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Tacoma Arts Live Presents...Anna in the Tropics Podcast Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):

This podcast is brought to you, thanks to the generous support of Columbia Bank and Tacoma Creates.

David Fischer (00:19):

Hello and welcome to Tacoma Arts Live podcast. And this is a special podcast that we've been doing, focusing on our theater productions. My name is David Fischer. I am a cisgendered male, go by he/his/him.

David Fischer (00:35):

Today, I am wearing a bright blue t-shirt with a covered jacket. I have dark-rim glasses, and salt and pepper hair, which is ever receding, and ever becoming more salt than pepper. In today's episode we'll focus on Anna in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz, playing through April 10th at Tacoma's Theatre on the Square.

David Fischer (01:03):

Joining us today will be director Rose Cano, and cast member Suz Marie. Looking forward to a fun conversation with them.

David Fischer (01:14):

I want to thank our sponsors, Columbia Bank and Tacoma Creates, which is the voter-approved taxing authority that helps support arts, culture, heritage, and science in the city of Tacoma. And we're grateful to the voters for that support.

David Fischer (01:32):

We'd also like to acknowledge that Tacoma Arts Live comes to you today from the traditional lands of the Salish people, and the Puyallup tribe, who continue practicing their Lushootseed language and other traditions of family, place, and mother nature. We pay our respects to elders both past and present.

David Fischer (01:59):

Our theater program has been going, really since 2009, and we've produced more than 20 productions during that time. In about 2018, our board of trustees said, "Enough with the experimentation. Let's make this a permanent program." And we have since expanded to produce live theater consistently in downtown Tacoma. Our vision with the work starts with a shared curatorial leadership that we invite all Pacific Northwest professionals to join in, as volunteers, and give input and guidance for play selection. And we seek plays that engage empathy, spark community conversations, broaden understanding, bring joy, challenge, laughter, and catharsis, with a program that focuses very much on expanding community access through free ticketing.

David Fischer (02:56):

With Anna in the Tropics, we're so happy to be taking this project on. It's a wonderful play. It takes place in, is it Ybor City?

Rose Cano (03:07):


David Fischer (03:07):

Ybor City. I always mispronounce that. Ybor City, Florida, in 1929, and it centers around a Cuban-American family, who is at the beginning of the play, awaiting the arrival of their new Lector, Juan Julian, who is a reader who entertains cigar rollers in a factory. It's a family-owned factory, the patriarch, Santiago. He, actually, his wife, has hired Juan Julian and they're all just dying for him to come and break the boredom, and the monotony of the work. And in fact, most of the family is overjoyed by the presence of the new Lector, but not all. And when he starts reading the Russian classic Anna Karenina, the scandalous lives of Tolstoy's characters start to intertwine with the lives of his listeners.

David Fischer (04:04):

And as he reads, the hot, humid, Florida summer starts to resemble, in an odd way, the cold Russian winter of the story. Where infidelity, money problems, and violence, spring to the surface as family member grapple with their new found understanding of life and relationships.

David Fischer (04:25):

It's an absolutely spectacular play. Was Pulitzer Prize Winner in 2003, Tony Award for the Best Play in 2004. The author, Mr. Cruz, is the author of many, many, many plays. A Park in Our House, A Bicycle Country, Two Sisters and a Piano, Lorca in a Green Dress, several others, and is known for his translations of The House of Bernarda Alba, and Doña Rosita the Spinster, and more.

David Fischer (05:00):

His plays have been and produced throughout the country, and throughout the world, at numerous theaters, including the Public Theater in New York, New York Shakespeare Festival, New York Theatre Workshop, New Theatre in Florida, the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey, the Florida Stage, the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, the Coconut Grove in Miami, Magic Theater, my alma mater in San Francisco, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

David Fischer (05:26):

Mr. Cruz is now a professor at the Yale School of Drama. One of the nation's finest drama schools. He resides in New York City, and is a New Dramatists alumnus.

David Fischer (05:37):

So, we are working with a master author on this play, and it is evident in every moment that you will see. I'm so pleased today to welcome two members of the company with us, the director, and one of the acting company members. So, I would like the director to introduce herself.

Rose Cano (06:00):

Hello, my name is Rose Cano. I go by she [foreign language 00:08:28] pronouns. And if I were to describe what I'm wearing right now, I'm wearing a sparkly green dress in the tradition of the 1920s flappers, very much in-keeping with Anna in the Tropics, and the period that it's set in. I have long black hair tied up in a bun.

David Fischer (06:24):

Welcome Rose.

Rose Cano (06:25):

Thank you.

Rose Cano (06:26):

You are a graduate of the Cornish College and a founding member of eSe Teatro, Seattle Latinos Taking Stage since 2010, serving as Artistic Director from 2012 to 2019, and now Artistic Director Emerita. She is a bilingual actor, playwright, director, storyteller, and lyricist. Her plays Don Quixote & Sancho Panza: Homeless in Seattle, and Bernie's Apt., were produced in partnership with ACT in Seattle.

