La Colmenita: Cuban kids to perform at Fort Mason

Mary Flaherty, Special to The SF  Chronicle

The Cuban children’s theater company La Colmenita will perform one of its own creations, called “Abracadabra,” at Fort Mason on Friday and Saturday.

The play will be in Spanish, with super titles in English, meaning this performance is best for either Spanish speakers, or non-Spanish speakers old enough to follow the writing. Like all La Colmenita’s productions, this one includes rock music and dancing, ranging from high energy to rock and pop to slow ballads with an acoustic guitar.

Bill Martinez, the lawyer who helped the group members get visas, said he saw them perform another production in Havana a few years ago. “It was funny. It was really well done, wonderful theater, very creative,” he said. “At times I just forgot they were kids.”

But kids they are; 22 of them from age 5 to 15 on the U.S. tour.

La Colmenita, which means “the Little Beehive,” was founded in 1990 and has visited more than 25 countries. The group was named a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. The group last visited the United States, including the Bay Area, in 2003.

The group performed in Washington, D.C., last week and met with Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland. In New York on Monday, they performed at the United Nations.

“Abracadabra,” directed by Carlos Alberto Cremata, was co-written with the children. The story is inspired by the Cuban 5, who have been jailed in the United States for many years on charges including conspiracy and being unregistered foreign agents, but are considered heroes in Cuba. Supporters say the men were gathering information in the United States to prevent Cuban exile groups from attacking Cuba. One of the Cuban 5, Rene Gonzalez, was released from prison this month.

“The children grew up seeing them on billboards,” said Alicia Jrapko, a member of the International Committee for the Freedom of the Cuban 5, who worked to organize the theater group’s U.S. tour after seeing the children perform in Cuba.

In the play, American actor Danny Glover appears in a short video clip (speaking English). La Colmenita has the support of other Anglo celebrities, including singer Jackson Browne and actress Vanessa Redgrave.

Martinez, the lawyer who works getting visas for international artists, spoke in support of the group’s visit.

“If we don’t have communication between countries, we’re reduced to rumors and problems,” he said. “What better way to bring people together than through culture?”

7:30 p.m. Fri., 2 p.m. Sat. $15-$20, under 12 free. Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard at Buchanan Street, S.F.
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