Merely Players Presents Offers A Film Theater Production Of Stories Of The Atlanta Cuban Club

Actor Amanda Ortega stars in “The Gift,” one of the stories about Cuban immigrants.

Jackie Zurinaga/Merely Players Presents

A sense of belonging is especially important to those who have fled their homeland.

Honoring community and in observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, Merely Players Presents has created a film theater production to celebrate stories from members of the Atlanta Cuban Club.

The film is called “Un Lugar Para Sueños: The Story of the Atlanta Cuban Club and Community.” Actors portray their real-life counterparts on camera as a way to showcase what the Cuban people went through during the revolution.

“City Lights” host Lois Reitzes spoke with Joanie McElroy, the producing artistic director for Merely Players Presents, and with actor Amanda Ortega.

The film moves chronologically starting in 1957 with the reign of President Fulgencio Batista. Then it moves into the second story after Fidel Castro came to power in 1960. “One of the stories follows a schoolteacher, and in the schools in Cuba at that time, teachers were being told how to indoctrinate students through telling them to pray to God for ice cream and when the ice cream doesn’t come, you ask Castro for ice cream and then the ice cream does come,” said McElroy.

One of the stories, “The Gift,” is by Jean Hedgecock and performed by Amanda Ortega. A young woman tells the story of how she was shipped alone to America by her parents. She talks about being allowed to only bring one bag and having to hide her Madonna (Mary) wooden figure at the bottom because airport officially used to discard “nonessential items.”

Most of these unaccompanied minors were sent to Operation Peter Pan. George Guarch, who worked for the Catholic Welfare Bureau in the city, took displaced children to temporary camps in Miami and then helped reunite them with their families in the United States.

“[Operation Peter Pan] provided, in a way, a safe haven for these children to come over to the United States and be held in either schools or foster homes until they were able to be reunited with family members,” said Ortega.

The show premieres on Sept. 26 virtually at 7 p.m.