Rose Cano (06:57):

She also directed and translated the international premiere of The Journey of the Saint by César de María in 2018. She virtually directed Shoe by Marisela Treviño Orta for ACT in 2021.

Rose Cano (07:17):

She is the playwright lyricist for the Creative Hiatus Productions, with composer David Nyberg. Their first musical, Imaginary Opus: A Sensory Experience in 2 Acts, was produced with Sound Theatre of Seattle in 2018. And the cast album of their second musical, People in the Square, was released November 19, 2020, produced by Trial and Error Productions. The stage production of People in the Square will open then, August 4th at the old Skid Road Theatre in Pioneer Square.

Rose Cano (07:56):

Rose, welcome.

Rose Cano (07:58):

Thank you.

David Fischer (07:58):

It's great to have you here. And we are also blessed to have a member of the acting company here with us, the actress playing Conchita. Can you introduce yourself please?

Suz Marie (08:08):

Yes. Hi, my name is Suz Marie. We have a show today, so I'm in very comfortable clothes, wearing a blue sweatshirt with my long gray coat, my signature hoops. And my long black hair is tied back in a braid. Pronouns she/they [foreign language 00:08:27]

David Fischer (08:27):

Welcome to you too. It's great to have you here.

Suz Marie (08:29):

Thank you.

David Fischer (08:30):

It's been so much fun to work with you guys in mounting this show. And Suz Marie, you are a Chilean American who was born and raised in Miami, Florida.

Suz Marie (08:42):

I am.

David Fischer (08:42):

Not too far from where this play takes place, although almost a hundred years later.

Suz Marie (08:49):


Suz Marie (08:49):

Lots has changed since then.

David Fischer (08:52):

And you moved to Seattle in 2020, just in time for the pandemic. And despite that, you've had the opportunity to perform in Rainy Day Collective's Lightning Round Festival and [Auburn Actors Theater's 00:09:07] Play in the Parks, which is a series. And then you played Sorrel in Hay Fever.

Suz Marie (09:14):

Yes. And it was Burien Actors Theater.

David Fischer (09:16):

Burien. I'm sorry.

Suz Marie (09:17):

No, no. That's...

David Fischer (09:17):

I'm sorry. I miss misspoke there. I love Hay Fever. Lots of fun to play, isn't it?

Suz Marie (09:22):

Oh my gosh. So fun.

David Fischer (09:23):

Did you have fun?

Suz Marie (09:24):

Yeah, I've come a lot from sketch comedy. So comedy is just my comfort zone. So doing Hay Fever was amazing.

David Fischer (09:34):

I have directed it to come of times. It's one of my favorites. So much fun.

Suz Marie (09:38):

Oh, nice.

David Fischer (09:38):

And this summer you're going to be performing as Nina, in In the Heights at the Seattle Musical Theater and Latino Theater Projects. Is that right?

Suz Marie (09:48):

Yes. Yes. It will be premiering June 2nd at Cornish Playhouse.

David Fischer (09:51):

Fantastic. All right. Well, it's just so much fun to talk to you both.

David Fischer (09:59):

Rose, you have a resume that is rich and full, dynamic with so many different ways of being in the theater. What really energizes you the most would you say, among all the different roles that you play?

Rose Cano (10:17):

I like to reflect reality through the arts. And of course, reality is the lens of the person. Any given person is going to see things differently, but I think art helps us filter, and highlight, sort of like a magnifying glass.

Rose Cano (10:37):

And I tend to do projects in decades. So I had a 10 year period of time where my focus was on native-to-native exchange, indigenous people from... I'm from Peru. So it was primarily from Peru, and indigenous people of Washington State. And I visited the Puyallups with a group of 10 Peruvian scissors dancers. This was 25 years ago.

Rose Cano (11:04):

And then I had a decade of working on Afro Latino and African American exchange, bringing artists from Cuba, where I visited several times, and then artists from my own country, from Peru.

Rose Cano (11:18):

And then I had a 10 year period co-founding in creating eSe Teatro and being within the Latinx Theatre Commons, which is a national movement. Which I've been a part of since 2013. So, what moved me there was trying to galvanize a movement coast to coast, reflecting many aspects of Latinidad. I am moved by the perspective, in the changing perspectives of Latinidad, [Latinists 00:11:55] within the United States and globally.

David Fischer (11:58):

Your work as a translator is interesting to me. Not easy work. Just tell me a little bit about that. What drew you to that and what are some of the challenges that you had to address?

Rose Cano (12:16):

Sure. Just a little clarification. Translation refers to what's on the page. The words on the page. Interpretation is the spoken word. I do both, and I love them both.

Rose Cano (12:34):

In terms of translation, I believe theater exists in a literary form, and also in a living form, through time, on stage. Each, I think, has its own merit. Like this play, this beautiful play, Anna in the Tropics, you can read it and it stands as a beautiful piece of literature.

