By Laynie Calderwood, dramaturg
In response to the most recent calls for wider civil change, BYU Theatre is actively working to better fulfill the prophet’s invitation to “abandon all attitudes and actions of prejudice.” The first step is diversifying the stories that we tell on stage; Letters from Cuba and Manual for a Desperate Crossing quickly emerged as a vital and important place to begin.
About her inspiration for this production, director Kris Peterson says, “As a Latina faculty member, I am interested in diversifying the representation in our productions, so I began reading work by Latinx playwrights. María Irene Fornés’ one-acts spoke to me and her experimental staging seemed to lend itself well to the brand new and experimental format of Zoom.”
This production has one of the largest Latinx casts that has ever performed for BYU Theatre. In order to fully capture this exciting breakthrough, we gathered statements from some of the cast members about what it means to them to be a part of Letters from Cuba and Manual for a Desperate Crossing:
John Valdez: As a second-generation Filipino-American, I feel honored to illustrate a small portion of the struggles my family has experienced. My hope is that audiences will walk away from this show with more empathy and love for their non-native neighbors.
Elisha Freitas: I am proud to be in this production to represent and tell the stories of immigrant experiences. I hope to highlight the challenges, hopes, and efforts of not only people from Central America but all immigrants, especially as the daughter of a first-generation immigrant from the Dominican Republic.
Isaac Torres: These stories remind me of the struggle and sacrifice my parents went through to get to this country and being part of a production that honors and tells those stories is a big deal! I’m grateful I can use this platform as a way to thank my parents for everything they have done for me.
Max Jennings: I am so excited to be a part of this production and to show the experiences of the LatinX community. Both the joys and the struggles of those who immigrated to America. As my grandmother immigrated from Costa Rica, I hope to show honor and respect through this medium.
Maria Angelica Sanchez-Carr: It means a lot to me to be part of Manual for a Desperate Crossing. After a 7-year ordeal trying to leave Communist Cuba, my parents, sisters, and I came to the US as refugees seeking freedom. We didn’t come on a raft, but I have an understanding of the desperation that can drive a person to make such a crossing.
With all the challenges that have come from creating theatre in a pandemic, we couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome of this project. We hope the poignant messages in these two one-acts speak to you as they have spoken to us and you find meaning in the world we are creating on this digital platform – distanced, yet closer than ever.