Anna in the Tropics (2007)

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Poster by Maria Bates from a painting by Michael Wilson

by Nilo Cruz

Directed by Juliet Male

Performances: Tue 6th – Sat 10th November 2007, Bell Theatre


In the late 1920s in Florida and Cuba teams of factory workers hand-rolled cigars in factories. They were entertained by "lectors" who read to them as they crafted each cigar. The lectors were employed by the workers, not the employers, and they read from the world's great classics. The cigar makers often could not read or write but they could quote passages from Jane Austen and Tolstoy. When the cigar making machines were introduced in 1931, there were no more lectors.

Anna in the Tropics is the story of a family who listen to Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, whilst they roll cigars. The story weaves its way into their lives, striking echoes from their own past experience and reminding them of previous pain as well as filling their heads with dreams. This play was a Pulitzer Prize winner in 2003. It captures the atmosphere of the Latin-American culture through the intensity and closeness of a family, living and working together. Like many families, there is an undercurrent of violence. Their world is challenged but the values by which they live are indestructible, giving the whole play an optimism which softens tragedy. The play is full of joy and laughter as well as suppressed passion.



The Director and the Production Team would like to specifically thank Anton Krause and Mike Elliott for their contribution to building the set for Anna in the Tropics (2007).

The Director would also like to personally thank Mitchell A Orchant and his staff at C. Gars Ltd., who provided not only the cigars for the production, but also invaluable background information about hand-making cigars in Florida in the 1920s. It was from this source we found out that lectors still read to the workers as they hand-roll cigars. The script states that the tradition died out in 1931, when machines were introduced!


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