Cuban puppet theatre. The company is based in Matanzas and was created in 1994 by Rubén Darío Salazar (actor and artistic director) and Zenén Calero Medina (set, costume and puppet designer). The first shows were large and long-running productions performed at the Teatro Sauto in Matanzas. Later, the company introduced new shows, featuring techniques ranging from the technically quite simple, such as Liborio, la jutía y el majá (Liborio, the Rodent and the Boa, 1995) and Un gato con botas (A Puss in Boots, 1996), to the very complex.

As a disciple of René Fernández Santana, Rubén Darío Salazar (b.1963), found an ideal partner in Zenén Calero (b.1955). Both came from Teatro Papalote and were eager to try new artistic challenges. One production in particular, conceived as a one man show and based on La niña que riega la albahaca y el príncipe preguntón (The Girl Who Waters the Basil and the Inquisitive Prince), became a very successful element of their repertoire. It has won some of the most important theatre awards in Cuba and is still performed. El Guiñol de los Matamoros (The Puppet of the Matamoros, 1998) was the company’s first production for adult audiences, and was a tribute to popular Cuban music.

By the early 2000s, Teatro de Las Estaciones was firmly established as one of the more relevant Cuban theatre companies, noted for its quality of direction, its rich and colourful design concept, and its research and use of Cuban traditions of puppetry. The company made a special effort to restore the legacy of Carucha  and Pepe Camejo and Pepe Carril, leaders of Teatro Nacional de Guiñol from 1963 to 1971. As part of that effort, they produced El sueño de Pelusín (The Dream of Pelusín, 1999) and Pelusín y los pájaros (Pelusín and the Birds, 2002) in which they revived the Cuban national puppet, Pelusín del Monte. This character had been created in 1956 by Dora Alonso for Guiñol Nacional de Cuba, which had been founded by Pepe and Carucha Camejo. In 2001, Carucha Camejo visited Cuba for the last time, invited to return from exile by Teatro de Las Estaciones, which staged in Matanzas a tribute in her honour.

In 2003, as part of that work of restoration, Teatro de Las Estaciones produced La caja de los juguetes (The Toy Box), based on La boite à joujoux, a ballet for puppets by Claude Debussy and André Hellé. The show marked a new phase for the group, and reflected a new level in the quality of its work. The play represented the second collaboration between its very solid cast – Fara Madrigal, Migdalia Seguí, Freddy Maragoto and Rubén Darío Salazar – and playwright Norge Espinosa Mendoza. This link brought to the repertoire other plays. These include La virgencita de bronce (The Little Virgin Made of Bronze, 2005) for adult audiences, a puppet version of the novel by 19th century Cuban writer, Cecilia Valdés; El patico feo (The Ugly Duckling, 2006); Federico de noche (Federico by Night, 2010); Por el monte carulé (By the Carule Mountain, 2011); and Canción para estar contigo (Song to be with You, 2012), with the soprano Bárbara María Llanes. Dora Alonso, Javier Villafañe, José Martí, Federico García Lorca are other recurrent authors in the company’s repertory. The most recent show is Alicia (en busca del conejo blanco) or Alice (in Search of the White Rabbit), a new version of Lewis Carroll’s, Alice in Wonderland.

Teatro de Las Estaciones has several times won the Villanueva Prize, awarded each year by Cuban critics for best productions. Other awards include the Gran Premio de Puesta en Escena del Festival Nacional de Teatro, Camagüey (2004) and the Premio Caricato Especial to La virgencita de bronce (2006), among others.

In addition to its performances, Teatro de Las Estaciones supports publications, theoretical meetings, exhibitions, and workshops. With a theatre next door to Galería El Retablo, Zenén Calero’s studio in Matanzas, the company provides space for dialogue and innovation, promoting the tradition and future of Cuban puppetry with artists from all over the world.

(See Cuba.)