By Rachel Sorgen–
Be a part of a world premiere and come see “Bloodline Rumba” at the Thrust Theatre. Written by one of U of L’s own, John Chenault, “Bloodline Rumba” tells the story of a Cuban-American medical resident and a Cuban patient in a New York City hospital. The play is built around the themes of family, identity, racism and immigration. In a twist, the play is set in two different time periods, taking the audience back to Cuba in the 1900s— a historical time when racial tensions were high.
This is the first time the play will be brought to life. The cast and crew have done research to make everything seem as real as possible. The director, Nefertiti Burton, and Chenault have been guiding the cast through the process.
““Bloodline Rumba” is a compelling story that audiences can relate to and enjoy,” said Sydney Edwards, an actor in the play. “The play parallels many of the issues we are facing in America today while highlighting a piece of history that many are not familiar with.” She expects that the play will surprise the audience.
Edwards takes on the character of Sara Santos, a young Afro-Cuban woman who aspires to become a doctor. Her character deals with the societal struggles of sexism and racism along with a personal struggles. This is Edwards’ first major lead role in a U of L play.
“Bloodline Rumba” was written after Chenault took a trip to Cuba with the Theatre department while he was completing his PhD in Pan African Studies. Instead of writing a research paper to fulfill course requirements, he requested to write a play, and “Bloodline Rumba” came into existence. Inspiration for the play came from Chenault’s exposure to Afro-Cuban music as a teenager. His interest in the music began when he was 15 during his first paid gig where he performed with an Afro-Cuban drum and dance ensemble. On his first trip to Cuba in 2012, it happened to also be the 100th anniversary of a political massacre involving the Independent Party of People of Color. It was because of this coincidental timing that Chenault took an even deeper interest in Cuba’s history and culture. He says “Bloodline Rumba” provided the vehicle and outlet for his ideas to be expressed.
Describing his play as “magical realism”, Chenault hopes “audiences come away from the performance with a renewed awareness that events set in motion a long ago continue to shape and influence who we are, how we act and how we perceive and interact with others.”
Chenault is an associate professor and Medical Librarian at U of L. Having written his first play at age 16, Chenault’s career of 40 plus years in performing arts has taken him into every aspect of theater production. His works have been performed throughout the United States, Canada, England, France and Germany.
“Bloodline Rumba” calls the audience to realize how much there is left to learn about who we are as individuals and as a society.
The opening show is Wednesday, Feb. 3 at 8 p.m. and will show everyday until Feb. 7 at 3 p.m. Student tickets are $8 and can be bought at the Theatre Arts department box office.