From October 29 to November 5, 2014, my colleagues Professor Melinda Levin (University of North Texas) and Filip Celdander (University of Texas, Dallas), and I traveled to Cuba under a cultural visa given to us by the Cuban Ministry of Culture to collaborate with Artes Escenicas, Cuba’s leading performing arts organization, to film performing arts groups in Cuba doing environmental outreach.
Over the week, we filmed Teatro Cabotin in Sancti Spiritus, Teatro de los Elementos in Cumanayagua, La Fortaleza in Juragua, and Teatro de Colaboracion con el Medio Ambiente in Romerillo-Havana. The goal of this collaboration was to explore the use of performing arts as a form of outreach and education. We stayed in small Cuban communities, living with the locals. One community, Teatro de los Elemntos, has an organic farm and the locals there live sustainably. There and elsewhere, we noted the specific community issues locals are addressing and in our filmmaking emphasized their creative responses to problems/challenges with the environment.
Our documentary work is meant to help us better understand the creative process, the daily lives of the artists and community members, and the connection between art, community and positive social change. My colleagues and I gathered over twenty-five hours of film footage of performances and interviews as well as thousands of photos of locations and performances. The products of our research will include published essays and interviews, short documentary films and eventually a longer work on Cuban arts and the environment.
Artes Escenicas has already invited our group to return and collaborate more extensively in 2015. This year we will work more intensely with Teatro Cabotin and Teatro de los Elementos, and will also travel to Las Tunas to film Teatro Tuyo and its latest theatrical work, Gris. The director of Teatro Tuyo, Ernesto Parra, explains that the purpose of Gris is to raise awareness of the importance of environmental protection.