Afro-Cuban Pedro introduces the world. It’s 1918 when Rafael arrives to “read” at the Fuente cigar factory. Trouble is brewing as Catalino urges the community of workers to confront their greedy boss. After a rhumba party, romance blossoms between Rafael and Catalino’s sister Teresa. Then boss Fuente forces the rollers to work longer and harder; they walk out. When Catalino is found beaten, the workers must overcome cowardice, bridge racial divisions, and fight for their rights. Who will unite Ybor City? Rafael wants to run, but he must stand for something. (Based upon true events)
YBOR CITY began with a photograph, an image Anita Gonzalez found on her father’s dresser of three men seated in wicker chairs. This image was her grandfather, Pedro Paulo Gonzalez, an Afro-Cuban cigar roller with his compadres. After researching in archives, and presenting about the Tampa tabaqueros at Williams College and Performance Studies International, Gonzalez wrote the first draft of what would become YBOR CITY at the Rockefeller Foundation residency center in Bellagio, Italy in 2003. This first draft, called “Cigar Memories,” was presented by Dixon Place as a staged reading in Fall 2003.
Book Writer Anita Gonzalez met Composer and Lyricist Dan Furman at a Dramatists Guild “meet and greet” in 2012. Dan and I chose to work together as collaborators because Dan has experience as a union organizer and he has lived and worked in Latin America. His musical style, which combines jazz with BMI musical theatre training, was perfect for the project.
We wrote sporadically for three years and developed the story line and several songs. Our brainstorming sessions took place at the Player’s Club in NYC where we would hash through plot lines and character arcs about every three months.
In May 2015, the collaborators completed the first draft of the musical book and songs. That August, we began an intensive workshop of the musical which resulted in an equity staged reading at the Strasberg Institute under the direction of Lorca Peress.
In 2017, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor produced a full workshop staging directed by John Seibert and choreographed by Ron De Jesus, which ran from January 27 to 29 in the Arthur Miller Theatre.
YBOR CITY is actively seeking new staging and development opportunities.