“Banks are the temples of America. This is a Holy War. Our Economy is our Religion…”

Columbia Stages in New York City presented the first staged adaption of the Hispanic American epic UNITED STATE OF BANANA by Hispanic American poet Giannina Braschi in June 2015 at Columbia University’s Schapiro Theater.  The mixed genre farce dramatizes 911 American psyche around the politics of empire and independence.

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The poet declares “Banks are the temples of America. This is a holy war. Our economy is our religion.”

The wandering, absurdist plot a la sensibility of Alfred Jarry is as follows:

Actor Hamlet and philosopher Zarathustra join poet Giannina on a quest to liberate the Puerto Rican prisoner Segismundo from the dungeon of the Statue of Liberty, where he has been imprisoned by his father, the King of the United States of Banana, for more than 100 years for the crime of being born. The work tackles inter-American politics of empire and independence, the post-9/11 psyche, and the immigrant’s experience of marginality and liberation. The play depicts New York City as “the Darwinist capital of the Capitalist world” and  U.S. imperialism as doomed as “a chicken with its head cut off”. All Latin Americans are granted American passports, Puerto Rico is declared the 51st state, and then comes a revolution.

The work was inspired by Heiner Muller’s Hamlet Machine, Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi, Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathusta, and Calderon de la Barca’s Life is a Dream.

http://www.pw.org/literary_events/united_states_of_banana_a_play_based_on_the_book_by_giannina_braschi_0

About the Director

JUAN PABLO FÉLIX is a theater director and acting coach from Bogotá, Colombia.  He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and enrolled in the MFA Theater Directing Program at Columbia University School of the Arts, where he studied under American Master Anne Bogart, artistic director of SITI.  He served as casting director for the Oscar-nominated film “Maria Full of Grace” and directs theater workshops at Estudio Babel in Colombia and EICTV in Cuba.  Columbia Stages presented his adaption of the mixed-genre book “United States of Banana” from June 17 to June 20, 2015 at Columbia University. The dynamic cast included emerging talents Raphael Corkhill as Hamlet, Tauriq Jenkins as Zarathustra, George Hider as a prisoner, and Angela Sperazza as Giannina.

About the Author

GIANNINA BRASCHI is the author of the postmodern poetry classicEmpire of Dreams,” the best-selling Spanglish novel “Yo-Yo Boing!” and the epic farceUnited States of Banana.”  One of the most revolutionary and original voices in American poetry today, Braschi blends experimental drama, poetry, essay, musical and manifesto with a balance of striking erudition and humorous gusto. A National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, Braschi holds a PhD in Golden Age Spanish Literature. She has won awards/grants from PEN American Center, Ford Foundation, Danforth Scholarship, InterAmericas, Puerto Rican Institute of Culture, Reed Foundation, NY Foundation for the Arts, and the NEA.  She has taught literature at Rutgers, Colgate, and City University of New York.

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