When walking into the theater I did not know anything about Victoria and Nicomendes Santa Cruz, the siblings that shifted Afro-Peruvian culture by embracing all parts of their identity. By intermission, I started to research everything I could about the siblings that were part of a cultural and political revolution in Peru. “Kumanana! An Afro-Peruvian Musical Revue”—written by Anita González, directed by the late Hugo Medrano, and choreographed by Luis Sandoval—is a reminder of how art is all around us in music, poetry, and dance. It is a story about the importance of community and what it means to come back home to uplift the society that raised you. GALA Hispanic Theatre does more than bring the story of the Santa Cruz siblings to life, they allow the audience to become part of it in the best ways possible.
…a beautifully crafted story…reminds us all of the magic of theater that crosses all languages.
In 1958, the Santa Cruz siblings cofounded Cumanana Company, the first black theater company in Peru to blend the beauty of blackness with the love of being Peruvian. Victoria was a choreographer and poet while her brother was a singer and also a poet. The actors—Anaí Padilla Vásquez as Victoria and Marco Campos Olivares as Nicomendes—embody the spirit of the siblings by being creative storytellers who have a stage presence that makes it hard to turn away. They convey the dynamic of the siblings in realistic ways by showing how love can be supportive, playful, and protective. Vásquez, Olivares, and the entire cast are multi-talented as they sing and dance across the stage barefoot and with smiles. They turn the audience into a community that is eager to dance, laugh, and clap with them.
Musicians Manny Arciniega, Roberto Arguedas, and Gian Luiggi Cortez bring energy to the revue as the traditional music fills the air with excitement and brings the Santa Cruz siblings’ words to life. Anita González has intricately placed the poems into “Kumanana!” to show how the siblings’ work was a socio-political movement. Their words about being unapologetic themselves taught a generation of people to not be afraid or ashamed to be who they are.
The choreography by Luis Sandoval turns everyday objects into props that are perfectly placed within the set. Sandoval created moments that are humorous as the characters have a dance-off and used dances that are traditional folklore like the Marinera. The costume design by Cidney Forkpah complements Peruvian culture as the long skirts and bright colors are balanced against the set. The projections by Hailey Laroe display black and white photos against the set walls to pay tribute to Victoria and Nicomendes Santa Cruz.
The late Hugo Medrano (co-founder and producing artistic director of GALA Hispanic Theatre) directed and conceived the idea of “Kumanana!” It is a beautifully crafted story that informs the world about the Santa Cruz siblings. It celebrates their legacy and is executed in a way that reminds us all of the magic of theater that crosses all languages.
Running Time: One hour and 30 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
In Spanish with English surtitles.
“Kumanana! An Afro-Peruvian Musical Revue” runs through June 25, 2023 at Gala Hispanic Theatre, 3333 14th Street NW, Washington DC 20010. For more information and to purchase tickets, click here. The wearing of masks is optional if you are fully vaccinated, pursuant to CDC guidelines, and have received an updated bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine. The wearing of masks is required IF you are fully vaccinated, pursuant to CDC guidelines, but have not received an updated bivalent COVID-19 booster vaccine, or if you are not vaccinated.