For the last three decades Mario Ernesto Sánchez, founder and artistic director of the International Hispanic Theatre Festival of Miami, has had to navigate last minute cancellations, mountains of red tape, denied visas, earthquakes, hurricanes and more. It’s no wonder when asked what he loves about producing the festival, now in its 31st year, his wry sense of humor comes out: “My favorite thing is that every year we go through hell, for several reasons, but when the festival arrives and we see the results, we begin to plan the following year.”
Sánchez, known for his tenacity as a director and his charm as a promoter of culture, continues the festival’s mission of highlighting Hispanic culture by bringing Miami some of the most interesting theater from the U.S, Latin America, and Spain, with this year’s iteration that runs through July 24 at various Miami-Dade venues.
We caught up with Sánchez on the cusp of the festival’s opening and discussed this year’s highlights.
Argentina’s Grupo Ojcuro grabbed our attention in part because several of the members are blind, but also for their unique production qualities. Have they performed in the festival before?
It should grab your attention because it’s something Miami has never experienced. I saw them in Buenos Aires and immediately I thought about presenting them here. Grupo Ojcuro has never performed here and not all in the group are blind, only five. La isla desierta (The Desert Island --July 14-16), by Roberto Arlt, adapted and directed by José Menchaca, is performed in total darkness. It’s a play about our senses except eyesight. You leave the theatre knowing that blind people are normal human beings except they cannot see.
Every year your company Teatro Avante debuts a new play. This year you co-wrote, El Puerto de los Cristales Rotos (Harbor of Broken Glass -- July 21-23): Is this the first time you’ve co-written a play?
Yes, it is the first time I have co-written a play. Almost 15 years ago I saw a small article in the newspaper that read: Today, on May 13, we commemorate the tragic voyage of the MS St. Louis [the ship carrying 937 Jewish refugees in 1939, which was turned away by Cuba, the U.S. and Canada, resulting in the eventual deaths of many of the passengers in Nazi camps]. This triggered a 10-year investigation and the more I read, the more interesting and sad it became. I even thought about “dry foot, wet foot,” the current law governing the Cuban rafters. Since then, I have been obsessed with the idea of writing a play about this incident, mainly because no one I asked knew what I was talking about and it should be known what Cuba and the U.S. were capable of doing before WWII. Only lately have other writers been interested in promulgating the truth about the tragic voyage of the MS St. Louis.
Luckily, I found what has become a dear friend and colleague, Patricia Suárez, an award-winning Jewish-Argentine award-winning writer from Buenos Aires. She gave me the freedom to use her play structure while writing my own story. She loved the finish product and will travel to Miami to witness the world premiere. [El puerto de los cristales rotos will have an extended run at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium’s On.Stage Black Box Theatre, Feb. 2-5, 2017.]
What other festival highlights should the public watch out for?
We try to bring highlights from [various] countries. [The festival began with] Mexico, bringing Del manantial del corazón (From the Wellspring of the Heart), a Mayan baptism from Merida, Yucatan; and Prometeo presenting Cacería, an adaptation of The Crucible. Spain is bringing Los espejos de Don Quijote (Mirrors of Don Quixote -- July 15-16), the award-winning play that commemorated Cervantes’ 400th death anniversary. Peru comes with El Sistema Solar (July 22-23), where no one expects a revelation towards the end that will set off a true crisis in their household.
This year we celebrate the popular International Children’s Day with Piedra a Piedra (Stone by Stone -- July 17), a bilingual play from Valencia, Spain. The day is free and open to the public and it includes arts and crafts, rides, face painting, combo meals, and workshops for children.
WHAT: The International Hispanic Theatre Festival of Miami
WHEN: Through July 24
WHERE: Adrienne Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater, 1900 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; Miami-Dade County Auditorium’s On.Stage Black Box, 2901 W. Flagler, Miami; and the Key Biscayne Community Center, 10 Village Green Way., Key Biscayne.