David Fischer (12:59):

It really does. Absolutely.

Rose Cano (12:59):

And it lives that way. It lives in our minds, our imaginations. But of course seeing it and having spent these last few weeks with it, getting it on stage, and fleshed out by living human beings, that's of course, another aspect to theater. So translation is equally rich. It's like delving into the literary form.

Rose Cano (13:26):

I've translated four or five plays at this time. And for me, it is really understanding the poetry of the language. I've translated from English to Spanish, and also from Spanish to English. My own works and other people's works. It's a fun mind game, because the poetry of language, whatever language it is, I think it's like a code in your brain, and it goes through a process to be rendered into another language. I enjoy that.

David Fischer (14:02):

That's great.

Rose Cano (14:02):

It's a long, long answer.

David Fischer (14:04):

No, it's great. I don't know this and I probably should, but do you know, did Nilo Cruz write this play in Spanish first, and then translate it himself, or the other way around, or...?

Rose Cano (14:21):

What I understand, and I was in a production of Anna in the Tropics in 2003 or 04 at the Seattle Rep. What I remember from that time period, is that he wrote it in English as we will see it tonight in Tacoma. And then it was translated, for him by someone else. I believe in Madrid. I may be wrong about that.

David Fischer (14:43):

Oh, interesting.

Rose Cano (14:43):

But I remember reading it at that time in Spanish too. The translation, which is, of course, it's equally beautiful.

David Fischer (14:51):


Rose Cano (14:51):

You know, it's a beautiful play. But I think for me, the important thing is the way he writes it, is to give you the illusion that you're listening to it in Spanish. That's beyond having an accent or no accent. It's the way...

David Fischer (15:08):

It's the rhythm of...

Rose Cano (15:08):

It's the rhythm, the way it's crafted...

Suz Marie (15:10):

The musicality.

Rose Cano (15:12):

The musicality, right? You can sit back and listen, "Oh yeah. These people are speaking in Spanish." But they're actually speaking in English.

David Fischer (15:23):

And you're so right. It just hits you, it carries through in English. You made a fun choice in some moments. I won't give too much away.

Rose Cano (15:35):

Thank you.

David Fischer (15:35):

But there are some bilingual moments here.

Rose Cano (15:38):

There are.

David Fischer (15:39):

I just love that you chose to do that. And I think that it helps bring the audience in, gets them leaning forward in their seat, even that much more. And I think it works incredibly well. Was that fun to do that?

Rose Cano (15:53):

Thank you. Yes. I also thought it was also really necessary. I do a lot of bilingual work as a writer and as a performer. I know that when an audience is listening to a language that potentially they don't understand, you're listening, and in one way. And then when it's in English, you're listening in another way. If you happen to speak both those languages, then there is a fluidity between one and the other.

Rose Cano (16:24):

But, I think it's different parts of your brain, or maybe it's the same part of your brain, but you're listening differently. I liken it to when you're listening to NPR, let's say, now you're hearing a story in Ukraine, and it begins in Ukrainian. And then the interpreter begins talking, and then it continues into English. Just that setup helps you slip into that world. That's what I wanted to do with this play, and the Lector, to give people, to give their ear a heads up, to slip into this language. And for them to suspend their disbelief. And then, okay. They're listening to this whole playing in Spanish, although they're not.

David Fischer (17:12):

I think it works incredibly well and it's wonderful choice.

Rose Cano (17:17):

Thank so.

David Fischer (17:18):

I always love those moments.

Rose Cano (17:18):

We are so lucky to have bilingual actors for... Well, the role of the Lector. But many of the actors, I would say, three quarters of them are bilingual.

David Fischer (17:31):

Yes. I grew up in the Bay Area and enjoyed and immersed in El Teatro Campesino and the San Francisco Mime Troop. And those programs displayed something that I think typifies that in the Bay Area, in Northern California, all of California, the Latinx community is very forward. Very part of the overall fabric of community. And very visible. Here, since I moved here in the Puget Sound region, I don't see it, that community, the Latinx community, as visible.

Rose Cano (18:23):

You have to come visit us more.

David Fischer (18:25):

Well, no. No, don't get me wrong. It is very much a present culture, but I don't think it has... I don't know. It's big numbers in terms of demographics, very present, very active, and in different pockets of community. But I think culturally, I haven't seen that community either find their legs, or be given the opportunity, I don't know how to say it, but it doesn't seem as forward as it does in the Bay Area. And I'm wondering if that has it all been your experience? I notice, you have been a co-founder of eSe Teatro.

Rose Cano (19:19):

And also, I would say another part of my work is bringing theater to the community. With eSe Teatro and before, and since, and after. It's bringing work, not just keeping it in the theater, in the salon, as it were, but also outdoors with eSe Teatro, and before eSe Teatro, going to different shelters and doing readings of pieces of new work. Shelters where there was mostly Spanish speaking people, and then being able to talk about it.

Rose Cano (19:55):

That is one way, I think of giving the community a voice. But going back to your point about California. I think also our history is so different. California was part of Spain.

David Fischer (20:09):

It was part of Mexico.

Rose Cano (20:11):

Part of Mexico. First it was part of Spain and then it was part of Mexico. Those roots are strong and those traditions, they're on the same land that they've been on. But when you talk about Washington State, although the Spaniards did come make it as far as Neah Bay, because the oldest Spanish structure is in Neah Bay.

David Fischer (20:35):

Oh, is that right?

Rose Cano (20:36):


David Fischer (20:36):

I didn't know that.

Rose Cano (20:38):

But the presence, yeah. Much less. And so our expression of cultures through the different immigrant populations over the hundreds of years. My family didn't come over till the late fifties, before I was born. But if you think of these different waves, from different countries, but if we're talking about Latinidad right now. I think that expression, it's going to be different. It takes you a while. I think generations, to have agency to be able to practice your culture.

David Fischer (21:19):

That's what I'm getting at.

Rose Cano (21:21):

Yeah. That's a lot of things.

David Fischer (21:24):

It is and...

Rose Cano (21:24):

Equality and equal voice. But there was a Teatro Campesino movement here in Eastern Washington.

David Fischer (21:30):

I didn't know that.

Rose Cano (21:30):

At the same period. I think it was called [Theatro del Piolho. 00:21:32]. There was a scholar, I think she lives here in Tacoma, [Jeanette Isman 00:21:41]. I remember her telling me about it also, [Maria Enriques 00:21:50].

Rose Cano (21:49):

There are some important legacies here.

David Fischer (21:54):

There's roots here.

Rose Cano (21:55):

But your point, I think is true. Your point, I think is true. It takes a while to get agency and to be able to make that massive. But having said that, just last weekend, I went to Daybreak Star. There was a celebration of indigenous people's survival after the pandemic. And that was completely packed from wall to wall. And it was all community. It was P'urhepecha, Kichwa, Mixtecos. It was a lot. It was all dance. There was a lot of mask work. There was a lot of singing. There was music. Those things that were part of the Teatro Campesino, I think those legacies, they're here, but we're at a different period in history.

David Fischer (22:38):

The density of Latinx community here in the Puget Sound is higher here than it is in Eastern Washington. We at Tacoma Art Live are mindful of that, and we are partnering with [Latinx Unidos 00:22:59], who is a Tacoma and Puget Sound agency. We produce an annual festival in partnership with them.

Rose Cano (23:06):


David Fischer (23:07):

And this play is another step we have taken to say, "Hey, look, let's represent. Let's make opportunity and provide that kind of agency that you're talking about."

Rose Cano (23:18):

Very important.

David Fischer (23:21):

It's been great. And at the same time, I think, I also, as I'm talking about this, thinking about the political environment of the 1960s in the Bay Area, is not the political environment of the United States here-

Rose Cano (23:40):


David Fischer (23:40):

Yeah. Today. So, when you talk about agency and that sense of self expression and all of that, it's a much, much, much more complicated environment to be able to do that in.

Rose Cano (23:53):

True. Very true. Very true.

David Fischer (23:56):

So, if we can help, we're all about it.

Rose Cano (24:00):

Oh yes. Please come to me, I have many ideas, many projects.

David Fischer (24:03):

Love it.

Rose Cano (24:04):

And I just have to tell you that we had a group come last weekend to the show from the Latinx Health Board. So the Northwest Latinx Health Board, I'm also on the steering committee, is about 40 members representing the Pacific Northwest, including Tacoma. And we would love more presence in the South Sound, but to encourage and promote health equity, and health equality, and health justice. Because the pandemic has affected people so differently.

David Fischer (24:35):


Rose Cano (24:35):

It's just been a lens. So our community's been really impacted. Arts and health for me, they go together.

David Fischer (24:47):

They go hand in hand. Will you be pleased to know that when we did host the Festival Latinx, we hosted testing and free vaccination all as part of that festival. So we are right there with you on that.

Rose Cano (25:00):


David Fischer (25:02):

Suz Marie, you came here in 2020 from Florida. What inspired that?

Suz Marie (25:08):

I actually came from New York.

David Fischer (25:10):

Oh, you did?

Suz Marie (25:11):

Yes, I was working in New York when I got laid off. The pandemic hit, living in New York during the pandemic was rough to say the least.

David Fischer (25:19):

No kidding.

Suz Marie (25:20):

And I moved out here with my partner, wanted, more greenery, more mountains. I definitely got that. And coming from Florida, it was a very welcome change. I still tear up sometimes when I see Mount Rainier on a clear day.

