From Havana to Subway Cars: An Interview with Cuban Actress Idalmis García


When Idalmis García and I met, we’d both recently moved to New York City and were working together at a film festival. She’d come from Havana, Cuba—where she played supporting roles in feature films Los Dioses Rotos and Conducta —for a theater production at Columbia University. She decided to stay. In her almost two years here, she’s performed with the Repertorio Español, Pregones Theater, and Woodshed Collective.

We caught up a few weeks ago over coffee and talked about her life in Cuba and the sometimes-loneliness of New York City. (We’d thought we were isolated in our way uptown neighborhood. After I turned off the recorder, we discovered we’d been living five streets away from each other for the past year.)

Hip Latina: When you were a kid what did you want to be?

Idalmis García: Since I was like ten, I was dreaming about this. I remember the first thing that triggered it: this workshop with an amazing professor. In secondary school, I had another workshop, and I was like, I love this. I decided to go to college and I did the test first to be an actress in the arts school. Ended up I didn’t get in. And I thought, “Oh my god I have to study something now, it’s not going to be acting, but I want to be an actress.”

HL: Wait so you didn’t pass the test?

IG: I didn’t pass the final test. But I decided through that process, which I loved. It was encouraging. Like, this is what I want to do.

HL: So even though you didn’t make it through it actually had the opposite effect.

IG: Yeah! I was sad, but I knew from the beginning it was really difficult, I didn’t have any training or anything and it was really competitive…but I just discovered that that was what I wanted to do. So my dad—he studied art history—told me, “Well, you should study art history, that’s the closest thing. Then you can start to do other stuff.”

Idalmis García

An Interview with Cuban Actress Idalmis García

So after that I just started to do workshop, workshop, workshop while I was studying. I got into this workshop and they were looking for actors for a professional company and they chose me and I started a paid job doing theater for kids. That was my beginning. And then I get some TV shows, and the roles started rolling.

HL: What kinds of projects have you gotten into here?

IG: Randomly, I got involved in this event in Georgia and I met this director, Mikhael Tara Garver. She called me for this cool project that was in English. I was so happy because I really wanted to act in English. I had this monologue, playing this MTA employee on the F train, riding to Coney Island.

HL: Are they like short films?

IG: No, no, it’s like a play but in the subway. Woodshed Collective does theater in public spaces.

HL: I love that kind of thing!

In my fantasies, I have this group of friends who are all, like, actors and writers and creative types and we’re all collaborating and thinking about different ways to express the art. That hasn’t happened yet. I’ve found that it’s really hard to connect with people here—and not just connect, but form lasting connections. You might really connect with someone and you don’t see them again for, you know, a year.

IG: That’s my main theme in life at this moment. Even yesterday I was writing something about it. Coming from a country like Cuba, where you connect with people every day. And it lasts! Here it’s so difficult.

But I have a really nice group of Cuban friends and I met this amazing group of actresses from Columbia, Mexico, Venezuela, and they are great—they are like my godmothers. Every single thing that I get here is thanks to that group of women. They send me to auditions, they introduce me to their managers. I love to enjoy some solitude, but I’m not a loneliness person. [laughs]

That’s why I keep friends. I know we are busy and everything, but we depend on each other. If you call me and I don’t have anything to do I go. Even if I have something, and I’m more interested in seeing you, I change my plans.

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