Transnational Theatre: United States of Banana @ Columbia University

Columbia Stages in New York City presented the first staged adaption of the Latin American epic farce UNITED STATE OF BANANA by Giannina Braschi in June 2015 at Columbia University’s Schapiro Theater.  The mixed genre postcolonial work dramatizes 911 American psyche around the politics of empire and independence.

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The poet declares “Banks are the temples of America. This is a holy war. Our economy is our religion.”

The wandering, absurdist plot about the disintegration of the United States and the realignment of powers throughout the western hemisphere takes on the sensibility of Alfred Jarry.

Actor Hamlet and philosopher Zarathustra join poet Giannina on a quest to liberate the Puerto Rican prisoner Segismundo from the dungeon of the Statue of Liberty, where he has been imprisoned by his father, the King of the United States of Banana, for more than 100 years for the crime of being born. The work tackles inter-American politics of empire and independence, the post-9/11 psyche, and the immigrant’s experience of marginality and liberation. The play depicts New York City as “the Darwinist capital of the Capitalist word” and  U.S. imperialism as doomed as “a chicken with its head cut off”. All Latin Americans are granted American passports, Puerto Rico is declared the 51st state, and Segismundo declares Puerto Rican independence. The actual book extends beyond the plot played out on stage.  In the text, Chinese dignitaries offer to finance the liberation of Puerto Rico, the Armada Invencible with Hugo Chavez, Cristina Kirchner, Evo Morales and Fidel Castro sail to old San Juan with reinforcements, and a battle wages between cockroaches and exterminators.

The work was inspired by Heiner Muller’s Hamlet Machine, Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathusta, and Calderon de la Barca’s Life is a Dream.

http://www.pw.org/literary_events/united_states_of_banana_a_play_based_on_the_book_by_giannina_braschi_0

About the Director

JUAN PABLO FÉLIX is a theater director and acting coach from Bogotá, Colombia.  He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and enrolled in the MFA Theater Directing Program at Columbia University School of the Arts, where he studied under American Master Anne Bogart, artistic director of SITI.  He served as casting director for the Oscar-nominated film “Maria Full of Grace” and directs theater workshops at Estudio Babel in Colombia and EICTV in Cuba.  Columbia Stages presented his adaption of the mixed-genre book “United States of Banana” from June 17 to June 20, 2015 at Columbia University. The dynamic cast included emerging talents Raphael Corkhill as Hamlet, Tauriq Jenkins as Zarathustra, and Angela Sperazza as Giannina. The dynamic cast included emerging talents Raphael Corkhill as Hamlet, Tauriq Jenkins as Zarathustra, and Angela Sperazza as Giannina.

About the Author

GIANNINA BRASCHI is the author of the postmodern poetry classic “Empire of Dreams,” the best-selling Spanglish novel “Yo-Yo Boing!” and the epic farce “United States of Banana.”  One of the most revolutionary and original voices in American poetry today, Braschi blends drama, poetry, essay, musical and manifesto with a balance of striking erudition and humorous gusto. A National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, Braschi holds a PhD in Golden Age Spanish Literature. She has won awards/grants from PEN American Center, Ford Foundation, Danforth Scholarship, InterAmericas, Puerto Rican Institute of Culture, Reed Foundation, NY Foundation for the Arts, and the NEA.  She has taught literature at Rutgers, Colgate, and City University of New York.

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