Suz Marie (25:38):

I came here just to get that experience of being around more greenery, especially since we were stuck in our homes. Trying to find that, of things that we can do, which a lot of people were going outside. We couldn't do much, but we could go outside. And that's what initially brought me here to Seattle and I found this amazing community, started performing again. And it's been great. I love the city.

David Fischer (26:03):

Yeah. It's a great place to live. Isn't it?

Suz Marie (26:05):


David Fischer (26:07):

Tell me a little bit about your experience. What brought you to performing and acting?

Suz Marie (26:14):

I've been performing since I was a kid. For a really, really long time. I love musicals. Did musicals a lot growing up. And then in college I was part of a theater troop and we parody musicals. We would go to conventions. This is very nerdy, but like Harry Potter conventions, and did parody musicals, murder mysteries...

Rose Cano (26:40):

Did you have a song about the Snitch?

Suz Marie (26:42):

I did have a song when Neville Longbottom retrieves, the Sword of Gryffindor, it was a parody of the Matilda Musical Revolting Children. It sounds very strange, but I promise it was very good.

David Fischer (26:53):

That sounds great. Sounds great.

Suz Marie (26:57):

I did it on and off. I was part of a sketch comedy troop in Boston. We had the chance to perform in New York at the Sketch Fest over there. And I wanted to start going back into straight plays and musicals again. And it was nice because during the pandemic, there was so much opportunity. People were longing for art and to do things that they were passionate about, because it was a very uncertain time. And I had the wonderful opportunity of doing virtual things. And as the world started to open back up, slowly but surely, started to perform again in person.

David Fischer (27:35):

That's great. That's great. Have you had a good time working here on this show?

Suz Marie (27:39):

Absolutely. It's been a dream, honestly. And coming to Seattle, funny enough, you were talking about the Latinx theater scene here, and I have met so many incredible people. Like Rose, like my other cast members, and there are so many up-and-coming brown people. And people of color who are passionate about the arts. Three, four years from now, the theater scene is going to look so different. And it's going to be, hopefully, run by so many different people of color who are really hustling right now, and working hard, so that we have that louder voice, and we have more presence in Seattle. And just in the two years that I've been here, I've noticed that. It's been amazing to be a part of it and to start adding my voice in there as well.

David Fischer (28:31):

Great. Well, out of the, We See You, White American Theater challenge, that was put out there, Seattle, I think took the reigns of that and has done such a good job. Not just in Seattle, but I mean it's Puget Sound wide.

David Fischer (28:47):

I think Seattle took the reigns of, We See You, White American Theater, and through the Seattle leadership team...

Rose Cano (28:57):

Seattle Theater Leaders.

Rose Cano (28:59):

I participate.

David Fischer (29:00):

Yes, me too.

Rose Cano (29:00):

Sometimes in there.

David Fischer (29:01):

Me too.

David Fischer (29:02):

And it's been such a fantastic immersion in the dialogue of equity, race, justice, in the theater. And not just about the content or the casting, but about contracts, and the treatment to people and how-

Rose Cano (29:21):

The leadership.

David Fischer (29:22):

Exactly. It's been absolutely wonderful. And it's great to see. And at Tacoma Little Theatre, that's my alma mater from 1994, at Tacoma Arts Live, we are continually challenging ourselves through that, through changing of leadership, through hiring of diverse community and all of that. And we've got a long way to go. We're going to keep holding ourselves accountable and keep pushing.

David Fischer (29:49):

Let's talk a little bit about this amazing play. Since we're all theater geeks in the room, I got to tell you, I'd read it five or six times in preparing for hiring you, Rose, and sitting in on auditions and things like that. But it wasn't until I went to the first, what we call, stumble through. And for those of you at home, that is the first time the actors are really on their feet, doing the blocking, from beginning to end, and getting their theater legs on them.

David Fischer (30:33):

In watching that, that night at the Annex Theatre, I was just hit like a thunderbolt. This is almost Chekhov's Three Sisters. It has the almost identical tone of yearning and twisted outcomes from that yearning. And frustration that get interrupted. And passions that get interrupted. And that hope for that next big place to be. And it just swept over me that night. And I'm wondering, did you feel that, do you make...?

Rose Cano (31:21):

That connection?

David Fischer (31:22):

See that, and see that connection?

Rose Cano (31:23):

I wonder if it's this comparison that Nilo makes to these big Russian novels. Passionate. For me, what moved me was the soundscape. Imagining these big, huge waltzes during Imperial Russia in the mazurka, which is actually a Polish dance, but that was done by the Imperial Courts in Russia. Those kinds of sweeping passions. I didn't connect it so much to Three Sisters exactly. But I know what you mean about this yearning. And I think that fits well with us, with our Latinidad. This big passions, big tempers, big yearnings, and add to that, the immigration of starting over, and the rebuilding. That I think is a huge thing.

David Fischer (32:18):

Yeah. It's funny you say that, that way. And it makes me think, "Oh, this is Three Sisters after they arrive in Moscow as immigrants."