INFO: Tickets: $30-38, seniors, students and persons with disabilities $25. For times and venues, visit teatroavante.org; www.miamidadecountyauditorium.org; www.arshtcenter.org; 305-547-5414; 1-800-745-3000.
One could say that Bistoury’s 305 & Havana International Improv Fest, which debuts this Saturday at Miami Theater Center, has been in the works for almost 20 years. In 1999 Cuban-born cho..
The process of creating “Shade,” choreographer Augusto Soledade’s latest full-length work, has been one of remembering and reconfiguring memory to discover new ways of talking about identity ..
Upcoming this week, Tigertail presents choreographer Myriam Gourfink and musician Kasper Toeplitz. Hailing from France, the two will be present for a 3-day residency at Subtropics’ South Beac..
From her home base at 6th Street Dance Studio in Little Havana, longtime Miami dance figure Brigid Baker has been slowly crafting a new performance piece. It’s not conceptual or political like con..
Karen Peterson is the artistic director of Karen Peterson and Dancers, a company that brings professional dancers with and without disabilities together in the same piece of choreography, and..
Revivals are hot on Broadway these days with “CATS”and “Hello, Dolly!“once again gracing the Great White Way. There is a certain nostalgia in taking a second or even third viewing of a belove..
What happens when urban dance style meets classical music? We’ll find out when Brooklyn-based hip-hop dance troupe Decadancetheater takes the stage, backed by Miami’s own experimental classic..
“What does it mean to belong? What does it mean to not want to belong?” These are questions that choreographer Reggie Wilson contemplates in his provocative piece “CITIZEN,“ which makes its M..
If even a modicum of redemption can be forged from the hellish after-effects of gun violence, we must listen to the communities most affected by the violence. To this end, “Trigger,” a hip-ho..
Celebrating 35 years is an amazing achievement for any dance company in Miami, but especially one founded in a decade better known for its ties to drugs than to the arts. Momentum Dance Compa..
For Tigertail Productions, April is the month of fire. Like their WATER Festival in 2016, this month’s FIRE Festival celebrates a single element in multiple art forms, including dance, visual..
During the month of April the organizers of the seventh iteration of the O Miami Poetry Festival intend every resident of Miami Dade county to encounter a poem or – even better – write one! An..
As the “home-grown” sweetheart of Miami City Ballet, Patricia Delgado is having her final performances this season before leaving the city and the company she loves to move to New York City.H..
Even people who can’t find Argentina on a map and believe tangos only happen in Paris know La Cumparsita’s iconic four beat opening. Like a bar’s last call, La Cumparsita tells tango dancers ..
Miami City Ballet will conclude its season this week with a rich selection of repertory pieces: two from Balanchine, in very expressive but distinct modes, and one from modern-dance master Pa..
Ballet Flamenco La Rosa’s studio evokes the feel of a tablao in Spain. The strumming of the guitar, the rapid-fire rhythms of footwork against the floor, and the soft voice of the singer reac..
Miami choreographer Augusto Soledade has been a fixture in the local dance world since he arrived here in 2004. His cast has shifted over the years and he continues to challenge himself artis..
In one duet, two dancers use their bodies as counterweights, springing forth from each other’s bodies with explosive power. In another, dancers form a sharp line before torsos undulate and fa..
Teacher, choreographer and activist Dale Andree is known for her ability to merge activism with dance. Andree founded and directs National Water Dance, a site-specific project that joins danc..
In 2016, Philadelphia-based Koresh Dance company crossed their 25-year mark. To celebrate, the company returns to Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts with a 25th anniversary..
From singers like Joan Baez to poets like Maya Angelou to anonymous knitters of pink pussy hats, creative women have played an essential role in this country as agitators and activists. Likew..
When Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami (DDTM) takes the stage this weekend, it will present a program rich in the cultural milieu of Miami. Co-founders Jennifer Kronenberg and Carlos Guerra i..
It is an awe-inspiring experience to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancers perform. They are well trained dancers, athletes and artists. Not often known is that some of the dance..
Back for an 8th season in Miami, the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater packs the house every year. With Liberty City hometown hero Robert Battle in his fifth year, we have many rea..
