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Eduardo Machado: 1953—: Playwright - Opus Given Development Grant

Brief BiographiesBiographies: Al Loving Biography - Loved Painting from Early Age to Alice McGill Biography - PersonalEduardo Machado: 1953—: Playwright Biography - Forced To Leave Parents Behind, Opus Given Development Grant, Saw Parallel In "elián" Saga

Opus Given Development Grant

Such accolades were not forthcoming, however, when Machado attempted to bring the entire quartet of plays to fruition at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. He had won a Theatre Communications Group/Pew Charitable Trust grant of $100,000, and was made a playwright in residence at the Taper. Its highly regarded director, Oskar Eustis, had commissioned Tony Kushner's Angels in America, a similarly lengthy stage trilogy, a few years earlier, and the opportunity to produce his plays at the Taper was heralded as the path to mainstream success for Machado. The time at the Taper, however, was fraught with difficulties. Out for a walk one day, Machado was assaulted at gunpoint, and gave up his watch and wallet, but the thief wanted the computer disks he was carrying, which contained the plays and their most recent revisions. Machado refused to give up the disks. In fluent Spanish, he explained to the mugger just what the disks were. "He put the gun against my head, and he very slowly ran the gun down my back from the top of my head to my buttocks," Machado told American Theatre writer Richard Stay-ton. "He asked me what part of my body wanted the bullet." Machado argued for his life for another 15 minutes, and finally the mugger gave up and walked away.

Other problems plagued The Floating Island Plays, as the quartet came to be called. Some at the Taper wanted an all-Latino cast, to which Machado and Eustis objected, but the more politically correct casting won out. It was deemed too lengthy a work, and Machado re-wrote and cut scenes for weeks. The actual production brought worries, for it called for buses onstage, as well as rain and fire. But it was the endless hours of revisiting his family conflicts that decimated the playwright, who sometimes abruptly left rehearsals muttering, "I can't spend any more time with my family," as he was quoted as saying in the New York Times Magazine. Reviews were mostly lukewarm after the production's debut in October of 1994, partly due to the fact that the four plays lasted nearly six hours. "Floating Islands wanted to be a Cuban Gone with the Wind," opined Stayton, "with Havana portraying the mythical homeland of Tara; instead, under the stress of an opening deadline, it was crumbling into a delirious Spanish language telenovela soap that might have been titled Desi Arnaz Waiting for Fidel to Read Paradise Lost."

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