Other Free Encyclopedias » Brief Biographies » Biographies: Al Loving Biography - Loved Painting from Early Age to Alice McGill Biography - Personal » Eduardo Machado: 1953—: Playwright Biography - Forced To Leave Parents Behind, Opus Given Development Grant, Saw Parallel In "elián" Saga

Eduardo Machado: 1953—: Playwright - Forced To Leave Parents Behind

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The Castro government soon nationalized private companies, and the buses belonging to the family's transport company were driven away by soldiers. But when the government eliminated the patria potestad (legal right of parents to serve as guardians of their children), and enacted an emigration law along with it, Machado's parents decided to send him to the United States. The eight-year-old became part of Operation Pedro Pan, which allowed Cuban children to emigrate to the United States, where they were taken in by relatives or charitable families. Leaving his parents behind with his little brother to become one of Operation Pedro Pan's 14,000 young émigrés was a wrenching experience. "They were teaching us Marxism in school," he explained to New York Times writer Mireya Navarro. "But my parents treated it like they were gassing us."

In Hialeah, Florida, Machado and his brother lived with an aunt, uncle, and cousins. On their second day in America, the boys were given costumes, told that it was a holiday called Halloween, and instructed to go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood. "I thought we had become beggars," Machado told Navarro, adding, "I hated that holiday ever since." Within a short time, however, Machado's parents were able to emigrate to the United States as well, and his father found work as an accountant in the Los Angeles area. The family relocated to California, and Machado grew up in increasing affluence as his father's fortunes rose. They lived in a succession of increasingly large homes in the San Fernando Valley, but Machado was a maverick who battled with his father and found solace in acting. By the age of 17 he was performing professionally on Los Angeles-area stages. When he signed with an agent, however, he encountered his first taste of career racism. "I was told to get a mustache and a tan and call myself Ed Machado," he told the New York Times Magazine. He won bit parts in television sitcoms, usually as a waiter.

At a Glance . . .

Born Eduardo Oscar Machado in Havana, Cuba, in 1953; son of Othon (an accountant) and Hilda (Hernandez) Machado; married Harriett Bradlin (divorced, early 1980s); emigrated to the United States, 1961.

Career: Began career as a stage actor in Los Angeles, late 1960s; playwright, 1982–; School of the Arts, Columbia University, director of graduate playwriting program.

Machado, though he later became openly gay, was married at age 18 to a woman twenty years his senior who had eight daughters. He acted in plays for the Padua Playwrights Festival—where Pulitzer Prizewinning playwright Sam Shepard served as an occasional instructor—and discovered the experimental work of Maria Irene Fornés. He attended some of Fornés's workshops, and some of his first attempts at playwriting, Burning Beach and Stevie Sings the Blues, were produced at the Los Angeles Theater Center. In 1980 Machado moved to New York City and began concentrating on writing full-time.

After a succession of plays such as Rosario and the Gypsies and Wishing You Well, Machado was tagged as one of a new generation of Latino dramatists. In 1988 Time writer William A. Henry III declared him "perhaps the most gifted" among that new generation, but Machado still faced problems in finding venues for his work. "I was the first Hispanic playwright in America to write about upper-class people," he told Henry. "I don't get performed much by Hispanic theaters. I find that odd—they still believe in the stereotype." At other times, critics savaged his plays.

In 1992 Machado's drama about the plight of Cuban immigrants in Florida in the early 1960s premiered in New York City. Once Removed follows the fortunes of Fernando and his wife, who have left their homeland. Once an accountant, Fernando is now a manual laborer. His wife, Olga, stays inside, afraid to answer the telephone for fear that operatives from the Federal Bureau of Investigation or Central Intelligence Agency are calling. She longs to return home, and her husband has promised her they will do so, but she realizes that he has no intention of going back when he accepts a job offer in his professional field and plans to move them to Texas. "Subtly, Machado makes the distant place meaningful to us through her, for she remembers accessible details like the smell of her mother's hands after Christmas cooking," observed Robert L. King in the North American Review. "She defines country as a place where you wake up, not as a land of opportunity."

By this time, several other plays based on Machado's family saga had been staged in New York. The Modern Ladies of Guanabacoa was based on photograph he found of his mother with the notation, "The day we cut our hair," and centers around a paternalistic family in Cuba in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Conflicted relationships … between husband and wife and between father and sons … are its focus, as the younger women in the traditional Catholic family become fascinated by the liberating freedoms of the Jazz Age in America. Meanwhile, the father founds a transportation company. In the Eye of the Hurricane fast-forwards the action to 1960, a year after Castro has seized power. The government begins a nationalization of all private businesses, including the father's bus company. Fabiola, which Machado rewrote extensively, centers on the actual Bay of Pigs fiasco in 1961, in which the U.S. government provided military help to a force comprised of anti-Castro exiles in an attempt to invade Cuba. The final play in the group, Broken Eggs, is set at a wedding in California in 1980, when three generations of a Cuban-American family gather at a country club to reminisce and argue. New York Times writer Margo Jefferson saw it in 1994 when it was originally titled Revotillo, and found it "a rich play, with an undertow of sorrow and rushes of anger and humor."

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