Columbia University Goes Bananas: Giannina Braschi's United States of Banana Takes the Stage

Columbia University debuts the controversial Latin American epic "United States of Banana," a scathing farce about the final days of the American Empire, based upon the radical work by Giannina Braschi.

Banks are the temples of America.  This is a holy war.  Our economy is our religion.”  Giannina Braschi, "United States of Banana"

Columbia Stages presents the first theater production of the controversial Latin American epic "United States of Banana," a scathing farce about the final days of the American Empire.

"Liberty is not an option; it's a human right."

Giannina Braschi, author, United States of Banana

Adapted for the stage and directed by Colombian director Juan Pablo Felix,  the production is based upon the radical mixed-genre work by Giannina Braschi, who dramatizes the post-911 American psyche around the politics of empire and independence with striking erudition and humorous gusto. 

The late rebel-rousing publisher Barney Rosset, founder of Grove Press, called the book "revolutionary in form and subject. Braschi's take on US relations with our southern neighbors in Latin America and the Caribbean, most especially Puerto Rico, is an eye opener. The ire and the irony make for an explosive combination."

The work features Hamlet, Zarathustra, and Giannina on a quest to liberate the Puerto Rican prisoner Segismundo from the dungeon of the Statue of Liberty, where he has been imprisoned by his father, the King of the United States of Banana, for more than 100 years for the crime of being born. The text was inspired by the Spanish classic drama "Life is a Dream" and the German vanguard play "Hamlet-Machine" by Heiner Muller. The work depicts New York City as "the Darwinist capital of the capitalist word" and U.S. imperialism over Puerto Rico as doomed as “a chicken with its head cut off”.  

Juan Pablo Felix is a theater director and acting coach from Bogota, Columbia. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and studied directing at Columbia University under the mentorship of American master Anne Bogart, the artistic director of SITI. He served as casting director of the Oscar-nominated film "Maria Full of Grace.” 

Giannina Braschi, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellow, was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  She was a teen fashion model, singer, and tennis champion before she discovered the calling of literature.  She is best known for the postmodern poetry classic "Empire of Dreams," the best-selling Spanglish novel "Yo-Yo Boing!" and  "United States of Banana." She is considered one of the most revolutionary voices in Latin American literature today.

The production runs from June 17 to 20, 2015 at Columbia University's Shapiro Theater at 605 West 115th Street in New York City.