‘Anna in the Tropics’ presents culturally diverse cast, pays homage to classic literature

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‘Anna in the Tropics’ presents culturally diverse cast, pays homage to classic literature

Students rehearse for “Anna in the Tropics.” The show features themes from the book “Anna Karenina.”

Students rehearse for “Anna in the Tropics.” The show features themes from the book “Anna Karenina.”

Daniel Tian/The Daily Northwestern

Students rehearse for “Anna in the Tropics.” The show features themes from the book “Anna Karenina.”

Daniel Tian/The Daily Northwestern

Daniel Tian/The Daily Northwestern

Students rehearse for “Anna in the Tropics.” The show features themes from the book “Anna Karenina.”

Rachel D. Holtzman, Reporter

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In the upcoming production “Anna in the Tropics,” director and Communication Prof. Henry Godinez aimed to feature a diverse cast to explore the ideas of tradition, culture and family embodied in the play.

The show, which opens this Friday in the Louis Theater at The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts, depicts a Cuban-American family that operates a cigar factory in Ybor City, Florida, in 1929.

“I have always felt it was important to offer the Wirtz Center ideas for productions I think provide some opportunities for diversity on our campus — cultural diversity, all kinds of diversity,” he said. “It’s beautiful that most of (the members of) this cast are Latino, African American, mixed race or Asian. It’s a beautiful array of diversity on the stage that we’re very proud of.”

It follows the story of a new lector, a man assigned to read literature to the cigar factory workers so they don’t get bored while rolling cigars by hand. As his reading of “Anna Karenina” progresses, the factory workers, mostly Cuban immigrants, find parallels between the novel and their own lives, cast member Alex Quiñones said. Those connections include marriage troubles and conflicts over technology and class, the Communication sophomore said. He added that the incorporation of “Anna Karenina” is a classic literature component that shows the applicability of epic works of literature to daily life.

Godinez said the actors worked to truthfully represent the experiences of Cuban immigrants.

“We really wanted (the actors to embody) what it’s like to be an immigrant, longing for not just your home, but also for tradition, at a time when modernity and mechanization was threatening their very existence, hand-rolling cigars,” Godinez said.

Cast member Isabella Gerasole, who is Latina, said the diversity of the cast and the focus on a Latino community feel both refreshing and comfortable.

“I think that’s a really important thing for college theater: making strides to stray away from whitewashing everything,” the Communication junior said.

Gerasole added that the drama features a colorful, sensory set and staging.

“We’ve really been leaning into the way these characters speak to each other and the aesthetics of the show,” Gerasole said. “We work with real tobacco leaves in the factory scenes, and there are elements, too, like snow coming in the middle of summertime.”

Because the community of these characters is at the center of the show, Godinez said he and the actors worked on creating their own community in the rehearsal room.

“It’s been kind of cool, especially considering that as theater students they’re learning about creating community through art,” Godinez said.

Email: rachelholtzman2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @rdanielle1995

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