Anna in the Tropics by Nilo CruzWinner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
. . . there are many kinds of light.
The light of fires. The light of stars.
The light that reflects off rivers.
Light that penetrates through cracks.
Then there’s the type of light that reflects off the skin.
—Nilo Cruz, Anna in the Tropics
This lush romantic drama depicts a family of cigar makers whose loves and lives are played out against the backdrop of Depression-era America. Set in Ybor City (Tampa) in 1930, Cruz imagines the catalytic effect the arrival of a new lector (who reads Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina to the workers as they toil in the cigar factory) has on a Cuban-American family. Cruz celebrates the search for identity in a new land.
The words of Nilo Cruz waft from the stage like a scented breeze. They sparkle and prickle and swirl, enveloping those who listen in both specific place and time . . . and in timeless passions that touch us all. In Anna in the Tropics, Cruz claims his place as a storyteller of intricate craftsmanship and poetic power.—Miami Herald
“Deeply engrossing.” –Robert Hurwitt, San Francisco Chronicle
“Earnestly poetic…Mr. Cruz has created a work as wistful and affectingly ambitious as its characters. Anna in the Tropics reaches for the artistic heavens -- specifically, that corner of eternity occupied by the plays of Anton Chekhov, where yearning is an existential condition.” –Ben Brantley, New York Times
Nilo Cruz is a young Cuban-American playwright whose work has been produced widely around the United States, including the Public Theater (New York, NY), South Coast Repertory (Costa Mesa, CA), Magic Theatre (San Francisco, CA), Oregon Shakespeare Festival, McCarter Theater (Princeton, NJ) and New Theatre (Coral Gables, FL). His other plays include Night Train to Bolina, Two Sisters and a Piano, Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams, and Anna in the Tropics (Winner of 2003 Pulitzer Prize). Mr. Cruz teaches playwriting at Yale University and lives in New York City.
Anna in the Tropics Character List
What happens when people refuse to change, will not accept technological advances, and do not know how to cope in a world that has passed them by? Since this is a story of multiple passions gone stale, a fiery despair should be projected by the characters in this award-winning tale set in a Cuban community in Tampa, Florida in The action of the play revolves around a central figure known as the lector. In the industry of handmade cigars, there was tradition, from the late 19 th century up to the Great Depression, of hiring a learned person to read newspapers, poetry, and great works of fiction to the mostly illiterate Cuban and Puerto Rican workers as they performed their monotonous tasks in the hot and humid conditions necessary to keep the tobacco leaves moist and supple. Anna in the Tropics opens with Ofelia, the wife of Santiago, the factory owner, eagerly waiting with her daughters Marela and Conchita for a ship bringing Juan Julian, the new lector she has hired. Concurrently, the action on stage shows a drunken Santiago forcing his half-brother Cheche to loan him more and more money to bet on the cockfights.
Nilo Cruz first intended to set his play Anna in the Tropics in the s, a time when lectors readers played an important role in cigar factories. Cruz, however, reconsidered and decided that a historical account would be "too complicated" to render dramatically, so he chose instead to focus on the role the lector played in the factories during a time when personal and financial independence were inextricably linked. The lectors were the first to be fired when the Depression began, so I set the play in Cruz also wanted to tell the story of Cubans who fled to the United States prior to the revolution. They were exiles who wanted Cuba's independence, and they would have been killed if they stayed there.
Anna in the Tropics Summary & Study Guide Description
Win a Pulitzer Prize, go directly to Broadway. And as those in the factory are caught up in its story — willingly or not — the book begins working variously subtle and profound changes in their emotional lives. His wife Ofelia has withdrawn into a pose of mild contempt. But their antagonism begins to thaw as Santiago rediscovers through the character of Levin the eager, ambitious young man he once was. Their eldest daughter, Conchita, is even more powerfully affected by the novel, seeing all too clearly in it the pattern of her own withering marriage. She tries to prod her straying husband Palomo into acknowledging the uncomfortable similarities. When he rebuffs her, she defiantly embarks on her own affair with the new lector.
These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. Santiago is an older man that has a brother named Cheche. Santiago is the main character and protagonist of the play, owning a cigar factory in Cuba's Ybor City. His wife is Ofelia, and she despises his gambling habits that are mentioned throughout the play. Santiago is a proud man, but doesn't realize how sickly he really is by drinking so much alcohol and gambling incessantly. Ofelia is basically he leader of the household Santiago and his wife have two children and she knows that her husband is not as much as he makes himself out to be.
In contrast, the Victory Gardens production boasts salt-of-the-earth Chicago actors and is the most intimate of the three stagings, performed in a seat house. Cigars are still hand-rolled in Anna in the Tropics , set in a small Tampa, Florida cigar factory in Santiago owns the family-run business but has gambled away a few shares to his sullen half-brother Cheche, the manager. Santiago's wife Ofelia, daughters Conchita and Marela, and son-in-law Palomo Conchita's husband are rollers. The silent drudgery of their job is alleviated by a "lector," hired to read newspapers, poetry, and novels to the workers. The lector tradition, and most skilled rollers, were lost to rolling machines a few years later.