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The epic poem of Marti Theater

The epic poem of Marti Theater

They say the centenary neoclassical building located in the Aguila and Dragones streets, almost turning to find the Habana Capitol never seemed abandoned. But the day Eusebio Leal goes inside the property, convinced to start no matter what and with the principle of authority granted by  the president of the republic, the facadewas the only thing standing: That Cuban glory was just pieces.

Now it is easy to post without blushing that Leal looked himself in the audience on the opening day. But only he and his followers will know the reason why his tight chest, and crying eyes, and the shaken Cuban soul whenever the three bells of joy stroke. The best antidote for those who truly hate and destroy.That is why the shield of the Republic stays there to the center of the presidential stage and, in the front, the green medallion with the gilded initials of the Marti Theater, always intertwined, as deep and beautiful tribute to the name given by the Cuban patriots who gathered there in 1900.

Reopen at all costs the coliseum of one hundred doors

Today we will never know who preferred to close it as a cinema in the late seventies, without taking into account  that a closed theater ends collapsed. There is also the old Alhambra, lost forever. And the Gest of the Old Havana goes unnoticed even today by many of our contemporaries. Because it was not a question of budgets: first we had to wait for the opening of trade schools to rescue carpenters, welders and masons; to make architects fall in love with history; and prepare universal vision designers and take engineers who had just gratuated  from universities to create the construction companies that could undertake such a work.

The last repair of the Marti was to conceive it as a cinema in 1976, and then it was closed because of construction problems, to the point of preserving the facade in 2005. In 2006 excavations at the pit props begin, very dangerous for the constructive critical situation of the surrounding buildings. Two years later is that, finally, came the first financing, that will cost 22 million pesos in both currencies circulating in Cuba.

Marilyn Mederos, architect and generally planner, is a beautiful working woman, who expresses the challenge faced by the Office of History in Havana: to rescue a building and turn it into a museum, like many in human history, or restore it to return its function . The solution was to combine both possibilities, and do it from a line of projects to contrast old and new, and govern the space of a small format theater, to the point that new services be adapted to a building with a first degree of protection, of the highest patrimonial value.

She can hardly meet journalists, and does not seem to care much about what people think. She is very focused on that there are no traces of constructive intervention, and gardens reborn, and green and gold colors prevail. It is an essential part of those who dreamed the return to June 8th , 1884, when it was great the inauguration of Basque Ricardo Irijoa, three times rich, who suffered the same fate of his work and died in extreme poverty.

The hand painted backdrop are already events, the papier mache ceiling, made by students of the School of Jovellanos to minimize the weight of the ceiling, and the sky recreated with clouds at the center as it was used to be painted at the time, and even the semicircular railing gates that were born taken from old photos. Or the giant lamp, armed piece by piece inside the theater, after being purchased in the Czech Republic.

But before was necessary to reconstruct the foundation for the trick. And rescue the wood beams, and fumigate the left trusses, to last a hundred years. Reset the frieze and the embouchure. To arm  the gangway and catwalks under the ceiling, which are the hidden paths for electricians and lighting technicians. To find architectural solutions as fake columns, in order to conceal the climate ducts; and sealed with an aluminum frame and insulated joints the broad windows blinds, designed to mitigate the stifling heat of colonial Havana.

The greatest experience for all

 "People are surprised about the time this kind of work takes, but everything is not reproduction, there has been many restoration of what it originally had. We are talking about a total capital restoration, with a very typical construction sequence to the common rules established for other works. "

Gretel Alvarez War, thirty-one civil engineer,  cheerfully explains: It's practically her first work. I arrived at Marti theater during the first works in 2008, as capture of the Office of the Historian.

"We are a multidisciplinary team. I'm just the resident investor, that coordinates all the disciplines involved in the process.. Mechanics, Hydraulics, Electrical, weak and automatic Current , Commercial and Architecture, and also Civil. We face many different and complex issues, because it has been necessary to create a technological basement under the parket, and another one for the air conditioning and fire extinguishing systems. There is also a lift platform below the stage, similar to the one that permitted level the floor to provide the ballroom dancing at that time.

