Dolores Prida: 1943—: Playwright, Journalist, Poet
An Unusual Contest
In 1999 Prida was presented with an unusual opportunity to use her creative skills. The Federal National Mortgage Association, popularly known as Fannie Mae, was looking for a way to promote home ownership within the Hispanic community. Instead of launching a traditional advertising campaign, Fannie Mae decided to sponsor a playwriting competition that it called The American Dream. Entrants had only one guideline to follow: all submissions had to address Hispanic home ownership in the United States. The winning play would be performed at Repertorio Espanol.
Prida's submission, Casa Propria (A House of Her Own), was selected as the winning entry. It focuses on the emotional struggle between Olga, who wants to buy a home, and her husband Manolo, who sees home ownership as constraining (Prida based the role of Manolo partly on her father). But through them and the play's other characters it also explores such issues as infidelity, domestic abuse, personal responsibility, and friendship. According to the ABA Banking Journal, the New York Times called the entry "a high-spirited comedy," as once again Prida uses a light touch to address serious issues and makes her characters more human, more real. And because it was sponsored by Fannie Mae, Casa Propria achieved an honor undoubtedly reserved for few plays: a write-up in the flagship publication of the American Bankers Association. Prida stated at Repertorio Online, "The play is about realizing that 'American dream' of owning a home-but it goes beyond that. It's a sort of A Room of Your Own infused with Lysistrata."
In 2000 Prida wrote the musical revue Four Guys Named Jose … and Una Mujer Named Maria, which tells the story of a Hispanic woman who wants to join a four-man musical group. The play was performed off-Broadway and received excellent reviews. It was performed in several other cities as well, and the soundtrack was released on compact disc in 2001.
Despite Prida's popularity and her reputation as a writer who used humor to make her points, over the years her work was attacked by some anti-Castro elements of the Cuban-American community. Like many Cuban Americans who left their homeland while young, Prida felt that it was important to seek ways to make a connection with Cuba. She was part of a delegation that visited Cuba in the late 1970s to find ways to build bridges between the Castro regime and Cuban exiles. Ultimately, the group was able to gain concessions from the Cuban government that allowed exiles in the United States to visit with relatives in Cuba. This was such a sore point for some Cubans living in the United States that Prida and others who tried to build these bridges actually received death threats, and two of the Cuban Americans who traveled with Prida's group were later murdered. This kept her works from being performed in certain Cuban-American regions in Florida and the Northeast, even though Cuban politics was never among her themes.
Throughout her career as a writer, Prida has received many awards and honors including the Cintas Fellowship Award for Literature in 1976, and the Creative Artistic Public Service Award for Playwriting in 1976. She received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from Mount Holyoke College in 1989. Her plays are continuing to open doors for up-and-coming playwrights. Prida told Repertorio Online, "Hispanic American theatre is beginning to have an impact and is going to be the theatre of the future. I still think that we will continue to be very much bilingual. It's not going to disappear like Yiddish theatre, and the American theatre will be richer because of our Hispanic theatre, because it's part of the whole mosaic of what this country is."
(Contributor) Breaking Boundaries, Eliana Ortega et al., eds., University of Massachusetts Press, 1989.
Beautiful Señoritas And Other Plays, Arte Público Press, 1991.
Cortina, Rodolfo J., ed., Cuban American Theater, Arte Público Press, 1991.
Meier, Matt S., et al. Notable Latino Americans, Greenwood Press, 1997.
Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States, Oxford University Press, 1995.
ABA Banking Journal, December 1999, p. 80.
Studies in American Humor, Annual 2001, pp. 21-35.
"Dolores Prida," Repertorio Español Online, http://www.repertorio.org/education/pdfs/prida.pdf (March 31, 2003).
—George A. Milite
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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Jan Peck Biography - Personal to David Randall (1972–) Biography - PersonalDolores Prida: 1943—: Playwright, Journalist, Poet Biography - Early Career: From Baking To Writing, Found A Bicultural Voice, An Unusual Contest