by Angela Moser, dramaturg
Maria Irene Fornés never had a single one of her works have an opening night on Broadway. She has never been a mainstream author, although she is revered as one of the most prolific and creative artists in the theater world. Something about her work has always been seen as too difficult for mainstream audiences, or too avant-garde to understand. The word “avant-garde” comes from the French language, and it refers to innovative approaches to art-making, art that pushes the boundaries of creativity.
Fornés moved forward with her work to reflect an originality of vision. She used her bicultural identity to lead in many aspects of the creative process. One of her goals had always been to, “open the door to thinking about theatrical space as a world beyond the stage” (Robinson 109). Letters from Cuba presents a world that goes beyond the stage. It is the encounter of two worlds, two different dimensions that seem to lightly touch at some moments, but never fully embrace each other. Inside these two floating worlds, we learn about poetry, love, fear, and relationships. Through the characters of the play, we undertake a journey that is meant to transport our feelings more than our minds. This play is meant to make the audience feel: feel the poetry, the love, the melancholy, the fear, the powerlessness.
In this production, let the music help in evoking those feelings; let the music give you a new sense of appreciation for the great heritage of Cuba. Maria Irene Fornés was emboldened to challenge the esthetic ideologies that have claimed audiences in the past. Her avant-garde contribution is in her ability to challenge the rules of play-making and impart responsibility to the audience to never stop responding to the play and “never feel they’ve exhausted its possible applications” (Robinson 110).
Robinson, Marc. The Summer in Gossensass. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1999, 109-119.