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The Broadway Hit “Rent” Comes To Cuba

For the first time in over 50 years a Broadway show will be staged in Cuba. The show will be the Tony award winning musical Rent. The producers of the show, Nederlander Entertainment,  have been working for years with the Cuban National Council of Performing Arts to mount the show. American musicals were banned by the Castro government in the early sixties. They were seen as decadent and bourgeois or whatever. This was largely a way for the Cuban government to show off to the Soviets. They similarly banned rock music and American movies. Not that it stopped them from being sold on the black market. The truth is that Rent has probably been seen and heard in Cuba before in the form of the soundtrack and film. Still, for it to be performed on stage is a pretty big deal.

Rent tells the tale of several young people living in Alphabet City in Manhattan at the height of the AIDS epidemic. Most of the main characters are HIV positive. It’s sort of ironic that this will be shown in Cuba. The play is all about finding the dignity of life amidst being sick. When the AIDS epidemic broke out in Cuba, the government sent those infected with HIV to camps where they were separated from the general population. They used old leper colonies from the turn of the last century to house people in quarantine. The good news is that they curbed the spread of the disease on the island. The bad news is that they violated people’s civil rights to do so. Let’s hope that seeing a show where people with HIV are shown in a positive light will help those that are still sick in Cuba find hope.

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