Rose Cano (32:28):

And started over.

David Fischer (32:29):

Starting over. No, that's great. That's great. This play is also very much about examining the tension between tradition and modernity.

Rose Cano (32:40):


David Fischer (32:41):

And that is also very Chekhovian thing, but it's also so present in this. Particularly, I think, continued echoes of theater in the United States too. Of 1929 through about 1939. Of that crash of tradition, and modernity, and the painful tension between all of that. How has that been to explore? And how does that arrive for you? Maybe your character as Conchita.

Suz Marie (33:24):

Yeah. It's really interesting because it felt like it was holding up a mirror to so many of the stories that I've heard from my family members. I wasn't growing up in the twenties. Of course. But it's just something that we, as I feel like immigrants, and me as a first generation, it's something that we all struggle with. Tradition versus modernity. What parts of our culture, and ourselves, and our country, are we going to compromise to be able to fit into this American tradition? Let go of some of our own to join the modernity that we see here in America. And it's a struggle that, I feel like my parents went through with their parents, and that I went through with my parents, and just trying to find yourself within that, and trying to find that happy medium so you don't lose yourself.

Suz Marie (34:20):

And it was interesting because I feel like me and Rose talked a lot about, when did my character Conchita come to America? How old was she? How was her growing up different from her mother's, or my younger sister? And how does that influence the decisions she makes and the kind of woman she wants to be, now that she lives in Florida, and she's no longer in Cuba. And she's seen how these American women are starting to wear shorter dresses, cut their hair short. What parts of yourself are you willing to let go to assimilate? But also find freedom, and find your true identity. I hope that makes sense.

David Fischer (35:00):

Yeah. No, yeah. It's totally makes sense.

David Fischer (35:02):

How about you, Rose. You have thoughts about that tension between tradition and modernity?

Rose Cano (35:08):

Yeah. I think it's amazing the way Nelo captures it, in the play, because he takes this really precise, real thing that Lectors, [foreign language 00:35:22], that were used for decades, generations, in Cuba, and here, in Florida, when the advent of stuffing machines, and bunching machines would, they were coming of age in 1929. In a year or two, they drown out the Lectors. Literally. Because they couldn't hear, the workers couldn't hear the person reciting the poetry, or reading from the paper. For those of you who don't know what Lector was, it was a way of keeping the workers up-to-date on current events, reading from the newspaper, and reading works of literature that they would normally not have access to.

Rose Cano (36:07):

And some of the workers, I think, especially in Cuba, would be illiterate, and they would not have access to school. But they could quote from Don Quixote, the play says, or Jane Eyre, because they would've heard this.

Rose Cano (36:21):

They're getting this amazing access, as if it was a living radio, in a way. So, this tension that suddenly you're denying the workers this access because they're going to get machines, okay, modern. But what about the whole artistic side? What about their brains? While I think of people on assembly lines around the world or in sweat shops doing the mundane activity hour, after hour, after hour, with just hearing the droning of machines, what is happening to their soul inside.

Rose Cano (37:01):

I think that's the tension of the modernity that, yeah, you can mass produce, but what's happening to the individual?

David Fischer (37:10):

And it is expressed, I think, in a tempo issue. It is the tempo of, and Santiago... Is it Santiago? No, it's, Palomo, talks about using our hands.

Rose Cano (37:27):

"We brought these from the island."

David Fischer (37:29):


David Fischer (37:30):

And it is the tempo of that, matched with the Lector, that is up against what one of the other characters wants to do, in terms of mechanizing.

Rose Cano (37:43):

Doing it fast. And then also the art is taken out of it. It's not hand rolled. It's not your individual personality in each cigar. It becomes uniform. That I think is a wonderful theme that Nilo really brings out in a very storytelling way, in the play.

David Fischer (38:08):

An extension of that, you were just tipping into this is, the immigrant traditions versus the acculturation of Americanisms, and that clash, and that tension. That's also very present in this play. Particularly among the generational differences, like you were just saying. But it's pretty powerful. Pretty, pretty vibrant. How was that to explore?

Rose Cano (38:43):

I think another thing that's so salient, I guess, is the gender roles once, especially coming from an underdeveloped country, in the sense of modernization. This family comes over and suddenly the role between men and women in the house is up for grabs. We see that in the character. We see really strong female characters in this play. We see Ofelia, who she says, "Well, it's my husband who runs the factory." But we see her the first half of the play, really putting other characters in their place, taking over. I also grew up with a factory in our basement, my mother was the owner, and the boss. These strong roles that when women come to this country, and they have to take on, that really makes for changing of gender roles.

Rose Cano (39:51):

The character of Palomo, Conchita's husband, says, "You've changed. You look different." And I remember my father would always say that to my mother. "You've changed since we moved to the United States, you're different here."

