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"The Cuban Swimmer" - One Act Drama by Milcha Sanchez-Scott

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Overview:

The Cuban Swimmer by Micha Sanchez-Scott is a one-act family drama with spiritual and surrealistic overtones.

As the play begins, 19 year old Margarita Suarez is swimming from Long Beach to Catalina Island. Her Cuban-American family follows along in a boat.

Throughout the competition (the Wrigley Invitational Women’s Swim), her father coaches, her brother cracks jokes to hide his jealousy, her mother frets, and her grandmother yells at the news helicopters. All the while, Margarita pushes herself onward. She battles the currents, the oil slicks, the exhaustion, and the family’s constant distractions. Most of all, she battles herself.

Can she continue despite the physical agony? Can she win the race? Can she survive?

Staging Challenges:

As mentioned in the overview, there are many complicated, almost cinematic elements within Sanchez-Scott’s The Cuban Swimmer.

The main character is “swimming” the entire time. How would you, as a director, portray this action on stage?

Margarita’s family puts along on a boat. How would you convey this? With a set? Pantomime?

Helicopters and news commentators “interfere” with the characters. In what ways could sound effects enhance or sully the play?

Language and Communication:

Most of the dialogue within “The Cuban Swimmer” is written in English. Some of the lines, however, are delivered in Spanish. The grandmother in particular speaks mostly in her native tongue.

The switching back and forth between the two languages exemplifies the two worlds which Margarita belongs to: the Latino and the American.

Fascinatingly, the “little Cuban swimmer” is distancing herself from Long Beach (a very Anglo-Saxon name). She is traveling towards “Santa Catalina” ( a very Spanish name).

Cultural Identity:

As she struggles to win the competition, Margarita tries to fulfill the expectations of her father as well as the crass American media (the news anchormen and the television viewers). However, by the play’s end, when she drifts beneath the surface, when her family and the news casters believe that she has drowned, Margarita separates herself from all outside influences.

She discovers who she is, and she saves her life (and wins the race) independently. By almost losing herself to the ocean, she discovers who she truly is.

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