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We’d passed the billboard announcement for Havana Music Hall at the theater many times but didn’t know much about it. My husband was offered three tickets to attend the play, which worked out well because our oldest son was in rehearsals and I was at a speech. A matinee was the perfect way for him and our two younger boys to let the time pass. But it was so much more than that.
The first thing Orlando did at intermission was call me. “Caro, you have to see this play. We have to bring my mom, your mom… the whole family needs to see this,” his voice was cracking.
“Are you crying?” I asked.
“I’m a little choked up. This show is everything theater should be. It has beautiful music and incredible dancers. It’s funny and sad—I’m blown away.”
“Wow,” was all I could say before he continued talking, “And it tells our story. It shows what our families went through when they left Cuba. I’ve known about this my whole life… but it’s a different ballgame when you see it.”
“How are the kids liking it?” I asked.
“Ryan keeps whispering in my ear, ‘Wait, this actually happened in real life?’”
The following Saturday, on a whim, the five of us caught the play, and I experienced what Orlando had described. I knew the story line and what to expect. And still, I wasn’t prepared for all the feelings that washed over me.
The play was so authentic to what happened to our families in the 1950s and 1960s when Fidel took power. You could replace the characters with any of the older Cubans sitting in the audience, and you’d be telling their story, too. It was impactful to watch old men and women relive history and see their pain acknowledged on stage. Havana Music Hall spoke not only to Cubans, but to the many cultures suffering under communist regimes.
I lingered in the lobby after the play finished and overheard families all around me recount their experiences of losing everything and restarting their lives in the United States. It made me wish I had one more chance to speak to my grandparents, who were my age when their lives were turned upside down, and have all since passed away. Or my dad, who was close to my son’s age when he fled his country. I know some of their stories, but do I know enough?
With every new generation, our history becomes further removed from our thoughts. Our language, cultures, traditions, and lifestyle become a thing of the past. If we’re not careful, it could all be forgotten. This play awakened the desire in us to honor our history and ensure our children never forget what our families sacrificed for them to have the life they have today. It inspires our generation to take advantage of the elders we have left and learn as much from them as we can before they go. Real life can be more fascinating than fiction. There are so many lessons in regular life and ordinary people who do extraordinary things. Those people exist in every family.
This reminded me of one of the underlying themes in the popular musical, Hamilton: that you have no control over who lives, who dies, or who tells your story.
What’s most amazing about Havana Music Hall is who brought our story to the stage. One would think someone of Cuban descent would create this play for our people—but it wasn’t. It was Richard Kagan, an American, inspired by stories of the Cuban Revolution who created and composed this musical. I am so grateful to that American man who, 59 years later, is highlighting the inhumanity of Fidel’s regime, the humanity of the families affected, and the music and flavor of our culture.
But he couldn’t have done this brilliant work if he didn’t have access to the people who lived through those times.
And that brings me back to you.
We all have a story to tell. We each live through pain and sorrow, victory and triumph. Your unique journey is part of history. Share it. Keep a diary, a journal, a blog, or a vlog. Write a book. Document your life. Your observations, struggles, victories, and wisdom can serve as a compass for those who come after you. You may think your experiences are not worth sharing, but we don’t know where history will take us and what our children’s children’s lives will look like. They may long to know who you were and what you did—back then.
You don’t control who lives, who dies, or who tells your story… but the one thing you do control is whether you share your perspective and your truth. That might be exactly what someone needs to create the universal story that fills audiences with love, inspiration, and hope.
If you are in Miami, I urge you to see this musical while it lasts. Show ends on November 18th, 2018. Bring your children and family, especially if you are Cuban. This play is on its way to Broadway … remember you heard it here first. If you go see it, please let me know what you thought about it in the comments below.
(I have no financial gain in passing this along. I am only sharing for the love of theater.)