Arena Stage in Cuba: Uncovering Inspiration
In 2020, Arena Stage was slated to produce Eduardo Machado’s Celia and Fidel. Having traveled to Cuba in the past, Arena Stage Director Molly Smith, jumped at the opportunity to invite donors and board members to Cuba to explore the inspiration behind the play.
Arena’s goal in going to Cuba was to give patrons the opportunity to see first-hand how creatives conducted pre-production research. By choosing Cuba as the destination, donors received an authentic glimpse into this research by meeting with people in the industry and visiting some of the very places shown in the play. Had they taken a “typical” NYC or London theater trip, they would have simply attended shows without taking a deep dive into the creative process or experiencing the destination, which is vital in bringing a play to life.
Our Program Team, in consultation with Molly Smith and the playwright, Eduardo Machado, designed the perfect program for Arena Stage. What they got was an experience unlike any other. The group visited the Film School of San Antonio de los Baños for an exchange with students and teachers; learned about the training of performing and visual artists in Cuba at Instituto Superior de Arte; engaged in an exchange with musicians and independent artists on a visit to the Hermitage of Monserrate with the Miguel Failde Orchestra; visited the performing arts center, Danza-Retazos and learned about their cultural project and community work; and took a guided tour of the Museo de Revolución where the group was immersed in the historical context of post-revolutionary Cuba and the political setting of Celia and Fidel.
The visits on this tour spoke directly to Arena’s mission without being directly related to theater and seeing plays. Cuba provided the backdrop for the play and allowed the playwright to talk about his history growing up in Cuba and share his inspiration for writing the play.
The donors and board members enjoyed a truly unique experience in Cuba, which provided the space for a sustainable travel program rooted in season programming. With these trips, sponsors of the theater are able to have deeper engagement with the creatives and a greater window into how theater is made. The Arena Stage trip to Cuba was a huge success, and ATA is already planning future trips with Arena around production of upcoming plays.