Cuba Libre

Featuring Music by Tiempo Libre
Book by Carlos Lacámara
Music & Lyrics by Jorge Gómez
Choreography by Maija Garcia
Directed by Dámaso Rodriguez

October 3, 2015 – November 15, 2015

Portland'5 Winningstad Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway Ave.

The irresistible rhythms of Cuban music drive this riveting, universal story of a man caught between countries, losses and loves, and his search for freedom. Set in America and Cuba, this timely tale reverberates across politics, ambition and romance with quick-witted dialogue, joy-filled dance and Latin-fusion beats. This Broadway-scale, contemporary musical features the internationally acclaimed, three-time Grammy-nominated band Tiempo Libre with a company of 21 actors, dancers and musicians in a not-to-be-missed theatrical event.

  • Portland’s Broadway-scale World Premiere

RUN TIME: Approximately two hours, with one 20-minute intermission.

Oregon Public Broadcasting's program Oregon Art Beat has been documenting the making of Cuba Libre since October, 2014.

30-minute TV documentary: WATCH HERE

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German Alexander +


Janet Dacal +


Nick Duckart +


Sara Hennessy +


Jose Luaces +


Luisa Sermol +



Sun-Tzu Dunmore


Jeff George


Poundo Gomis +


Nican Robinson


Julana Torres +


Oscar Trujillo



Jorge Gómez

Musical Director, Piano

Luis Beltran

Saxophone, Flute

Wilber Rodríguez

Bass, Vocals

Leandro González

Congas, Vocals

+ Member of Actors Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the U.S.

Featuring Music by

Tiempo Libre

Music and Lyrics by

Jorge Gómez

Directed by

Dámaso Rodriguez *

Choreography by

Maija Garcia *


Band: Tiempo Libre

Scenic Designer: Christopher Acebo #

Lighting Designer: Peter West

Projection Designer: Kaitlyn Pietras #

Costume Designer: Gregory Pulver ^

Sound Designer: Sharath Patel ^

Properties Master/Production Assistant: Cecily Madanes

Dialect Coach: Mary McDonald-Lewis ^

Dramaturg/Musical Consultant: Nick Blaemire

Sound Designer: Rodolfo Ortega ^

Scenic Designer: Megan Wilkerson #^

Assistant Stage Manager: Olivia Murphy +

Production Assistant: Karen Hill

Lead Wardrobe: Jamie Hammon

Board: Dave Petersen

Production Engineer: Jon Plueard

IATSE Steward/Board: Jen Raynak #

Assistant Stage Manager: Carol Ann Wohlmut +

Casting Director: Amy Lieberman

+ Member of Actors Equity Association, the Union of Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the U.S.

* Member of Stage Directors and Choreographers Society

# The scenic, costume, lighting, projection & sound designers are represented by United Scenic Artists

^ Artists Rep Resident Artist


omantic interest, hustle, love and death–everything one needs for a great musical. - See more at:
omantic interest, hustle, love and death–everything one needs for a great musical. - See more at:

“…to anyone with a pulse, it is irresistibly appealing.” “…packed with 18 exhilarating musical numbers, performed by the high-octane Cuban band Tiempo Libre (whose engaging members also play small roles), a cadre of potent and ingratiating singer/actors, and thrilling dances by Cuban-American choreographer Maija Garcia (who was  Bill T. Jones’ associate  choreographer for Broadway’s Afro-beat wonder Fela!).”
By Misha Berson
American Theatre Magazine

“The music -- oh wow the music! It's high-energy Latin-beat-filled awesomeness. Tiempo Libre is onstage doing their thing through the whole show. You will be dancing in your seat (and if you can get there fast enough, on stage at the end). The dancing -- double-wow!"
By Krista Garver


“Cuba Libre brought every inch of the intimate Winningstad Theatre alive with music, with dance, with laughter and with tears.”
By Rebecca Block
EDGE Media Network

“…more than a Tiempo Libre concert: It's a reminder of the power of music to transcend pain, and a warning not to use escape as an excuse to forget.”
By Thomas Ross
Portland Mercury

“Timba! That crazy, syncopated rhythm coming from a high-energy, kick-ass band on stage for the whole show is worth the ticket price alone.”
Portland Monthly Magazine
By Fiona McCann

