The last Minstrel’s picture

Without even know it, Roberto was being interviewed inevitably that now he can not read as I would have desired. Perhaps he would read it if considered from another point of view.  No matter what.  I only want to record this authentic Cuban for the memory in the years to come, whose answers were quick, and whose gaze was full of observations, and a fast minded person in the art of jokes to be understood in a wider scope. He was naughty but well-disciplined; a man of an entwined love but noble.

When Roberto died, he had long hair, and pinned in a bun, which was not accepted by some of his students. He was 75 years old. I’m not sure if I ever asked his age or I did but he did not let me know, but he did the right thing since the years come and go and the age can result in a mess difficult to understand.

We used to talk during winters, summers, falls and springs. We put up with coldness, hotness and even those downpours blurring the school in the midst of the green landscape.

Are you from Matanzas?

Yes, I am.

How did all start, Bebo?

Imagine, many things come into your mind. Sometimes it is hard to take decisions, but some other times you are able to see everything clearly.

Like theater in your life?

Exactly.

Your name is Antonio. Isn’t it?

Yes, but you better call me Bebo.

Now, let’s go back to theater.

Certainly, we can Roberto … dreams, dreams … like teaching theater at this school … because you need cleverness for this kind of things … theater is a really difficult specialty; now, to be a playwright and a theater professor at the same time is even harder. I love directing a play … staging a play day by day … getting to a real drama that breaks preconceptions, but I also enjoy discussing with students when they get wrong at the stage.

I have witnessed your scolding… sometimes I have been walking down the school corridors and I have listened to your screams through walls …

I do not like routine …. I like discussion about the work.

It is half a century.  Isn’t it?

Time has passed, my friend!

And suddenly, we started talking about those most special and remarkable moments in Cuban theater. Then, we talked about outstanding actors and actresses as well as plays that modified the way of doing things in Cuban theater; certainly, novels and plays broadcast on the radio were also included.
I was pleased when he once asked me about the areítos in our archipealago and told him back, due to his marked interes, that it was the subject of my first lesson of the History of the Cuban Theater and Drama at the Cuban Art Instructors´ School. Then I really enjoy myself showing off my master class.
Life was going by along with this jongluer who tried and implemented well complicated and bold projects.  It was not casual he was awarded several cultural condecorations that enhanced his life.

Tell me about those projects.

Gee, Robert … my memory fails with the passage of time.
Mix up with time and rescue that memory! And he focused on the projects. He talked with much eloquence about his life as cultural promoter that started as an actor when he was 23 years old.
After the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, I worked as a teacher and a promoter of the Amateur Movement at the National Theater; which allowed to provide the first theater training courses for art instructors.

It is when your are involved Children’s Theater ….?

You are well informed. I was Children’s theater director of the Culture National Board. It was a great experience and educational at he same time.

Those were hard working years  for the Cuban Theater. Did you remember Areitos by that time?

Yes, it was as if l was listening to your first lesson.
We´ve got difficult students …

That is true. I think, everything depends on students’ selection after lunching an annoucement to join the Art Instructors´ School. When you have a student in front of you, after five minutes´ talk and examining him with some aptitude tests, you know if he can hit it or will stay aside; or even worse, that he graduates without a conviction of what he believed he studied in order to revert later to his knowledge in the society. We have addressed this issue many times and we have given ourselves a sidelong glance when we find a student with such difficulty.

Theater is a something special where something should be revealed from within and make it float to be appreciated and assessed.   Theater students in this kind of schools are summoned to become good studentes and graduate with excellency.  The contrary is to waste their time.    Above all, a student should know this career is very difficult because they should devote themselves with their souls and perhaps you might find somebody with no soul at all.

We talked not only about these issues. It was inevitable to recall the 90´s when Bebo Ruiz created “Juglaresca Habana” group, bringing together over twenty artistic institutions,  of course he became a master and a guide. Besides, he kept constant contact with children and culture in the community – something that sometimes is not properly and deeply appreciated.

I always liked that relationship with the community, even visits to those remote villages, far from the capital. Because theater and its so special world not only remain in Havana.  When I extended my personal project to other towns, it allowed me to be in touch with  local traditions and recreate myths with the integration of diverse artistic expressions.

I think you took a wise decision.

A cardiovascular disease caught him at the Eduardo Garcia Delgado School of Art Instructors. Nobody thought that the worst was going to happen. It was a quick farewell after living an intense life. When some of his ex-students saw the coffin go by, they applaud as if they were just inviting him for a new play.  They were simply convening a new rehearsal for the ovation of coming times.

Before writing these sheets of papers, I was thinking about all conversations we had during our friendship until the first months in 2009. Amid my thoughts, I suddenly found a photo of the late days in June, when we had the academic year 2008-2009 farewell party at school, in one of the files I have in my computer. It occurred at sunset.

Bebo along with other professors and theater figures was walking out the school beside me to get on a bus. At that moment, I decided to take a picture, so I stood there, some steps behind them and took out my camera. Then I told them as they were walking: Please, one picture for the memory. They stopped in front of me, and I took the picture the readers have above; it was the last minstrel’ picture. Gee, they looked very nice!

I did not want to see you dead that September 2009. What it would be useful for? Besides, the curtains are already rising up at the theater, while a skinny figure, changed by the makeup is watching us from darkness and telling us something like this: This story is not beginning or ending. Life is just as a puff that passes without asking for permission. So, dear friends, what you will see now, it never existed and it never will exist. Could it be the theater story?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *