Ernesto and Sandra García are dreamers who have learned, of necessity, how to transform creative ideas into reality with very little money. Since winning a visa lottery that brought them to Miami from Cuba in 1995, the Garcías have started a clearinghouse website for Spanish-language theater worldwide, created their Teatro en Miami Studio above a Little Havana tire shop and, in 2010, launched a festival to celebrate made-in-Miami theater en español.
Not that any of this has been easy. Playwright and director Ernesto García, whose Drume negrita will have its world premiere on Friday, is usually as determined as his optimistic wife. But he does admit that sometimes, on his darkest days, “I feel that I am plowing in the ocean.”
Nonetheless, this week brings TEMFest 2012, the third edition of the Garcías’ Miami-centric festival. It launches Wednesday evening with a big free party and awards ceremony in the OnStage Black Box Theater at Miami-Dade County Auditorium. Director Eduardo Corbé, actress Marta Velasco and playwright José Abreu Felippe will be honored with the festival’s Baco Award for their years of contributions to theater, artist Yovani Bauta’s festival poster will be unveiled, and the theater artists whose work will be showcased over the festival’s three weekends will be introduced, mingle and dance to the Luyano Band — no stodgy kickoff speeches for TEMFest.
This year’s festival features six premieres — two from Teatro Viento de Agua and Gala, companies new to Miami — and the others from the Garcías’ Teatro en Miami, El Ingenio Teatro, Havanafama Teatro Estudio and the Maroma Players. A storytelling evening, a free book presentation and a free children’s festival day augment the theater offerings, which have tickets priced at a value-conscious $20 per show.
The aim, says Sandra García, isn’t to rival the long-established International Hispanic Theatre Festival. That monthlong gathering happens each July and focuses mainly on bringing companies from all over the world to Miami, in addition to showcasing the work of festival artistic director Mario Ernesto Sánchez’s Teatro Avante and Miami Dade College’s Teatro Prometeo. García calls Sánchez “an inspiration for us” and adds, “We don’t want to compete with anyone. We just want to bring in more people [to see this work].”
Ingenio Teatro director Lilliam Vega, who is staging Raquel Carrió’s new play Leyenda at Hoy Como Ayer on the opening weekend, calls the Garcías “great leaders, excellent producers, tireless teachers and hardworking directors of a festival that seeks to bring all types of artists together, offering them equal support in their endeavors.” She credits TEMFest with encouraging more stylistic diversity in local Spanish-language theater.
Vega, who has worked in Miami for 15 years and staged a number of plays by Carrió, says Leyenda is inspired by Carlos Felipe’s Requiem por Yarini. The play features Daisy Granados as an aging actress who endures hard times while hanging onto her passion for life and love. The playwright, Vega says, crafts “incredibly imaginative stories, filled with such depth and modernity that they capture my interest from the very first moment. She provides to the entire production a continual challenge that … encourages artistic growth all the way to the day of the premiere.”