Cuban Theater Digital Archive

Caridad Svich

Director, actor, original score, author / playwright, adapter, translator

     Caridad Svich is one of the most prolific and active Latino/a and American playwright. In addition to having more than a dozen plays published and over 30 produced –the majority of them include songs and music also written by her--she has translated numerous Spanish-language plays and has participated in many text and performance collaborations including online collaborations. She is also a critic having co-edited five books, and published numerous interviews, essays, and reviews on contemporary Latino/a, U.S. and world theater. She has also taught at different institutions in the U.S. and abroad.
     Her standard biographical information states that she is of Cuban, Croatian, Argentine and Spanish descent. She spent her child and adolescent years in New Jersey and Miami and then moved to North Carolina to do her undergraduate work (BFA, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, 1985). She then went to Southern California (currently one of her “home” addresses) where she finished her MFA in theatre-paywrighting at UCSD in 1988. In 1988, she left for New York where she was first a student of María Irene Fornés’ Latino playwrighting workshop, followed by playwright residencies at INTAR, Theater Communications Group, Lake Placid Institute for the Arts, and New Dramatists. Other residencies have taken her back to California to several playwrighting labs, to Minnesota’s Playwrights Center, to several universities in Ohio as well as Harvard and Yale, and to Rhode Island and Massachusetts. She has also traveled internationally to places as varied as Edinburgh and London, Greece, Argentina and Havana. I have detailed at length her travels because travel is key to understanding Caridad’s development as a playwright and as a human being. Most importantly, she has transformed every community in which she has lived through her active involvement in the artistic scene. She meets local artists and establishes conversations between them and artists with whom she has collaborated at other places by curating readings and roundtable discussions. Undoubtedly, it is for these reasons that she was chosen to travel to Colombia in October 2004 as U.S. Arts Emissary. Svich also NoPassport, an artist-driven cross-cultural alliance focused on contemporary performance, advocacy and publication. She has curated several of the NoPassport Conference, a yearly event that focuses on a wide range of contemporary works for theatre and performance, viewing memory, legacy and r/evolutionary art from a variety of formal perspectives.

Her collection can be found in Caridad Svich Papers (Cuban Heritage Collection, University of Miami).

(Information taken from "Caridad Svich" by Lillian Manzor, Oxford Enyclopedia of Latino Cultures)

Notes: +

    In many ways, Caridad’s trajectory as a Latina playwright is representative of the development of Latino/a and of American theaters in the last four decades. Her first plays, Brazo Gitano (text with songs) and Gleaning/Rebusca dealt primarily with questions of identity, albeit in a quasi-expressionistic (as opposed to realistic) style, and their first productions circulated primarily in “ethnic” artistic circuits. In those early plays, however, we can already see the seeds of themes, styles, and the concerns that shape Caridad’s dramaturgy: a critique of the American Dream and a constant search for home through the prism of diaspora and migration, mixture of rituals and traditional cultural elements from the Americas with global pop-culture, obtuse treatment of love and desire, and a poetic and non-realistic use of language and musical elements.
    Subsequent plays continue to have transient and lower-class protagonists searching for home. All of them wonder through the wastelands of the U.S. and what keeps them going is the fact that there is always somewhere else to go. Svich’s characters survive by becoming “professional” nomads. Like their creator, they find themselves at the intersection of identities. As hybrids or transcultural beings, they live in a U.S. that is figured as the borderlands, a consumer society inhabited by nomads and the dispossessed. Comfort is found primarily through acts of their imagination. The women are usually the only ones who are able to find support in a community of other women that transcend ethnic categories. Rituals survive as they are transformed in their travels; likewise, characters survive and grow as they accept nomadism as a way of life.
    It is important to highlight that her critical and curatorial work is driven by the same interests and concerns that characterize her playwrighting. She is usually interested in pieces that are outside of the norm, in playwrights who, like herself, defy easy labels because they do not fit the mold of what a Latino/a playwright should be writing about or how s/he decides to tell stories. She has focused on artists such as her mentor María Irene Fornés and many Latino/a artists. She has also written about and/or interviewed artists who work on documentary radical popular drama such as Moisés Kaufman (Latino-Jewish author of The Laramie Project), or who are interested in digital media and video such as Sheffield-based Tim Etchells, or who borrow from fringe culture’s alternative music and theatre such as the British Martyn Jacques and Mark Ravenhill, and Federico García Lorca, always in the foreground and background of all of her work.
    Svich writes from the positionality of a Latina and there is a Latina sensibility or affect in all of her oeuvre. Her plays, however, defy and question the simple categorization or easy boxing of Latinos both in content and form. The reason for this is that in spite of mainstream’s constructions and expectations, it is impossible to think of Latino playwrighting as a unified, homogeneous movement. Furthermore, she is interested in creating points of conversion between Latinos/as and other Americans, understood not just as citizens or inhabitants of the United States but of the Americas. Finally, starting from the specificity of Latinos/as in their hybridity and multiplicity, in their conflicting memories and multiple storytelling traditions, she stages the drama of her characters in such a way that they become an expressionistic allegory of the uncertainty of (post)modern times: displaced human beings reconfigure the maps of home in nonlinear fashion so that we can inhabit our imagined and imaginary communities of Mexico-Hollywood-Buenos Aires or Granada-Havana-New York.

    Information taken from "Caridad Svich" by Lillian Manzor, Oxford Enyclopedia of Latino Cultures.

Written texts: +

Productions: +

Awards: +

Year Category Award Result
2009 None Lee Reynolds Award Winner
2013 Best Play Script National Latino Playwriting Award Winner
2012 Life Time Achievement Award Obie (Off-Broadway Theater Awards) Winner
2013 Best Play Script Todd McNerney Playwriting Award Winner

Author: Rita Benítez, Lillian Manzor (2004, 2012)

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