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A Theater Company Is Crowdfunding to Produce This ‘Powerful’ Play in Cuba About Homosexuality

Bent se realizó por primera vez en 1979 en Londres (Foto compartida en la plataforma Indiegoogo)

“Bent” was first performed in 1979 in London (Photograph displayed on Indiegogo)

Havana's theater company “La Peña Meisner” has launched a campaign on Indiegogo to raise 15,000 British pounds, or about 25,000 US dollars, to produce and launch “Bent” in Cuba, a play about the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany.

“Bent” is “a visceral and powerful representation of the abuse and internment of homosexuals in Nazi Germany leading up to World War II and the search for personal and social acceptance of one's identity,” the fundraising page says.

According to the theater group, which is not official and not financed by the Cuban state, and is made up of actors and directors working under the British director Stephen Bayly, “the topics explored in this classical work, regarding persecution and prejudice against gays, are still very relevant in Cuba today and globally.”

The new Cuban Labor Code, recently approved in the Caribbean nation, has received a lot of criticism due to the lack of explicit recognition of gender identity as a motive for discrimination, leaving transsexuals in a position of vulnerability. Historically the LGBT community in Cuba has suffered discrimination and persecution, but in the past years they have made tremendous strides in terms of acquiring rights. Of course, there is still much work ahead. 

The group's former production, titled “Azul/Naranja,” was financed by the British and Norwegian embassies along with Cuban sponsors. However, “Bent” is an even more ambitious project, which will also receive Norwegian funds.

The online platform Indiegogo specifies that the funds raised will be used for the leasing of the rehearsal space and the theater, the music, lights, marketing campaigns, print and graphic design, costumes and props, the filming of the production, and the actors, directors and producer's flights, amongst other costs.

Los requisitos del diseño de producción incluyen seis conjuntos completamente diferentes en el primer acto, y la construcción de un campo de concentración para el segundo acto. El vestuario y los accesorios abarcan numerosos uniformes nazis, tanto de las SA como de las SS, los uniformes de los presos, pelucas equipadas, fusiles descargados, juegos de gafas con montura de concha, cuchillos de la época, etc.

The production design requirements are six completely different sets in the Act One, and construction of a concentration camp for Act Two. Costumes and accessories involve numerous full Nazi uniforms, both SA and SS, changes of prisoners’ uniforms, fitted wigs, discharging rifles, sets of horn-rimmed glasses, stage knives, etc.

Bayly has stated that he is “extremely proud to be part of this moment in history in Cuba. In the years since I've been coming to Cuba, there has been a growing awareness of LGBT issues (…) So the presentation of Bent (…) could have a significant effect on public opinion.”

La Peña Meisner's realistic acting have turned this company into leaders in Latin America in this form of acting. In February 2012, their production “Las Tumbas Olvidadas” made its debut, performed during the “British week” in Havana.

In June 2013 they performed “Azul/Naranja,” with which members of the cast, Idalmis Garcia and Héctor Noas, earned two nominations for the Premios Caricato, one of the most prestigious acting awards in Cuba.

The first performance of “Bent” took place in London in 1979, with Ian McKellen and Tom Bell in the leading roles. In fact, McKellen appears in a video for the crowdfunding campaign. “The play has been done all over the world, and I'm very glad it's now finally reaching Cuba,” he says. “And wherever it's been shown, I think people have realized its relevance to our lives today.”

In 1980, “Bent” was performed in New York City starring Richard Gere. The play was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in 1980, and won the Dramatist Guild Best Play Award. It was adapted into a film in 1997 under the direction of Sean Mathias.

The crowdfunding campaign ends on July 23.

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