Juan Carlos Cremata, the censored playwright, is publishing on the web a brief monologue on authoritarianism and censorship. Translator’s note: “The President” in the monologue is not the president of the country, but rather of the State organization in charge of the theater.
The President’s Monologue
The scene is a meeting room. Only a sofa, some chairs, a large armchair. The president enters talking on her cellphone. She is a woman of an uncertain age, elegantly dressed, but not exaggeratedly so, almost casually. Her gestures are tough, energetic, with a certain diplomatic nuance, but always very tense.
President: No, no. Don’t worry. I’ll call you. Let me get this over with, I can’t take it any more. Yes, yes, the minister knows, of course! He supports me. If not, how could I take this measure? That [with a certain irony] “artist” has gotten too insolent. And it’s time for us to stop him. Wait. [She goes to the door she came in by and orders] Raisa! Tell all the vice presidents I want them here! Right now! And the specialists from every department too! Get Valdes Malo and Liudmila, the advisor, to come too [She continues her cellphone conversation but adds]
Oh, and bring coffee for everyone. But for me a cup of tea, or chamomile. Good and strong. [She explains to the cellphone] I have a terrible headache, ever since we saw that show last Saturday, it hasn’t quit. No, no. Don’t worry. I’ll fix it myself today. [Pause] I’ll call you later. Yes, yes. When you finish the news broadcast, I’ll ring and tell you. And [with the same irony] that “disagreeable character” is coming here. I’ll let you go, everyone has to be here.
She hangs up and arranges things a little. She puts the armchair across from a specific chair and settles herself comfortably. She looks in a large briefcase, takes out a datebook and opens it to make some notes. The subordinates begin to enter. One in a checked shirt, another in a striped T-shirt, and third in a short-sleeved guayabera. They all carry something to write with and their faces are circumspect. A specialist also enters, with glasses and dyed purple hair. She is a little affected in her mannerisms. Almost ridiculous. Another comes later. He is a young man in a Che T-shirt. He is going to sit in the chair the president put in front of her when a warning from his boss stops him.
President: No, no, no. That chair is for [with the now customary disdain] the “artist.” I want him right in front of me so I can see the expression on his face. Find another chair. [To everyone] And before the “aforementioned” comes through the door, I have to tell you something. [With a certain authoritarianism] I do not want to hear any more comments in the hallway about my potentially leaving this post, because of a rumor, I don’t know where it came from, that I want to go to Venezuela because they are going to make my husband a correspondent for Telesur. Don’t let anyone get that idea. Because I am going to continue here. Leading you. On the front line.
This is the post assigned to me by the Party. If tomorrow it is the Basic Industry job, we’ll go there. But this is what I have to defend today. And I am going to do it until I’m given another mission. Is that clear? Secondly, I will deal with this alone. I want to say, when this “problem person” comes through the door, I am not going to listen to any comments. From any of you! No one needs to add anything. And if there is any doubt, we’ll settle it later. Did you tell Liudmila to come down?
Suddenly the Artist enters. Clearly in a different mood than everyone else present. Not better, not worse, just very distinct, different. As if he does not fit in that environment. The President assumes an even more arrogant air. She rises to welcome him.
President: How’s it going? Come, come. We were expecting you. [She orders from the door] Raisa, don’t disturb us! [She turns and with her hand points to the chair facing her armchair] Please, be so kind as to sit down.
The Artist sits at the center. Everyone looks surprised. The President returns to her place.
President: Liudmila didn’t come down? [Almost without pause] Fine, it doesn’t matter, we’ll start without her. We won’t take too much time on this. [To the Artist] Look, I’ll get straight to the point. It is important that you understand that we greatly respect your work. We have followed you for a long time. Even from when were at the Youth Cadre School… [she stops talking for a moment and changes her attitude] you have done so much, dear heart. So much and for so long. And we have let you do it. But that’s good now. I think now is the time to stop. And you can rest.
I have felt betrayed, mocked and even wounded to the depths of my feelings. Because here we have put our complete faith in the work you were preparing. And suddenly, we saw “it,” what you staged last Saturday. And there was no level of artistic metaphor. The language was poor, direct, reactionary and vulgar. But worst of all is the frank mockery of the historical leader of our Revolution. A complete lack of respect for a person who has done so much for us in our country. And who is now very sick, poor man. And this is something we can’t allow! Not me, not any of us here. [She looks at everyone.] Isn’t that right? [They all nod their heads.]
So, in the name of the freedoms we have achieved over the years for our theater movement, we feel obliged to censor your show. If you want, we will explain it to the actors, we will issue a public note, I don’t know. And it doesn’t matter to me that we have spent a lot of money on the production, and on all the publicity. Or that you have spent so many months of rehearsing and so much work in the preparation. As it stands, this production has no possibility of being changed. And it cannot continue. Do you have something to add?
The artist looks at everyone without understanding what he just heard. Some avoid his gaze. They look at the ceiling as if they were looking for answers. He raises his arms a little bit, almost as if he were asking for mercy. And with that he gets up and leaves. Everyone is stunned.
President [speaking to the Che T-shirt): You! Prepare an article with enough theoretical foundation that explains everything that happened, our rationale and that the production is cancelled. [To the one with affected mannerisms] Draft a note for me as soon as possible to publish the ban. Very brief. Without a lot of details. The less explanation the better. [To the striped shirt] Valdes Malo, find the Ministry’s attorney to begin drafting a resolution that dissolves this damn theater group and ends any chance that this “harmful agent” will continue directing theater in this country. I will inform the minister. Don’t lose any time. We have to act quickly. The enemy is lurking here. Among us. On all sides. And we must attack.
They depart quickly and leave her alone. She approaches the stage, triumph on her face. Music with heroic overtones plays but stops abruptly at the insistent ringing of a cellphone. She answers.
President: Tell me, my life [pause]. No, no, everything’s fine [another pause]. Not one word. What could I say? This time we’re done with him! [She changes her tone, sounds more desperate] Have you heard anything from Telesur?
Then her face is flooded with deep frustration. She goes to the door and screams.
President: Raisa, where is the tea, please? I need it yesterday.
She drops crestfallen into the armchair as the curtain falls. Applause without much emotion. They are the same characters forever. The infinite and constant comedy. Such is the theater in today’s Cuba.