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Acosta, Iván

Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States
Author(s):

Elena M. Martínez

Acosta, Iván 

(b. 1943),

playwright and screenplay writer. Iván Acosta was born in Oriente Province, Cuba. He left Cuba in 1961, emigrating to the New York area, where he started in theater as an actor and discovered his interest in playwriting. He studied film at New York University and gained instant attention with El súper. This play was presented in 1977 at the Centro Cultural Cubano—a vital and instrumental agent in promoting and preserving Cuban theater in New York in the 1970s. El súper became an instant hit of the Hispanic theater, receiving good reviews and winning awards. Among the many awards that Acosta has received over the course of his career are the Cintas Fellowships for Cuban writers and artists, the ACE Award for Best Writer, the Thalia Best Writer Award, and the Ariel Best Writer Award.

El súper was later adapted into a film directed by León Ichaso and Orlando Jiménez Leal. The popularity of El súper marked a milestone in the Latino and Latina art scene in the United States. Both works drew attention to the experiences of Cubans and other immigrants while broadening the scope of Cuban cultural productions in the United States.

El súper is the quintessential Cuban film. A dramatic comedy, it focuses on the domestic experiences of a Cuban family that left Cuba after the outbreak of the revolution. It tells the story of Roberto Amador González, his wife, Aurelia, and their daughter, Aurelita, in New York City. Roberto, a middle-aged man of humble origins and underprivileged background, works as a building superintendent in Manhattan. The film concentrates on his family's experiences as marginal people in a country with a language and traditions different from their own. The fact that they live in the basement of the building where Roberto works underscores the sense of imprisonment and marginalization that the characters suffer. Cold weather and snow enhance the sense of desolation in the film.

Like many of Acosta's works, the film is concerned with alienation in the Cuban family. The tone of the film is bitter and satiric. The three characters, Roberto, Aurelia, and Aurelita, express different forms and degrees of frustration. Roberto is a reflexive and melancholic character who is dissatisfied with his life in New York City. Many of the scenes that present Roberto fulfilling his duties as a building superintendent show that he is incapable of connecting with others. Aurelia is at home and concerned with family and health care issues. Aurelita does not understand why her parents talk so much about Cuba. She represents a new generation—one that is assimilated and that chooses to speak English instead of Spanish.

The play and the film are unique in the scope of their representations of Cuban exiles. In an interview published in OLLANTAY Theater Magazine, Acosta stated that he wrote the screenplay because he felt that his message was important and because people needed to see works with this particular point of view.

Many of Acosta's plays are concerned with Cuban sociopolitical themes and the exploration of the impact of the revolution on the lives of Cubans living abroad and those still on the island. His plays Abdalá-José Martí, Un cubiche en la luna, and Recojan las serpentinas que se acabó el carnaval present political commentaries. Abdalá-José Martí was the first play in Spanish to be part of the Lincoln Center Theater Festival. While Abdalá-José Martí—inspired by a text by José Martí—deals with issues of freedom, Un cubiche en la luna explores in a humorous way issues of language, identity, freedom, and alienation in revolutionary Cuba. The play, which opens with one of the characters asking, “What will the future bring?” uses humor and irony to attack revolutionary ideology and dogmatism. Among the issues presented are the influence of the Russian language in spoken Cuban Spanish, housing problems, scarcity of food, and political repression and propaganda.

Like other Cuban artists and writers during the 1980s, Acosta turned his attention to the wave of Cuban immigration associated with the Mariel boatlift. His film Amigos (1986) centers on the experiences of Cubans who came to the United States as part of the Mariel crisis. His documentary Como se forma una rumba, an entertaining and educational film chronicling the roots of Cuban dance rhythms, premiered at the Latin Jazz Festival and was shown with great success in New York, New Jersey, and Miami, as well as in several film festivals.

Acosta has served as the producer of the Latin Jazz USA concerts at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and at the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach.

See also Cuban Americans; Film; Marielitos; Performing Arts and Theater; and Playwrights.

Bibliography

Acosta, Iván. El súper. Miami, Fla.: Ediciones Universal, 1982.Find this resource:

    Acosta, Iván. Tres obras teatrales. Houston, Tex.: Arte Público Press, 1989.Find this resource:

      Febles, Jorge. “El súper: Epic Resonance within a Nondialectic Construct.Michigan Academician18, no. 2 (Spring 1986): 295–302.Find this resource:

        The Playwrights Speak: Iván Acosta. ¿Qué cómo comenzó todo? Como son las cosas cuando son del alma.OLLANTAY Theater Magazine2, no. 1 (1994): 59–62.Find this resource:

          Elena M. Martínez