An interview with Kimberly del Busto Ramirez, author of Hurricane in a Glass.
When and how did you become interested in the theater?
I don’t remember a time that I wasn’t. There was an open area in the living room of the house I grew up in as a child, surrounded by drapery, crushed velvet seating (it was the 70s), a piano, and a record player. I made and sold tickets to my family and made them watch “shows” that I conceived and performed in that space. I must have been dreadful because they sent me off to acting classes at age 4. I continued performing until college, when I wrote my first play. After seeing it in production, I felt more like a playwright than an actress, and pursued an M.F.A. playwriting. That I followed with a Ph.D. in theatre studies; the doctorate left me feeling more like a scholar. So I guess I went from the living room to the library.
What was your inspiration for Hurricane in Glass?
The play was conceived during the days I spent with my mother visiting my abuela in a nursing home in south Miami. My mother stayed by my grandmother’s bed every afternoon because the medical staff couldn’t always be trusted. Abuela had suffered enough having given up one home (Cuba), now to give up her only remaining home (her body)…bueno, she deserved company. Almost everything in the play is true; what did not literally happen happened in some way. My grandmother’s Alzheimer’s did not always seem tragic. There were moments in which she appeared relieved of some great burden she must have carried on her back through the years she spent in exile. Because abuela always loved attention, no matter how many nurses and doctors were prodding her, she kept a smile on her face and seemed generally amused. So I would imagine that she believed they were all waiting on her, like her old servants in Cuba. That is how the concept of the play began.
Any words of wisdom for our readers?
In Act 2, María José tells Lola, “You can pack up and fly to Jose Martí International, but you can’t pack up and fly to 1958.” There is precious little that remains of the old Cuba that many matriarchs die dreaming about. People talk of “returning” to the island or they want to visit the resorts without realizing that current Cuban citizens are not even allowed to enter there. The easiest way to get an objective snapshot of what Cuba is like today is to read the strictly-observational, uncensored writing posted on blogs like Yoani Sánchez’s through the Desde Cuba portal. But instead of learning about what things are really like, tourists tend to romanticize a failed revolution, purchasing icons, symbols, or simulacrums that revise history and ironically fashion a commercial marketplace in response to an economy that rations food to its citizens. Experiencing a pre-revolutionary Cuba is impossible. It’s just not there.