Anna in the Tropics

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Anna in the Tropics
Written byNilo Cruz
Juan Julian
Date premiered12 October 2002
Place premieredNew Theatre, Coral Gables, Florida
Original languageEnglish
Setting1929, Tampa (Ybor City) Florida

Anna in the Tropics is a play by Nilo Cruz. It won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.


The play is set in Ybor City, a section of Tampa and the center of the cigar industry. When Cuban immigrants brought the cigar-making industry to Florida in the 19th century, they carried with them another tradition. As the workers toiled away in the factory hand rolling each cigar, the lector, (historically well-dressed and well-spoken), would read to them. It was the lector who informed, organized and entertained the workers until the 1930s, when the rollers and the readers were replaced by mechanization.

In the play, the lector reads Anna Karenina, sparking the characters' lives and relationships to spin out of control.


  • Santiago, owner of a cigar factory, late 50's
  • Cheché, his half-brother, half-Cuban, half-American, early 40's
  • Ofelia, Santiago's wife, 50's
  • Marela, Ofelia and Santiago's daughter, 22
  • Conchita, her sister, 32
  • Palomo, her husband, 41
  • Juan Julián, the lector, 38
  • Elíades, local gamester, runs cockfights, 40's


Anna in the Tropics was commissioned and originally produced by New Theatre, Miami, Florida, Rafael del Acha, Artistic Director, Eileen Suarez, Managing Director, in 2002 with support from the NEA/TCG Theatre Residency Program for Playwrights.

The South Coast Repertory presented the play on its Julianne Argyros Stage. It ran from 28 September to 19 October 2003. Directed by Juliette Carrillo, the cast included Jonathan Nichols (Eliades/Palomo), Tony Plana (Santiago), Geoffrey Rivas (Cheché), Onahoua Rodriguez (Marela), Adriana Sevan (Conchita), Karmín Murcelo (Ofelia) and Julian Acosta (Juan Julian).

L.A. Theatre Works presented Anna in the Tropics as part of its 2004-2005 season. Directed by Jose Luis Valenzuela, the cast included Jimmy Smits, Onahoua Rodriguez, Adriana Sevan, Jonathan Nichols, Winston Rocha, and Herbert Siguenza.[1]

On September 16, 2005 and translated as Ana en el trópico, the Spanish version opened in Madrid at the Teatro Alcázar and was directed by Nilo Cruz himself. The cast included: Luis Fernando Alvés (Palomo/Elíades), Joan Crosas (Santiago), José Pedro Carrión (Cheché), Toni Acosta (Marela), Lolita Flores (Chonchita), Teresa María Rojas (Ofelia), Pablo Duran (Juan Julián), Itziar Arza, Alfonso Ramos and Marian Sanz de Acedo (cigarreras/os).[2]

The play was presented in the UK at the Hampstead Theatre in London. Directed by Indra Rubasingham, it ran from 30 November 2005 to 15 January 2006. The cast included Diana Quick, Rachael Stirling and Joseph Mydell.[3]


Anna in the Tropics was widely regarded as a "long shot" for the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, mainly because it had not been seen in New York City.[citation needed] The play premiered at the New Theatre in Coral Gables, Florida and had to compete with Edward Albee's The Goat, or, Who is Sylvia? and Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out for the coveted award.

Cruz, a Cuban-born playwright living in New York, remarked,

It's wonderful. I cannot believe it. The other day I went to the bookstore and I saw a book by William Kennedy. He won the Pulitzer for Ironweed, which I adore. I was standing there looking at his books and thinking how amazing it was that this writer won a Pulitzer, and now I've been given one, too. I think I'm still in shock. I haven't completely acknowledged the grandness of the award.[citation needed]

His past works, such as Two Sisters and a Piano, have earned him a reputation for writing lyrical, atmospheric plays with powerful emotions and language.[citation needed]

Anna in the Tropics was honored with two nominations at the 2004 Tony Awards. The show was nominated in the category of Best Play and Best Featured Actress in a Play (Daphne Rubin-Vega)

Film Adaptation[edit]

The Hollywood Reporter reports that Academy Award nominee, Lee Daniels (Precious) has signed on to develop a film based on the play—which is being produced by Mankind Entertainment.[when?]


External links[edit]

  • Anna in the Tropics at the Internet Broadway Database (2003 production)
  • Anna in the Tropics at the Internet Broadway Database
  • Anna in the Tropics[permanent dead link] at South Coast Repertory
  • Anna in the Tropics[permanent dead link] at L.A. Theatre Works which offered an audio broadcast version in September 2007 as part of its Play's the Thing series
  • Long Beach Shakespeare Company produced Anna in the Tropics, Directed by Denis McCourt April/May 2011
  • McCarter Theatre Education Department. "Anna in the Tropics Study Guide". Retrieved June 8, 2011.