Rose Cano (40:05):

There's no way that you cannot change. I feel like the gender roles are really highlighted in this play and they're changing also. It's the time where, between wars, World War I has ended not too long ago, and brewing is World War II. And so people are wondering, what is the future? What can you count on? And then you have the flappers, you have the movement of women that they're cutting their hair short, like boys, and then their skirts are getting shorter. And to top it off, this Lector is reading this romantic novel where this woman is having an affair, very blatantly, in front of Russian society. It's challenging everything. It's challenging, what is a marriage? It's challenging, what is a husband? What is a wife? Who's the owner? Who's the worker?

David Fischer (41:04):

Who has agency? And in this case, Conchita...

Rose Cano (41:06):

[crosstalk 00:41:06]

David Fischer (41:06):

She takes a lot of agency.

Rose Cano (41:09):

Said, "I'm going to try a new life." And she probably wouldn't have been able to do it if it was the fifties, she did it in the 1929. This is the year of the Stock Market Crash. And there was also, we're just doing some things to our wonderful dramaturge, [Tanya Balize Vasera 00:41:31], was talking about, there was a run on a bank in Ybor City during this time, where people were panicking. You couldn't depend on your future. Is this dollar going to be worth a dollar? Or will it be worth 10 cents tomorrow? People are grabbing onto what's real. What does it mean to have a husband? What does it mean to want something else?

David Fischer (41:51):

Challenging to play, I would think a little bit, because she is, depending upon your position, you could say she's breaking the rules, right?

Suz Marie (42:03):

Yeah. Absolutely.

David Fischer (42:04):

Now on the other hand, so is her husband.

Suz Marie (42:08):

But that's the expectation.

Rose Cano (42:09):

That's an expected Latino thing.

David Fischer (42:11):

That's an accepted Latino rule, that there's, "Okay. But not for the woman." How was that to explore?

Suz Marie (42:17):

I think it truly is amazing. And I would sometimes forget that this is a play that's supposed to take place in the 1920s, just by how bold Conchita is from the start. She's very self aware of the dynamics. And from the start is questioning it, and challenging it, in a way that perhaps her mother might not have. But growing up in a different place, and just being afforded the ability to look at things a different way. It's amazing how self aware she is, how bold she is, how she finds this little bit of freedom, and she just hold onto it, and takes it for herself.

David Fischer (43:06):

Yeah. There are three men within the cigar rolling family, and each of them has their masculinity challenged, I would say. Does that seem like a fair frame?

Rose Cano (43:26):

Yes. I think so.

Suz Marie (43:27):

Some people handle it much better than others.

David Fischer (43:30):

That's right. That's right. But they are also that, maybe the anxiety of that from the man's point of view, keys in a number of dramatic action. Their undermining of their machismo is very much the driver of the dramatic action in the play.

Rose Cano (43:59):

It is.

David Fischer (43:59):

And so that must have been fun to play with and explore. You want to talk about that a little bit?

Rose Cano (44:05):

Oh my gosh.

David Fischer (44:06):

They're not here, so we can talk...

Rose Cano (44:09):

Well, it's great. There's four men in the play, four characters. And the one that recently arrives from Cuba, the Lector, the Casanova, he's this suave, a little bit, I guess what we would consider, a little bit stereotypical of the Latin Lover of the Hollywood fifties in a way. But then he's fully fleshed out. It's a very interesting character. He's more literate, went to school, and then you have these three people that are cigar rollers, or working in the factory. Santiago was the owner. But Nilo just serves it to you on a wonderful tasty plate.

David Fischer (45:02):

That true.

Rose Cano (45:02):

You can play with these characters. They all are challenged. Their masculinity is challenged. One, I would say, gets completely emasculated, and has a beautiful monologue about that.

Rose Cano (45:16):

There's a wonderful relationship between the matriarch and the patriarch. But I think he just gives us three really separate characters, and platforms in their two-person scenes that are wonderful to just experiment. How far can they be pushed in society? And they have to continue to function as guys, as they see it, they got to keep working in a factory, and rolling cigars.

Rose Cano (45:51):

But the play pushes them to the brink of feeling that, "I don't have my dignity. I don't have my dignity left anymore." And that's in that wonderful, beautiful, monologue that reminds me of my father, that I know that sometimes when there would be just difficult situations, I think running a business as a Latino man in the country, really just fighting for, "I'm doing right by my family and my dignity in it." And it hurts to see that taken away from this old style gentleman, this old style caballero.

David Fischer (46:27):

It's so interesting to see the three men who are challenged with their masculinity, respond in three distinctly different ways. And it's such good writing, to watch that dynamic play out. And then to see how the women are, I don't want to give too much away, are staying engaged. The women are not being abusive in any way. They're very much whole, in relationship, and engaged, and it's just beautiful. Beautiful to watch.

Rose Cano (47:11):

Yeah. It's not a pamphlet of, "Oh, women's rights in 1929. The suffrage mode." It's not that.