“I’d see Cuba Libre again, to feast my eyes on Maija Garcia’s intricate, gleeful choreography.”
Portland Monthly Magazine
Ramona Denies

“…Cuba Libre already has the advantage of sharp direction and choreography, spiffy design and projections, exhilarating dancing, incendiary music and, crucially, crack timing: a musical about Cuban emigres to America arriving at a time when emigration is the hottest national political topic and the President has finally begun normalizing relations with Cuba.”
By Brett Campbell

‘Cuba Libre’: A man torn between two countries, Cuba-born musicians inspired story
Bend Bulletin
by Kim Himstreet

“…romantic interest, hustle, love and death–everything one needs for a great musical.”
by Judy Nedry, Judy Nedry Reviews

"Theater is thriving in Oregon, and New York is paying attention”
by Jamie Hale
The Oregonian/

Oregon Public Broadcasting Oregon Art Beat video features

Oregon Public Broadcasting, Oregon Art Beat final 30-minute documentary

Janet Dacal (Lisandra)

Christopher Acebo (Set Designer) feature

Brandon Contreras (Hector) feature

K103 I Heart Radio
News and Public Affairs Director John Erickson interviews director Dámaso Rodriguez about the show.
by John Erickson

KBOO Community Radio ‘Stage and Studio’ 
Interview with Artists Rep Artistic Director/Cuba Libre director Damaso Rodriguez and Tiempo Libre/Cuba Libre music director Jorge Gomez.
by Sarika Mehta

"...just about the best party imaginable."
by Barry Johnson, Oregon ArtsWatch

"Passionate! Energetic! Historic! Viva, Cuba Libre!"
by Dennis Sparks, Dennis Sparks Reviews

" a supermoon lunar eclipse, the chance to catch a Broadway-bound musical in Portland — and one with so much heart and promise — is a must-see."
by Lee Williams, The Oregonian/

Artslandia Magazine Opening Night Photo Booth

"Tiempo Libre & Artists Repertory Premiere Cuban-Infused Musical 'Cuba Libre' in Portland."
by Ian Holubiak,

OPB ‘State of Wonder’
Oregon Art Beat’s Robe Imbriano interview about Cuba Libre and what he’s learn by filming the project.
By April Baer

Oregon Music News Photo Gallery
Dress Rehearsal
By John Rudoff

"With the momentum of an island storm gathering intensity as it makes its way to port, the Caribbean-flavored, Portland-created original musical "Cuba Libre" promises to be the show to beat this season."
By Carol Wells, The Oregonian

"Directed by Artists Repertory Theatre's artistic director, Dámaso Rodriguez, the bilingual world premiere tells the story of a fictional musician struggling through life during Cuba's "Special Period"—Castro's name for the era of economic desperation in his country after the Soviet Union fell. But it's more than fiction for the show's many collaborators."
By James Helmsworth, Willamette Week

Cadence Magazine
Artist Profile: Jorge Gómez

A group of Cuban American talent—a musician, a producer, a director, a writer, a choreographer, and an actor—bring the story of Jorge Gómez to the Portland stage.
by Fiona McCann, Portland Monthly Magazine

Tiempo Libre in Concert, Cuba Libre celebration at Director Park.
by Briauna Skye McKizzie, GoLocalPDX



This page contains wide-ranging topics intended to inform and educate interested patrons about Cuba's history and culture as they relate to Cuba Libre.

The "Special Period" in Cuba's History (1990-2006)
by Blair D. Woodard, Ph.D., Historical Consultant, University of Portland

Cuba Libre is set during one of the most tumultuous times in Cuban history. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 created an unparalleled economic crisis for Cuba prompting Fidel Castro to declare a “special period in a time of peace.” The term “Special Period” came from Cuba’s long-standing plan for rationing in the event of a U.S. naval blockade of the island. In desperate need of hard currency, the Cuban government increased its efforts to develop international tourism, while at the same time severely rationing food, gasoline, clothing, soap, and almost every other imaginable product on the island. While tourists basked in the sun and drank mojitos, shortages of every kind became extreme and drove many Cubans to the brink of starvation.

