Ana Margarita Martínez-Casado
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|Ana Margarita Martínez-Casado|
May 4, 1930 |
Martinez-Casado was born into one of Cuba's theatrical families. That family started with her great-grandfather who owned a theater. His daughter Luisa has a theater in Cuba named after her. Martinez-Casado's grandparents, Manolo Martinez-Casado and Celia Adams were both actors, as were their eight children.
Ana Margarita's direct involvement did not begin until she was 12 years old, when her mother wanted her to study piano as she thought all girls needed some sort of talent. A distant cousin, who taught music, lived nearby and young Ana was sent to her. Chance would have it that the cousin did not teach piano but voice, and was willing to work with Ana to see if there was a talent. Ana Margarita was 17 when her voice teacher began to work on a zarzuela for her students to showcase their talent. After preparing for nearly a year, Ana Margarita, a soprano, starred in a successful version of Luisa Fernanda, that would lead to securing her first television contract for the CMQ Network, Cuba's largest entertainment company . She debuted with an orchestra conducted by maestro Gonzalo Roig (the man behind the zarzuela of Cecilia Valdes) who introduced her as the next big star. That television appearance led to an infinity of other works, with guest roles on every variety musical show of its day including El Gran Teatro Esso among others. Her voice was so loved that when the Cuban cultural giant, Pro Arte Musical, mounted a version of Amal and the Night Visitors Ana Margarita was cast opposite Marta Perez. The offers and opportunities kept growing, such that she not only performed Zarzuelas but soon was doing operettas as well. El Conde de Luxemborgo, Los Molinos del Viento, La Corte del Pharaon, Luisa Fernanda, were just some of the pieces she performed to much success. Her stage work culminated at that point when Gonzalo Roig himself asked Ana to play the title character in Cecilia Valdes. She played Cecilia as well as the character of Isabel simultaneously (the two characters never meet on stage). It was the highlight of young Ana's career. Ana mounted shows at the Casino Parisien of the Hotel Nacional in Havana and the Havana Hilton. Her nightclub engagements led to concerts, and three records.
Puerto Rico, Mexico, United States
Having left Cuba in 1960 for a two-week concert engagement at the Hotel San Juan in Puerto Rico, she brought along only two suitcases and her daughter (she had married and divorced a Cuban surgeon). She would not return to her native Cuba for nearly 40 years. While in San Juan she was invited to perform with the Tropicana ensemble in Mexico, where she stayed for 10 years, during which time she married a fellow Cuban actor and had a daughter, Beatriz (her first daughter, Ana, was from her previous marriage). During her time in Mexico, she performed in a variety of shows, from starring in a cabaret act, touring with an ensemble company, as well as stage and television work. During a concert engagement in Monterey she was contracted for a television network run by Cubans (contemporaries and acquaintances of her father). During her work there, she worked opposite such legendary Mexican figures as María Félix and Cantinflas as well as had a variety show of her own. She became well known for her roles in musical theater, including a performance opposite Libertad Lamarque in Hello Dolly. After a decade in Mexico, the young family finally made the move to the United States (she had previously lived temporarily in Ann Arbor, Michigan and New York). Upon her arrival in Miami in 1970 she began working in a variety show at the restaurant Les Violins a former South Florida landmark. After a short while, Cuban star Marta Perez, who had since relocated to Miami and formed a theater group, recruited Ana Margarita to return to the stage. While in South Florida she appeared in performances of The King and I, Man of La Mancha, The Fantastix, Private Lives, and Cecilia Valdes, as well as taking every job available to her, including radio soap operas, and TV commercials. It was in the late 1970s that her career in the United States took off when she was cast as Juana Peña in the classic television sitcom, ¿Qué Pasa, USA?, for which she won a regional Emmy award.
After ¿Qué Pasa, USA? came to an end in 1980, she had a supporting role in the Leon Ichaso film about exiled Cubans living in New York, El Super. She had previously worked with the Repertorio Español, a theater group that had done productions in Miami (they had built the Teatro Bellas Artes in the heart of Little Havana's 8th street in Miami) and was invited to join their repertory company in New York City, where she moved in 1981.
Since 1981, Ana Margarita has head-lined in productions by Repertorio Español of classic and contemporary Spanish language theater including classics like Bodas de Sangre, La Casa de Bernarda Alba, and contemporary pieces like La Gringa, La Pasión Según Antígona Pérez, Parece Blanca, Revoltillo and others.
A four-time ACE award winner, Ana Margarita resides in New York City and works non-stop with the Repertorio Español.
- ¿Que Pasa USA? website
- PBS website of ¿Que Pasa USA?
- New York Times - September 29, 1998 - A Theater Troupe From the U.S. Is Embraced By Havana
- Latin ACE Awards website