Cuban letters and theater have a debt to repay to one of the most interesting artists within the national culture, Virgilio Piñera, on the occasion of the centenary of his birth in 2012. The poet, storyteller, essayist and dramaturge, died in Havana, October 18, 1979, of a heart attack. He left behind his extensive work, controversial but standing the test of time, which thanks to the anniversary will be widely available.
To coordinate the celebration of Virgilio’s centenary, a commission has been created, led by Antón Arrufat, National Prize for Literature winner, who affirmed during the group’s introduction, in the Dulce María Loynaz Center, that with the tribute planned "Cubans will repay their debt to the author of Aire frío…and we will award him the place he deserves within the island’s culture."
Among the editorial offerings, according to Arrufat who is responsible for the author’s literary heritage, is the publication of his extensive unpublished letters which have been preserved. These were exchanged with his great friend José Rodríguez Feo, Alfonso Reyes and María Zambrano, among many others. Arrufat also announced that Virgilio’s memoirs will be published as well.
Omar Valiño, director of Tablas Alarcos Publishing announced that they will release his complete works for theater in two volumes and Olga Marta Pérez, director of Ediciones Unión, indicated that to be re-issued are the novel La carne de René, the lengthy poem La isla en peso and Virgilio Piñera en persona, as well as the previously unpublished Orbita de Virgilio Piñera and Epistolario de Virgilio Piñera.
Letras Cubanas Publishing, for its part, is preparing Colección del Centenario, designed with the collaboration of Arrufat and containing all of Virgilio’s stories, a selection of essays about art and a complete collection of his plays.
Virgilio’s year, as the commission is calling the centenary, will be prominently featured in February during the International Book Fair 2012, where all of his works will be available to the delight of readers.
The theater program is very wide-ranging, with almost all of the country’s companies presenting revivals and new stagings of Virgilio’s works.
For example, the National Council of Performing Arts announced that it is preparing a show which will include poetry, prose and excerpts from plays, to be directed by Carlos Díaz, to inaugurate the year-long celebration January 22, as part of Cuba’s Theater Month.
Carlos Díaz, and his company El Público are not unfamiliar with VirgilioPiñera. In 1993, they premiered La niñita querida, with the recently deceased grand dame of Cuban theater, Adria Santana, and in 1995, performed La boda.
The theater festivities had a prologue last December, when the theatrical criticism and research section of the Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC) held a workshop on the 50th anniversary of the play Aire Frio’s premiere.
Coming together were dramaturges, directors, theater researchers and two actresses who played the emblematic Luz Marina: Verónica Lynn, who performed in the 1962 premiere directed by Humberto Arenal, and Miriam Learra, leading actress in the Hubert de Blanck production directed by Abelardo Estorino (National Prize for Literature and Theater).
Both actresses offered their recollections of the performances. Verónica confided that the role was "relatively easy, it was my family. Not like Camila (in José Brene’s play, Santa Camila de La Habana Vieja), who wasn’t anything like me. Luz Marina was from my social class. My father counted the pennies he had everyday, to see what was left for food and my mother washed and ironed for others. And if that wasn’t enough I had a bossy aunt, just like Luz Marina."
According to Miriam Learra, "Every actress who reads Aire frio dreams of playing Luz Marina, a tremendous female character, who reflects the essence of Cuban women of that era. I had the good fortune to see the 1962 production with Verónica and the ’63 version with Liliam Llerena (deceased). My memories of those performances are great, but when I was privileged to be chosen by Estorino... I really began to study the character. I had never thought about being compared. That would be absurd; each of us has her own Luz Marina… I think that she was shaped by the society in which she lived. Everything she does, perhaps without even intending to do so, reflects a sense of understanding of how hard it was to live in that society."
Estorino said that he remembered something very apropos, "Virgilio always said that he didn’t want Aire frio to be staged again, since he had many other plays. But I decided to do the performance, it was the one I could do at that time and I gave it my vision. Some consider it a realistic piece, but it’s not completely realistic, since the absurd which Virgilio saw in life can be seen in the attitudes of all the characters."