Life in Havana became a series of challenges, some brutal others mundane, to survive another day. Long lines leading to empty shops and increased government surveillance created an atmosphere of suspicion, apathy, and anger. To contend with these new realities, Cubans developed an extensive informal economy that relied on barter and hustling. People quit their government jobs in order to tap into the increasing flow of tourist dollars by renting rooms, working in hotels, driving taxis, or becoming prostitutes. Amidst the despair and decay, Cuban music and dance flourished and became an outlet through which people expressed their frustrations and hopes for a better future.

In 1994 a series of riots rocked the streets of Havana. In order to defuse the situation, Castro announced that the Cuban frontier guard would no longer stop anyone trying to leave the island. Overnight scores of people began to construct thousands of makeshift rafts out of intertubes, styrofoam, and slats from park benches. Between August and September 1994, more than 30,000 “Balseros” (rafters) were apprehended at sea by the U.S. Coast Guard and eventually brought to the United States. Unknown numbers, perhaps as high as 100,000, died attempting the voyage. This play is about the sadness, dreams, and fortitude of the Cuban people during the Special Period and the ultimate decision whether to stay or leave the island they love.

Cuba Libre
's Rueda de Casino

by Maija Garcia (Choreographer) and Katrin Kasper (Marketing Intern)

Casino is a partner dance that developed organically along with popular Cuban music. It emerged as a distinct dance form during the 1950's, in Havana’s social clubs where music groups played El Son, which originated in Cuba's eastern provinces. El Son reflects the Caribbean's cultural diversity, incorporating European contradanza and African clave rhythms, which gave way to the mambo and cha-cha. As Cuban music was popularized internationally as salsa, local Cuban dance music evolved into timba– a fast-paced syncopated sound that inspired new dance figures and footwork. Casino dancers began to trade partners in a circular structure, creating a new social dance form called rueda de casino. There is no fixed number of couples, but an even number of leaders and followers allows partners to weave in and out of the circle. One of the leaders functions as a caller, announcing each move using vocal and visual cues. Rueda de casino has a communal quality that reflects the unique social structure of post-revolutionary Cuba.

Other research sources:


Cuban History Timeline
by Katrin Kasper

~400 BCE      
The Ciboneyes, Taíno, and Guanahatabeyes tribes form cooperative civilizations in Cuba and across the Caribbean.

Christopher Columbus arrives in Cuba and builds a Spanish colony. Spanish oppression, forced conversion and disease quickly decimate native populations.

1511 - 1776   
Cuban sugar, tobacco, cotton, and coffee plantations make Spain one of the richest and most oppressive European empires.

1776 –1886    
Revolutions in the United States, France and Haiti encourage many Cubans to fight for independence and the abolition of slavery. Spanish authorities struggle to control the uprisings.

Slavery is abolished.

1895 - 97       
The Cuban War for Independence: Cubans organize for independence and eventually win self-government while remaining a Spanish colony.

The US wins the Spanish-American War and takes over all Western Spanish colonies. Although nominally independent and democratic, Cuba is under American control. Guantanamo Bay is built.

The Cuban Communist Party (PCC) is founded. They rally around national outrage over dictatorship, unemployment, class disparity, and American neo-colonialism.

Col. Fulgencio Batista, whose initial rise to power was supported by the US military, installs himself as dictator. Rebel groups organize under Communist leader, Fidel Castro.

1959 - 61       
Castro and his forces take Havana. Castro becomes Prime Minister and the Cuban economy changes from capitalist to socialist. Many Cubans flee to the US or other Latin American countries, creating Cuban diaspora.

The US cuts off diplomatic relations with Cuba and issues a harsh trade embargo. The USSR becomes Cuba's primary trade partner and military ally.

1962 – 1989   
Cuba stabilizes as a communist dictatorship. Although nominally an egalitarian society, wide-spread corruption in party leadership leads to a new kind of class disparity. Individuals are judged on their loyalty to Castro and the party.

Castro instates mandatory quarantine for anyone diagnosed with AIDS. Although all patients are lead comfortable lives, they are not allowed to leave.

1990 – 2006   
The Special Period: The collapse of the USSR destroys Cuba's trade economy. Even privileged Cubans face shortages, leading to a thriving black market and sex industry. The government lifts some bans on tourism, which unintentionally makes Cuba a popular sex tourism destination.

The AIDS quarantine is lifted for "responsible" patients. However, many choose to stay in the camps because they have nowhere else to go.

2006– 2008    
Fidel Castro steps down as president and appoints his brother Raúl in his place.