David Fischer (47:16):

They're not cartoon characters and they're not just cutouts performing.

Rose Cano (47:21):

SO beautiful. The way he on so many levels, with not a lot of words. It's not a lot of words. It's not a three hour play. The actions are just really precise and lovely play.

David Fischer (47:38):

It really moves very holistically, all the way through. Just one more Chekhovian connection here, the Lector, I am also struck by, yes, he is very much a suave character that, and again, he's not a cartoon cutout. And I say that because what strikes me about his character is he is very much sexually present and engaged, but not capriciously, and not just any woman in a storm.

Rose Cano (48:23):

Oh, yeah. He's not a predator.

David Fischer (48:24):

No, he's not.

David Fischer (48:24):

Thank you. That's exactly the word I was looking for.

Rose Cano (48:24):

No, he is a gentleman.

David Fischer (48:27):

He's not, and it's just lovely to see that, where I'm going is, that connection is the Captain in the Three Sisters as well. Also very much a gentleman, also very proper. And yet that gentlemanliness, and that properness, does not diminish his masculinity or his sexualization at all. Just a whole person.

Rose Cano (48:50):

Agreed. Agreed. Yeah. I think it embodies for me, I think very important within Latino, Latinx, culture, the idea of a gentleman, what our parents, and grandparents, and great grandparents have taught us about being a caballero, even with these young cast members today, and with my own son, I have a son who's 27 years old. It's about respecting other people. And that is what you call being a caballero. From the time of Don Quixote, the quintessential caballero, it is something that I think is part of our Latinidad that even these young actors, they have deference to me because I'm older. I know that's something that was taught to them by their mothers and fathers, and I appreciate that. And I hope my son treats people that are older than himself that way too. I think he represents that old school without being an old character. Because the character's not old.

David Fischer (50:01):

The company that you get to perform with is absolutely lovely.

Suz Marie (50:09):

My god, they're amazing.

David Fischer (50:10):

Backstage, the affection that you have for one another is deep and unusual. What did you drink? What happened? How did that...

Rose Cano (50:23):

That's a line from a play?

David Fischer (50:24):

That's right.

Suz Marie (50:26):

We didn't drink anything. That's the beautiful part. It makes me really emotional just thinking about it because it, and maybe it's what Rose was saying, it's from the cultures we come from, where we just came into this with such deep respect, with such an open mind, where we were able to be vulnerable with each other, and honest in a way that really built these genuine, these strong connections. And where we did truly become like a family, even, we had five days off from the show, but we texted each other every day saying, "I miss you."

Suz Marie (51:06):

We were sending each other pictures. The connections that we've been able to create, and that Rose helped cultivate, has been truly so special. And even after the show is done, we're going to continue to have it. I think it's really all of our upbringing and our culture. Of coming into this with such a deep respect, and being able to be seen on the pages of this play made it all the more special. Because we were not only connecting with each other, we were connecting with these characters, and the words that we were saying, and with what we were reading. It's been incredible.

David Fischer (51:46):

Well, it's palpable. Let me tell you, as one who has interweaved it six or seven times during your process, it's been palpable, and lovely to see.

Suz Marie (51:57):

Thank you.

David Fischer (51:58):

And I think from Tacoma Arts Live's perspective, it's been an honor to bring this ensemble together, including the leadership with you Rose.

Rose Cano (52:09):

Thank you very much. And likewise.

David Fischer (52:12):

We love what we've been able to do together, and are just so thrilled to have provided this platform.

Suz Marie (52:22):

Yeah. Thank you. It means so much.

Rose Cano (52:24):

Yeah, it does. Very important.

David Fischer (52:25):

Well, I want to thank Rose and Suz for joining us today. They are deeply integrated into the company of Anna in the Tropics that performs through April 10th at Theatre on the Square.

David Fischer (52:41):

And please jump on, buy tickets. Come and see this really wonderful, loving show.

David Fischer (52:49):

We want to thank our sponsors, Columbia Bank and Tacoma Creates, the voter-approved initiative that creates funding for arts, heritage, and science organizations in Tacoma.

David Fischer (53:01):

And we want to take you to our website, to learn more. We have more shows coming all the time, and pretty soon, probably in early June, we'll be announcing our theater season for next year. But between now and then, I invite you to come join us for our fourth production of this current season. Kim's Convenience by Ins Choi, will open June 2nd. This is another award-winning play, that was the basis of a Netflix hit TV show Kim's Convenience since. It was originally a play, we're pleased to remount that in partnership with Seattle's Taproot Theatre.

David Fischer (53:51):

I want to thank the audience for listening and remind you that all the recordings can be found online at Until next time I'm David Fischer, Executive Director. Thank you so much for joining us.

Speaker 2 (54:20):

This program was brought to you by [On Purpose Recordings 00:54:23] created and produced by [Chris Blunt 00:54:26], mixed and edited by [Joff Gibbs 00:54:29].