It was a surprise to learn that Enrique Pineda Barnet, National Prize for Cinema winner, had filmed the 1962 production for a series he was making about theaters in Havana. "I was always very passionate about theater, something I was never able to do. It was a splendid time; marvelous works were performed, different styles, different genres, directors, actors. The first place life took us was to see the world premiere of Aire frío… The Humberto production seemed extraordinary to me and Virgilio’s work was so true to life, with the absurd scenes."
And now there is a new version of Aire frío, this time presented by one of the most interesting directors of the current era, Carlos Celdrán, director of the Argos Teatro - a staging which will dramatically open Virgilio’s centenary year, having had its pre-premiere in December.
Granma International asked Celtrán from what point of view we should we contemplate a work like this.
"Aire frío is like climbing a mountain. It’s a play I’ve always wanted to do, but I needed to be ready. I think the most important thing is bringing it into these times, bring it out of the basement. We are doing some readings that are going to be controversial, but it is the play in its essence. I’m not doing a period piece. I don’t want to recreate the 40’s or 50’s. It’s 20 years, at any time in Cuba. It’s the substance, the characters, their conduct, their relationships, their universe. The conflict within the play remains relevant. That is how we have looked at it. That’s the concept behind my version. Everything that has been deleted, which isn’t much, has been based on this perspective, bringing it in line with the times."
Celdrán entrusted the new Luz Marina to an actress from his company, Juliet Cruz, who will play "a modern day Luz Marina, a woman of today."
Luz Marina, in Celdrán’s version, "remains an essentially tragic character. Her final scream, one of the greatest finales written in Cuban theater, is one of rebellion and yet, also one of submission. This is her great paradox. Subjected continually to a sentimental tension from which she cannot escape, yet with chilling clarity. And the words of Luz Marina which come from this clarity are of such magnitude that they cannot be ignored at this time. Luz Marina is a timeless character. I have read much of Virgilio’s work, but taking Aire frío to the stage, I have discovered even more of his greatness. He is an uncommon author."
A PROLIFIC ARTIST
Virgilio Piñera has been credited with essential pieces in Cuban theater. Among the most outstanding are Electra Garrigó – for many critics such as Rine Leal and Raquel Carrió, the true beginning of modern Cuban theater - La niñita querida, and Dos viejos pánicos, which won a Casa de las Américas Prize in 1968.
He wrote, among others, the novels Presiones y diamantes, La carne de René and Pequeñas maniobras and the collections of short stories Cuentos fríos, Muecas para escribientes and El fogonazo, these last two published posthumously.
His first book of poetry, Las furias, dates from 1941, although Juan Ramón Jiménez, in his anthology La poesía cubana en 1936, included El grito mudo. Among his essays are Dos poemas, dos poetas, dos modos de poesía, about Elegía sin nombre (1936) by Emilio Ballagas and Muerte de Narciso (1937) by José Lezama Lima.
THE WORDS OF VIRGILIO
In the first anthology of his plays published in Cuba, Virgilio himself wrote the prologue and asserted, "We are tragic and comical at the same time."
In the cover notes he makes some key statements, the culmination, "In my theater work I try to express what is going on around me. In Electra Garrigó the sentimental conflicts between children and parents; in Jesús the abyss into which a man and a people can be drawn when moral values are lost; within La Boda are the conflicts that death can unleash and the ubiquitous taboos of rich Cuban families; in Aire Frío it’s the poverty of our civic life for 50 years; in El Filántropo the conflict, fortunately overcome in Cuba, between the capitalist class and the poor. In a word, I have attempted to reflect life just as it has been my lot to live. I am not unaware that I have only done so partially. That is due, perhaps, to the fact that I have yet to capture what a fully accomplished playwright has: the entire public."
Virgilio Piñera, considered the creator of modern Cuban theater, has no doubt established a landmark, capturing what a playwright needs: the entire public.
Ya comenzó el Año Virgiliano
Argos Teatro estrenó su puesta de Aire frío. Proyectos editoriales y escénicos diversos pondrán al alcance de los lectores la obra de Virgilio Piñera en el año de su centenario
PEDRO DE LA HOZ
Los actos por el centenario del nacimiento del escritor Virgilio Piñera (Cárdenas, 4 de agosto de 1912) comenzaron el último fin de semana en La Habana con el estreno de la puesta en escena de Argos Teatro de Aire frío, uno de los textos fundamentales de la dramaturgia cubana de todos los tiempos.