We also had to lift in parallel an adjacent building, also in ruins for the administrative offices. To create a block of high comfort bathrooms. To restore the gardens and the cafeteria area. And to design and implement four sites levels for the new needs within the theater, from a hairdresser, new dressing rooms, even the reserved room for the orchestra director. "

Tecnoescena: The heart of Theater

"The experience with them has been wonderful, because they are the lead in this work –declared the young engineer- and they had to adapt to a space that did not conceive modern systems. The conception of projects and purchases of equipment, came with the experts´ criteria. And they agreed with the general design architect of the work, and with every specific lighting project, stage mechanics, sound, by specialists of the Ministry of Culture. It was, indeed, a challenge. "

Several brigades and dozens of men from the Tecnoescena Company worked for several months. They had participated the previous year in the repair of more than twenty theaters throughout the island, besides the restoration of colonial theaters like Milanes in Pinar del Rio, La Caridad in Santa Clara, the Theater Thomas Terry in Cienfuegos; or others of the Republican period as Eddy Sunol Theater in Holguin, and the Oriente Theater in Santiago de Cuba, this one devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

For the Excellencies readers, this is Sixto Antonio Saavedra speaking, director of Tecnoescena, the company owned by the National Council for the Performing Arts: "After the request by the Office of the Historian in Havana to our institution, that we participated in this restoration, because of our skill in the theaters technic, we did a study of projects and collaborated in the setting and assessment of needs.

The Office of the Historian funded the purchase of this equipment. It is more than a million pesos in technological systems. From these comfortable seats, which are more than seven hundred, we did the assemblied work , even the location of almost a thousand meters of carpets, even the carpet in all corridors, side, and balconies’ horseshoes, to strengthen the acoustics . We also prepare the whole curtain work which means sewing about three thousand feet of curtain known as patas, the American, all of a heavyweight to have a good acoustic system.

Another example is the flooring-board of the highest quality, with a special wood brought from Colombia, which has all the features required by the dancers, like the ones who have come here, highly applauded by critics and the public, and they have recognized it. We also worked on the Scenic Mechanics, automated and decisive in the set, which has been outfitted with more than twenty sticks, compensated to sustain technological systems. They were brought from Spain, of a very good quality.

Lighting systems mean more than one hundred eighty points of light, four followers, fifteen kilos in audio power. The theater also has the channeling of all internal communication equipment, very important to the technical specifications of all kinds of shows. It is all our company Tecnoescena could give to the respectable Cuban public because they deserve it. "

To create is the license word  

The opening of Marti Theater is finally the crown jewel, perhaps among the greatest symbols when there will be enough collective memory that relates what is not enough said. More than a physical space, is to rescue the living history to the memory of the nation, a place for the students, families, world visitors, to see the vibrant and simple elegance of our Cuban roots, the necessary phrase of Jose Marti that "let the glass not be more than the flower."

It might still appear on stage that little pedant negrito of Archimedes Pous, wondering if anyone knows where the Independence street went. Or Francisco Villoch coming with the famous script of the first mulata on the stage. And the only Rita Montaner that makes the respectable delirious when she sings El manisero. Or the Masters Gonzalo Roig and Rodrigo Prats on stage for the first time with the African drums and dancing.

Right!, the premiere of the original production of our "Cecilia Valdes". And then the best part of cuban operettas as "Amalia Batista", "Soledad", "Maria Belen Chacon" and Ernesto Lecuona in the piano with his long fingers to play "Rosa la China". And the beautiful Maria de los Angeles Santana closing her eyes to sing on a small curtain/Damisela encantadora/ Damisela por ti me muero/ si me miras/ si me besas/ Damisela serás mi amor/

It is the greatness of this Gest of Old Havana: There is a shocking image that the Historian of Havana tells in lectures offered today, when after decades of being closed,  the bell of San Francisco Assisi was heard. Then a black woman, bended from walking, leaned on her cane at the entrance of the ancient convent and exclaimed excitedly: -Orula has come home ...

Those who know the hidden paths in the soul of the island, now know that the three bell strokes of Marti Theater announce a new premonition: that the feast of our rebirth as a nation has just begun.