLRN, 91.3 FM, live at 1 p.m., rebroadcast at 8 p.m. Missed a show? Find every episode of Sundial on your favorite podcast app, such as Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify.

Stay in touch with us via text by joining our Sundial text club. Send us your thoughts, ideas or questions by texting the word “join” to 786-677-0767. You can also email us at sundial@wlrnnews.org

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Carlos Frías is the host of WLRN's Sundial. He is a bilingual writer, a journalist of more than 25 years and the author of an award-winning memoir published by Simon & Schuster.
Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the lead producer behind WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.
Elisa Baena is an associate producer for Sundial.