Carlos Celdrán, director de la puesta, confesó que su primera reacción al releer Aire frío, fue no hacerla, pero luego redescubrió "su desnudez visionaria, su permanencia, su cercanía, una historia raigal sobre nosotros mismos: encontré así el camino de la versión; deseché la construcción de un dispositivo de época para centrar la acción en cualquier tiempo cubano y abrir el horizonte a comportamientos y caracterizaciones libres de arqueologías, donde los actores pudieran acercar los personajes a nuevas resonancias".
Al final de la representación una cerrada ovación premió los magistrales desempeños de un elenco encabezado por Yuliet Cruz y el inmenso Pancho García (Ángel), así como la actuación especial de Michaelis Cué.
Entre los asistentes a la función de estreno, que marcó también el inicio de la conmemoración de los tres primeros lustros de existencia de Argos Teatro, se encontraban Abel Prieto, ministro de Cultura; Miguel Barnet, presidente de la UNEAC; Julián González Toledo, viceministro de Cultura; Antón Arrufat, presidente de la Comisión Organizadora del programa del centenario; y el laureado dramaturgo Abelardo Estorino.
El Año Virgiliano, que se extenderá hasta diciembre, se propone poner de relieve los valores de una obra múltiple, que se expresó desde el teatro, la poesía, la narrativa, el ensayo y el periodismo, declaró Antón Arrufat a Granma.
Particularmente intensa será la actividad escénica, en la que destaca, como novedad, el estreno de una ópera basada en el texto de Electra Garrigó, otra de las piezas esenciales de la dramaturgia insular, en la que trabajan el compositor Juan Piñera, sobrino del autor, y el director Juan Ramón Amán, quien con ese proyecto festejará su octogésimo cumpleaños.
En los próximos meses se sucederán temporadas con Dos viejos pánicos (A Dos Manos, Santiago de Cuba), Los siervos y La boda (Teatro de la Luna), Siempre se olvida algo (Teatro D’ Dos), Falsa alarma (Compañía Rita Montaner), Electra Garrigó (Estudio Teatral Vivarta), La caja de zapatos (Aldaba Teatro), y Jesús (Mefisto Teatro). Habrá también contribuciones desde el extranjero, por parte de Arte Producciones (España), Gestus Teatro (Ecuador) y Os Satyros (Brasil), sobre todo en el contexto de la próxima edición de Mayo Teatral, de Casa de las Américas. Y en agosto, coincidiendo con la fecha del centenario, Carlos Díaz y Teatro El Público, asumirán una gala conmemorativa.
El venidero Festival Internacional de Ballet de La Habana (octubre-noviembre del 2012), dedicará una función conmemorativa, en tanto varios colectivos danzarios, a lo largo del año, mostrarán trabajos relacionados con el legado de Piñera, tales los casos de Espiral (Matanzas), DanzAbierta, Codanza y la Compañía de Rosario Cárdenas.
La Televisión Cubana, en varios espacios, propondrá puestas en escena para el medio de obras piñerianas y la grabación de la pieza de Pepe Milián, Si vas a comer espera por Virgilio.
Según informó Zuleica Romay, presidenta del Instituto Cubano del Libro, la Feria Internacional del Libro Cuba 2012 presentará algunas nuevas ediciones de los textos narrativos y ensayísticos de Piñera, en los que han ido trabajando Letras Cubanas y Unión (de la UNEAC) y dedicará una sesión especial a reflexionar sobre la huella del escritor en la cultura nacional. Aclaró que a lo largo del año aparecerán otras publicaciones.
En los próximos días se hará pública la convocatoria al Coloquio Internacional Centenario de Virgilio Piñera, que debe reunir en junio a estudiosos de su obra, en la capital cubana.
Un equipo multidisciplinario liderado por el poeta y dramaturgo Norge Espinosa prepara una multimedia editada por Cubarte, cuya presentación se prevé para cerrar el Año Virgiliano.