Skip to content
The Arts

Theater production visits work of avant garde Cuban-American playwright

From left, Daimarelys Lara ’22, Fan Xia ’20, Benjamin Weinberg ’22, Martynas Snarskis ’20, and Samantha Richardson in the International Theatre Program production of The Conduct of Life, a challenging work by Obie Award-winning playwright and Pulitzer Prize finalist Maria Irene Fornés. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Produced by the International Theatre Program at the University of Rochester, The Conduct of Life—by Cuban-American playwright Maria Irene Fornés—opens Thursday, April 25 and runs through May 4, at the University’s Todd Theater.

Fornés mostly flew “under the radar,” says Nigel Maister, artistic director of the International Theatre Program. “She was a contemporary of celebrated playwrights from Arthur Miller to Edward Albee, but perhaps partly because she was a woman, or a Cuban immigrant, or consistently more experimental in bent—her work was marginalized in a way that theirs was not.”

Set in the 1970s in an unspecified South American country during a time of dictatorships and juntas, the gritty Obie Award-winning drama explores the political, sexual, and social dynamics of power, corruption, and abuse in a work that is both “terrifying and tender.” Its narrative follows a young army officer who, desperate to improve his standing with the government and army, engages in torture.

The production incorporates the music of Argentinean and Chilean artists who inspired a musical genre and movement, nueva canción—a music known for contesting the political dictatorships of the times.

Fornés was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her play And What of the Night? in 1990. Her other notable works include Fefu and Her Friends, Mud, Sarita, and Letters from Cuba. She died in 2018 at the age of 88.

On Saturday, April 27, there will be a free screening at 5 p.m., in the Todd Theater Lobby, of the documentary The Rest I Make Up, a film that focuses on the playwright’s creative life once dementia hindered her ability to write.

How to get tickets

The production runs Thursday through Saturday (April 25–27) and Wednesday through Saturday (May 1–4) starting at 7 p.m. There is one matinee performances: Sunday, April 28, at 2 p.m. All performances take place in Todd Theater on the University of Rochester’s River Campus. Tickets are $8 for University of Rochester students, $12 for alumni, faculty, staff, and for seniors (65+), and $15 for the general public. Tickets may be purchased online at or by calling the box office at (585) 275-4088. Tickets may also be purchased up to an hour before each performance at the box office.

The production includes adult and intense material and is not suitable for children. Survivors of trauma are advised. 


Return to the top of the page