President Obama vows to make a fresh start with Cuba. Cuban political minds begin to envision a new kind of socialism that allows for electoral participation and economic prosperity.

Obama and Raúl Castro officially reform diplomatic relations. Embassies in Havana and Washington reopen after being closed for over 50 years.



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Special Events

Unless otherwise noted, all events take place at Portland’5 Winningstad Theatre

September 21
5-7pm Tiempo Libre free concert at Director’s Park with DJ Blas. FREE!

September 24
5:30-7pm FREE Cuban casino rueda dance class for beginners with Cuba Libre Choreographer Maija Garcia and dancers Oscar Trujillo and Nican Robinson! Class is from 6-7pm @ Artists Rep, Morrison Lobby.

October 3
First Preview post-show dance party with DJ Blas.

October 4
1pm World Affairs Council Prologue Series: Julia Cook author of the book The Other Side of Paradise, discusses youth culture and the last generation to come of age under Fidel Castro.

October 11
1pm World Affairs Council Prologue Series: Blair Woodard, Professor of Latin American Studies at University of Portland talks about The Special Period in Time of Peace in Cuba which is the extended period of economic crisis that began in 1989 following the collapse of the Soviet Union, as background to the setting of Cuba Libre. Woodard is the Historical Consultant for Cuba Libre.

Post-show discussion after 2pm matinee

October 17
10pm Late Night Piano Bar with Mont Chris Hubbard @ Artists Rep

October 18
1pm World Affairs Council Prologue Series: Elliott Young, Professor of Latin American and Borderlands history at Lewis & Clark College talks about the history of race and racism in Cuba from the time of Jose Marti through the Revolution.

Post-show discussion after 2pm matinee

October 21
Post-show discussion after Noon matinee

October 21
5:30-7pm Cuban Dance Lesson with Cuba Libre choreographer Maija Garcia. For beginners. $20 suggested donation.

October 24
Surprise Night Saturday

October 25
1pm World Affairs Council Prologue Series: Matt Berger, host of KMHD Jazz Radio’s program The Latin Tinge, will talk about the “Latin Tinge” the cross-cultural conversation that’s been going on between New Orleans and Havana since well before the 20th century.

Post-show discussion after 2pm matinee

October 25
7:30pm Open Captioned performance

Oct 31
1pm Supporting and Empowering the Latino Community Panel Discussion. Learn about the missions of five organizations supporting the Latino community in Portland. Adelante Mujeres, Metropolitan Family Service, Hispanic Professionals, Latino Network and Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization share personal accounts of the people impacted by the services and opportunities they provide.
NOTE: For every Cuba Libre ticket purchased using code “5FORWARD” Artists Rep will split a $5 donation to these five organizations helping to support and empower Portland’s Latino Community.

October 31
2pm ASL Interpreted performance

November 1
1pm World Affairs Council Prologue Series: Dámaso Rodriguez, Artists Rep’s Cuban-American Artistic Director and director of Cuba Libre, shares his reflections on his October trip to Cuba as a cultural ambassador.

Post-show discussion after 2pm matinee

November 8
1pm World Affairs Council Prologue Series: Carol Slegers of Cuba AyUUda, shares stories of First Unitarian Church 13-year old program that has brought hundreds of Oregonians to Cuba, forging meaningful friendships and deep connections.

Post-show discussion after 2pm matinee

November 14
11am Cuba Libre: Politics & the Personal - Panel Discussion
With Cuban-Americans Carlos Lacamara, Jorge Gomez, Leandro Gonzalez, Janet Dacal, Ernesto Castellanos
World Affairs Council (Madison Room)
1200 SW Park Avenue, Portland
More info HERE


Cuba Libre Study Guide - for teachers, students and interested audience members.

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Special thanks to Elizabeth Sobol, Time DuRoche at World Affairs Council, staff and volunteers at Portland'5 Centers for the Arts, Jane Conver and Allison Ravenscroft; publicists for Tiempo Libre, Blas Delascio and Verónika Nuñez, Mike Holzgang, John Maribona and Pambiche, Christie Lites, 52nd Ave. Hardware, Bud's Lites and Barabara and Norman Sepenuk, ETHOS Music Center, Portland Pianos, Rhythm Traders, Jacob Orr.