From Havana, Teatro El Público re-casts “Caligula” as gay tyrant

MIAMI BEACH |  Provocation is the middle name of Cuban theater director Carlos Díaz (b. Bejucal, 1955). He emerged in the 1990s with a desire to take risks and breathe subversive new life to great texts from world theater. He pushed the boundaries some 20 years ago with his North American Theater Trilogy at the National Theater’s Covarrubias hall. The trilogy was comprised of Tennessee Williams’s Glass Menagerie, followed by Robert Anderson’s Tea and Sympathy, and A Streetcar Named Desire, also by Williams.

Teatro El Público of Havana's "Caligula"

Teatro El Público of Havana’s “Caligula“

This time, it is Albert Camus‘s turn. Díaz is pushing the envelope again in FUNDarte’s presentation of his new production of Camus‘s classic Caligula directed from Teatro El Público of Havana. The show opens at the Colony Theater in Miami Beach on June 14, 15, and 16 at 8:00 p.m.

As part of the FUNDarte’s “Out in the Tropics” festival, Díaz’s Caligula promises cross-dressing, seduction, intrigue, partial nudity and, yes, gay themes. His signature as a director is to combine rough poetry with lush visuals. The twist here is that the insane and self-destructive tyrant is gay. This might not seem so crazy, given the infamously hardcore porn treatment Caligula (also known as Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) has always received in films and pop culture. Nobody has ever denied the primal drive for sex and beauty that propelled Caligula, the dictator who only ruled Rome for four years between 37 AD and 41 AD.
However, Díaz  takes “Caligula” one step further. According to the press materials, his Caligula ”consciously uses Camus’s play to subvert cultural norms and our concept of masculinity. Why can’t a homosexual be portrayed as possessing as much violence and cruelty as a stereotypical heterosexual male chauvinist character? What does it mean to be gay and masculine? And why are these two terms still thought of as mutually exclusive?”

Here is a video excerpt from Teatro El Público’s Caligula.

Here is a synopsis:
Caligula’s obsession with the impossible drags him to the bodies that surround him and that he imagines as slaves to his desires.  This performance, following the guidelines per the method that our group has developed with each premiere, corroborates these erotic possibilities.  Cross-dressing and sensuality connect the protagonists, breaking down norms of conventional genre to tap into interpretations of masculinity and its boundaries, as well as its formula for desire.
This formula includes desire for similar bodies, and reinvents itself through embraces and provocations that Teatro El Público uses not only to offer an irreverent reading of Camus, but also to reveal through audacity the fact that the work’s ideas and characters are still relevant to contemporary times. The work addresses those bodies that play out the wearing of uniforms and garb and who, in their anachronistic games and references to haute couture, see themselves as provocative; revealing them as dangerous mirrors of pleasure beyond limits or possession, explosive both in terms of theater and seduction.
Poster for Teatre El Public's "Caligula"

Poster for Teatre El Public’s “Caligula”

Carlos Díaz has led Teatro El Público since 1992. In an interview for Cuban Art News, it was made clear how this director’s theater intentionally reminds audiences that the classic works by Chekhov, Racine, Williams, Lorca or Sartre have been adapted for Cuban culture, incorporates Cuban language and local color, and speaks directly to a Cuban public that enjoys being provoked.

He said:

Since the Trilogy, I think that my interest—and that of many directors and artists who also emerged at that time—was to make audiences reflect on the problems that confront them today. We are talking about how we live every single day, what we want to change, our dreams and frustrations. Perhaps because of the inertia existing at that time, at the beginning of the Special Period in the early 1990s, I had the opportunity to make a more luxurious sort of theater, with productions like La Niñita Querida (The Little Darling, 1996), by Virgilio Piñera, or El público (The Public, 1929-30), by Federico García Lorca. I think that viewers attending our shows at present are the same as in those days, and they have grown with each staging. The public understood the absence, the silence, the way in which theater was or was not done in the most difficult times. So they have decided to continue with us, knowing that we want to relate to them.
Now, in our newly remodelled headquarters at the Trianon cinema-theater, we are beginning a new era of revivals and premieres in which we also expect to see those audiences renewed. I always say that the theater must be looked after, cared for, and I mean that. It´s not just a matter of maintaining the building and slapping on a coat of paint from time to time. It’s a matter of taking care of what we do in the theater, and the way in which we position ourselves with the public. I’ve been lucky in that sense: I have an audience that understands what kind of actors work here, what color or atmosphere we’re seeking—an audience that comes to see and knows how to read certain codes. We have formed a Cuban audience, faithful to us. To stop working as we have with those people would be an unforgivable mistake.
FUNDarte presenta a la compañía de teatro más polémica y controversial de Cuba, Teatro El Público con su versión de Calígula, de Albert Camus, el 14, 15 y 16 de junio a las 8:00 p.m. en el Colony Theater de Miami Beach.
Featuring: Fernando Hechavarría, Carlos Caballero, Broselianda Hernández, Osvaldo Doimeadiós, Ismercy Salomón, Yeyé Báez, Lester Martínez, Yanier Palmero, Javier Fano, Yerandi Basart, Carlos Riverón
Staging and directed by Carlos Díaz
Tickets are $30 and $25 for students/seniors and may be purchased at or or by calling (800) 745-3000 or in-person at the Colony Theatre box office Tuesday –Saturday, 12:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. (305) 674-1040.
Boletos: $30 y $25 para estudiantes menores de 18 y personas mayores de 65. Por internet en o; por teléfono (800) 745-3000 o en persona en la taquilla del Colony Theatre 
de Martes a Sábado de 12:00 p.m. a 5:00 p.m. Teatro Colony: (305) 674-1040
Poster for Teatro El Público of Havana's "Caligula"

Poster for Teatro El Público of Havana’s “Caligula”

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