It is 2022, and Anna in the Tropics by Nilo Cruz has been banned by the Miami Dade County Public School System, prohibiting any schools from taking their students to experience this Pulitzer Prize winning play.
This unwarranted act of censorship is something that one would hope we had grown out of, but as the world has shown us, nothing is safe.
For however long art has been recorded, there has been censorship of it – from the Comics Code Authority formed in 1954 to the belief that video games incite violence and the complete ban of contemporary literature all over the world. It comes from a place of fear, a fear of someone speaking up about something that might not be deemed “appropriate” when the truth is that if art can’t strike up those important conversations, then what can? Are we as a people meant to only discuss sensitive subjects behind closed doors so that no one may hear them, leaving thoughts and ideas to never grow and change?
Theatre has been pushing against what makes us “comfortable” since its inception, with a member of a Greek chorus stepping out to speak up on their own. The whole idea of theatre is something that pushes against what is “appropriate”, because instead of creating that boundary of a screen, page – there is no distance, it stands in front of us, feet away as it dares to ask us how we feel and what we think.
With this new wave of censorship across the country, the only thing it succeeds in doing is turning back the clock on the artistic growth of our civilization. It stifles voices that have been long muzzled and have finally been given the opportunity and bravery to stand up and tell stories of the unheard.
In a city like Miami you wouldn’t think that the banning of artistic material would be a concern – a city built off the backs of the exiled and the oppressed in hopes of no longer being silenced and yet here we are… with a play about Cuban immigrants being pulled away from a community with a large Latinx population.
I said I would make this quick so here it is – the restriction of art does not protect the people, in fact it hurts them as they then go out of their way to uncover the truths that were hidden, instilling in us the belief that those stories should never be explored and never be seen.
Luis Roberto Herrera is a Colombian-American artist who uses his work to ask the questions of what it means to be alone, who are we within our relationships, and how does our culture effect who we become. Luis Roberto Herrera was a resident playwright in the 2017 GREENHOUSE Residency at SPACE on Ryder Farm, a Fellow at Athena Theatre in 2019, and most recently part of the cohort in the Latinx Playwrights Circle 2022 Mentorship Intensive. Along with being a playwright he is also a screenwriter and director having written 6 short films, one television pilot and directing two of them. Some of his works include several full length plays; Poolside Glow(Inkwell Theatre Playlab 2022), SAA[not that one](A-Tipico Play Festival 2021), At The End Of The Hall: A ghost story(Latinx Playwrights Circle 2022 Mentor Intensive), BLOOD ON THESE HANDS, Born Still, and Grandma’s Armchair. His film writing credits include; No Te Puedes Mover(short), Slow Dance(short), Wren & Lin(short), Sunny(short), Through The Crowd(short), and Thank you, places!(feature).