‘Eclipse’ written by Cuban Jazz Vilá

Key West’s relationship to Cuba is undeniably rooted in the 90-mile proximity to one another, but the thread of cultural ties has resulted in so much more than a shared strait. The arts have created a bond between the two islands. Hemingway wrote here and there, linking Cuba forever to his literary legacy. Mario Sanchez, referred to as the most important American Cuban visual folk artist, thrived in Key West, bridging the two cultures through his relief sculptures. And now, The Key West Theater and One Race/Una Raza are sponsoring the next historic collaboration, the exchange of two theatrical plays between Key West and Cuba.

“Eclipse” by Cuban playwright and actor Jazz Vilá will be performed at the Key West Theater Jan 24-28. Jazz Vilá is a well-known young actor and playwright in Cuba both on stage and on screen, including Netflix’s hit, Four Seasons In Havana. Four other Cuban actors and actresses who have specifically learned English for their roles will join Vilá to perform a modern retelling of the play Miss Julieby August Strindberg originally written in 1888.  Vilá has rewritten the play, setting the characters inside a reality television show called “Eclipse.” The comedy is based on the familiar and modern pastime of judging reality show contestants as mayhem ensues.

“It’s very Cuban, big, fun, like a telenovela,” said Mike Marrero, executive director of the Key West Theater who has sat through a reading of the play.  “Expect a good time.”

Marrero views the exchange as critical to our times. With wet foot, dry foot ending and the uncertainty of future immigration, creating a partnership between the two island cultures when possible is a unique opportunity.

The cultural exchange will be completed on May 23-27 when Marrero, a playwright of Cuban descent who was born and raised in Key West, will debut his play “Locura” in Cuba. “Locura,” like “Eclipse,” has been translated for the audience’s native tongue. It will be performed in Spanish by a Cuban theater troupe in Havana and Marrero encourages locals to join the audience in the exchange both here and in Cuba.

Nance Frank, owner of Gallery On Greene, founded project One Race/Una Raza and has worked on Cuba and Key West artistic relationships for 24 years.

“Art changes the way we think about each other,” said Frank. “We need to get to know one another and embrace our diversity. One Race/Una Raza has promoted museum to museum and now theater to theater. It’s important and exciting.”

The play will run five nights, January 24-28. To reserve tickets go to www.thekeywesttheater.com.

Key West Theater

8 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 24, through Saturday, Jan. 28

For Tickets:  www.thekeywesttheater.com

Art changes the mind. Culture is always at the forefront of political change.” –    Nance Franck, founder of project One Race/Una Raza.

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