Awash in sunlight, around 50 women stand in a circle on the rooftop performance space of Casa Gaia in Old Havana, Cuba, as part of a belly-dance festival. Biodanza facilitator Karen Rodríguez..
Choreographer Jeanguy Saintus works primarily from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, but his creative work has global appeal. He is a pioneering artist who blends Haiti’s traditional music and dance alo..
New life for a legacy ballet—a veritable choreographer-magnet—created a great buzz about Miami City Ballet’s third program this season. But at the Arsht Center for the Performing ..
Project 305 has a simple aim – crowd-source a Miami symphony. For 100 days from January 31 to May 12 New World Symphony, in collaboration with the Knight Foundation and the M.I.T. Media Lab, ..
You hear the word “flamenco” -- what image comes to mind? A guitar? A dark-haired dancer? The color red, a ruffled dress? Did a piano by any chance enter the picture? Perhaps not. Pianist..
Critics on five continents have described her work as “indecent and breathtaking,” or some close variant. One blessed her for always “going too far.” Another stated he would prefer death to m..
Buzzing his lips and shaking his head, Rafael Davila gets ready to rehearse. In the Florida Grand Opera’s cavernous rehearsal hall in Doral, the floor is marked with tape to delineate the roo..
There’s a song James Blood Ulmer sings called “Jazz Is the Teacher, Funk is the Preacher.” If you bring in Mother Blues, along with the family hothead, Rock and Roll, you’ll have a better pi..
Ask about the Miami Sound to 10 people in South Florida and you’ll get 11 different answers. And yet, for more than 20 years, the Spam Allstars, a group founded and anchored by DJ Le Spam (a..
This year’s TransAtlantic Festival features local dance music stars, a Malian guitarist known as “the Hendrix of the Sahara,” and something unique: a Haitian rara band comprised entirely of women...
If the political movement that saw its birth after the November elections is in the market for a composer to set the score for its many marches, Frederic Rzewski might be a strong contender f..
In a combo that promises to be both sublime and rip-roaring, three generations of Cuban and Cuban diaspora musicians come together this Saturday at The Miami-Dade County Auditorium to celebra..
El 11 y 12 de mayo próximo tendrá lugar en el Miami -Dade County Auditorium el estreno en Estados Unidos de Scrutiny: The World Gone Astray(en español,Escrutinio: El mundo se ha ido a la deri..
Para el pianista y compositor cubano Omar Sosa la noción de una cultura global, sin fronteras, no es un concepto abstracto sino un tema personal. En su música, elementos de hip hop y rumba, ..
No hay que viajar a otro país para disfrutar en vivo de la música cubana del momento, la más innovadora, la que le da la vuelta al mundo. Basta con asistir a Global Cuba Fest, aquí mismo, en ..
Nadie como el bailarín y coreógrafo español Antonio Gades para describir el arte que lo hizo internacionalmente famoso cuando vivía: “Un extracto de fuego y de veneno, eso es el flamenco”. ..
Desde Las troyanas de Eurípides hasta “Guernica” de Picasso, o de la canción “Blowing in the Wind” de Bob Dylan al diseño de las gorras rosadas que llevaron miles de mujeres en las protestas ..
En un discurso de 1977, el escritor argentino Jorge Luis Borges desmintió la idea de que la ceguera fuera un mundo de oscuridad cuando describió su propia “modesta ceguera”. Hablaba de ciert..
En su discurso de recibimiento del Premio Nobel, el poeta chileno Pablo Neruda afirmó que el poeta no es un "pequeño dios." De hecho expresó que el mejor poeta “es el hombre que nos entrega e..
En la cultura yoruba, y sobre todo en sus manifestaciones caribeñas como la afrocubana, las historias contadas oralmente por generaciones ocupan un lugar esencial. Esas historias, muchas de e..
En la serie artística Out in the Tropics, la tarima no discrimina, la sensibilidad de los intérpretes es inclusiva y todo público es bienvenido. Producción de la entidad local sin fines d..