“If you were to sum up what this story is about in one word or sentence, what would it be?”
Answers sound from around the room in response to playwright Iraisa Ann Reilly’s post-performance inquiry about her play-in-progress, “Good Cuban Girls.”
After reflecting upon the play, I have to agree with these answers. Reilly’s play revolves around Marisol, who has just come home from college racked with self-doubt, questions about her cultural identity, and a big secret. With a major focus on matriarchal relationships, the play explores sacrifice and love that transcends generations and borders.
Sponsored by ALAS (Alliance of Latin American Students), several other Haverford students and I were able to see this workshop performance of “Good Cuban Girls,” directed by Jose Avilés. The workshop reading was part of Teatro del Sol’s New Play Development Series in which audiences have the chance to give their feedback on developing plays before they hit full production. Not only did this event provide the production team an opportunity to engage with and improve upon the production process, but it also provided the audience with useful insight from the author.
Reilly related the story of how she came up with the story. It was inspired in part by the death of Fidel Castro in 2016. She received the news amidst a slew of life events—but receiving the news that her friend had just had her baby was perhaps most influential of all. Reilly realized that, while Castro’s death was significant, it was not breaking news for everyone. She explained how this realization, combined with a conversation she had about the impossible notion of an all-Cuban remake of Gilmore Girls (she emphasizes how it would never work because she could never talk to her mother like that!), prompted her to write “Good Cuban Girls.” After hearing her anecdote, her sources of inspiration are clearly identifiable within the play.
Being able to interact with those who worked on the production greatly enhanced my experience. In the post-performance discussion, we were able to hear how the actors felt about their characters, and even the questions the writer has about the perception of her work. The workshop reading was extraordinarily eye-opening because not only did it bring the story to life, it demystified and personalized the process of playwriting. To see that the writer, actors, and director had questions about their own production gave the feeling of the play being its own objective entity, rather than one person’s hard take on life. The discussion at the end made it seem as if the author had created this story, but somewhere along the line it self-animated and became more than simply a story. It became a reflection on themes everyone could relate to.
Now, the play will go through refinement, rehearsals, and will eventually go into production. “Good Cuban Girls” should hit the stage this spring and will be open to the public. Despite the cliché, support for the theater is essential and I highly recommend looking out for the performance dates! Since the theater group is small, word of mouth is crucial for keeping it afloat. “Good Cuban Girls” certainly is a performance worth watching, regardless of background. It is a heartfelt story about life, love, family, and belonging—things everyone can relate to.
Written and photos by Shayleah Jenkins ’22. Edited by Eleanor Morgan ’20.