Written by Erica Lauren Ortiz/TCG
On Wednesday, February 19th, 2020, the Vilcek Foundation, in collaboration with TCG, hosted Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and director Nilo Cruz, in a reading and discussion of his latest work, Exquisite Agony.
The event celebrated the release of Exquisite Agony, published by TCG with support from the Vilcek Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts. The play was commissioned by and had its world premiere at Repertorio Español in New York City in 2018 and is also currently being produced in Spanish at the Gala Hispanic Theatre in Washington DC, February 6 – March 1, 2020, in a production directed by Nilo Cruz.
The evening gathered collaborators, supporters and fans of the work for an intimate reading by Cruz, himself. The audience was struck by his passion, rhythm, and emotion as he switched from character to character during the reading.
In a Q&A session hosted by American Theatre magazine, he remarked that reading his plays aloud to himself is part of his writing process – which showed with the ease in which he shared the work.
“Theatre is the most collaborative of the art forms”, Cruz remarked, responding to a question on why he chose plays as his medium over poetry or novels. “It is constantly changing as you are writing, and then once again when you add actors, and lighting, and sound, and more to bring about the human experience”.
The event was a perfect example of that collaboration in the partnership between TCG and the Vilcek Foundation, and showcased what it takes to lift up powerful immigrant voices in a beautiful, affirming way.
“I myself am an immigrant, proudly hailing from Guyana in South America, and I can tell you that being an immigrant in this country hasn’t always been easy. That’s especially true when you’re Black or Brown, and when you’re Gay,” said Adrian Budhu, COO of TCG. “So I want to personally thank Vilcek Foundation for the essential work you’re doing to lift up those voices. “
A play about the human heart: its fumblings and yearnings, its bruises and scars, its generosity and viciousness.” —New York Times
After Millie’s husband, Lorenzo, dies in a car crash, his heart is used to save a young man’s life. Unable to let go of this final living piece of her husband, Millie reaches out to the transplant recipient, Amér, with the hope that some part of the heart still carries Lorenzo’s memories. As Amér ponders the ways in which this new heart is transforming him, he becomes entangled in the lives of Millie and her family, trapped by longings and obsessions that are not his own. Exquisite Agony is a play about the heart—its passions, its failures, and its ability to connect.
Nilo Cruz is a Cuban-American playwright and director whose work has been produced widely around the United States and Europe. His plays are many and include Sotta Voice, Dancing on her Knees, A Park in Our House, Two Sisters and a Piano, A Bicycle Country, Hortensia and the Museum of Dreams, Lorca in a Green Dress, Anna in the Tropics, Beauty of the Father, Hurricane and A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings and translations of Doña Rosita the Spinster, The House of Bernarda Alba, Life Is A Dream and Ay Carmela. Nilo has been the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships. His work has been seen at McCarter Theatre, New York’s Shakespeare Festival’s Public Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, Repertorio Español, South Coast Rep, Arena Stage, Victory Gardens, Mark Taper Forum, Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, New York Theatre Workshop, Magic Theatre, Minneapolis Children’s Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Washington’s Studio Theatre, Florida Stage and many others. Internationally, his plays have been produced in Canada, England, France, Australia, Germany, Belarus, Costa Rica, Colombia, Panama and in cities through Spain, including Madrid and Seville. In 2003 he won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Steinberg Award for his play Anna in the Tropics; he was nominated for a Tony award. In 2009 he won The Helen Merrill and the PEN Laura Pels Mid-career Playwriting Award as well as the Fontanals-Cisneros USA Fellowship in literature. He received and MFA from Brown University and an Honorary Doctorate from Whittier College.
Theatre Communications Group (TCG) is the national organization for theatre with the mission to strengthen, nurture, and promote professional theatre in the U.S. and globally. Through its Core Values of Activism, Artistry, Diversity, and Global Citizenship, TCG advances a better world for theatre and a better world because of theatre. Among its many programs and services, TCG is North America’s largest independent trade publisher of dramatic literature, with 17 Pulitzer Prizes for Drama on the TCG booklist. It also publishes the award-winning American Theatre magazine and ARTSEARCH®, the essential source for a career in the arts.
The Vilcek Foundation raises awareness of immigrant contributions in America and fosters appreciation of the arts and sciences. The foundation was established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia. Their mission was inspired by the couple’s respective careers in biomedical science and art history, as well as their personal experiences and appreciation for the opportunities offered to them as newcomers to the United States.
The TCG Book Program is sponsored by the New York State Council on the Arts. Additional support has been provided by the Vilcek Foundation, for the publication of Exquisite Agony, a play by Nilo Cruz.
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the filmsWolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.
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