San Francisco was given a glimpse of what some say are thawing cultural relations between the United States and Cuba when world-renowned Cuban children’s theater group La Colmenita performed at Fort Mason Center, Oct. 7.
The Brownstone Foundation and the International Committee to Free the Cuban 5 coordinated the tour, La Colmenita’s second to the United States since 2003. The group gave a private show at the UN and performed in several venues in Washington, New York and San Francisco.
La Colmenita, or “The Little Beehive,” has been acknowledged by the United National Children’s Fund for its advocacy of children’s rights and the group’s members were recognized as Goodwill Ambassadors in 2007, so it wasn’t just fans of theater that were excited to see their new show “Abracadabra.”
Director Carlos “Tin” Alberto Cremata was inspired to form the group after his father died in the terrorist attack of Cubana Airlines Flight 455. The group began work in 1990 as an experimental project and it has since grown to serve a diverse range of children throughout Cuba and Latin America.
“The objective of this play was to get to know the human being that is behind the word ‘hero,’” Cremata said. “The children of La Colmenita used this concept and applied it to the modern day heroes in Cuba; The Cuban 5.”
The play is set in a school, where a new teacher has been hired. It was in this classroom that the children shared their lessons about the Cuban 5, presenting them as Cuban heroes that stood against terrorism and deserve to be released from their unfair sentences in the United States.
The political messages were heavy, but accompanied with frequent transitions to “music class,” where the children illuminated the crowd with their endearing and contagious energy as they covered Cuban classics from Los Van Van, Adalberto Alvarez, Silvio Rodriguez and even a song by Bob Dylan.
The audience was full of parents and children who were delighted when the children came down from the stage to greet them with hugs and kisses.
The play itself, however, focused more on presenting the Cuban 5 as heroes and stressing the importance of their release.
Thirteen-year-old Roberto Lopez, who portrays the show’s protagonist, said he hopes the play can help bring the U.S. and Cuba closer together.
“My wish would be that there would be no more political problems,” he said. “Now that all of the people of America and the world agree that what human beings want is to be able share culture and meet different people. This is what we want, to meet different people, even in the United States.”