Authors: Eduardo Machado

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Cuban-born American playwright

Identity: Cuban American

Author Works


Worms, pr. 1981

Rosario and the Gypsies, pr. 1982 (one-act musical; book and lyrics; music by Rick Vartoreila)

The Modern Ladies of Guanabacoa, pr., pb. 1983

There’s Still Time to Dance in the Streets of Rio, pr. 1983

Broken Eggs, pr., pb. 1984

Fabiola, pr. 1985

When It’s Over, pr. 1987 (with Geraldine Sherman)

Why to Refuse, pr. 1987 (one act)

Across a Crowded Room, pr. 1988

A Burning Beach, pr. 1988

Don Juan in New York City, pr. 1988 (two-act musical)

Once Removed, pr., pb. 1988, revised pr. 1994

Wishing You Well, pr. 1988 (one-act musical)

Cabaret Bambu, pr. 1989 (one-act musical)

Related Retreats, pr. 1990

Stevie Wants to Play the Blues, pr. 1990, revised pr. 1998 (two-act musical)

In the Eye of the Hurricane, pr., pb. 1991

The Floating Island Plays, pb. 1991 (as Floating Islands; includes The Modern Ladies of Guanabacoa, Fabiola, In the Eye of the Hurricane, and Broken Eggs)

1979, pr. 1991

Breathing It In, pr. 1993

The Floating Islands pr. 1994 (as a cycle of 4 plays)

Three Ways to Go Blind, pr. 1994

Between the Sheets, pr. 1996 (music by Mike Nolan and Scott Williams)

Cuba and the Night, pr. 1997

Crocodile Eyes, pr. 1999

Havana Is Waiting, pr. 2001 (originally pr. 2001 as When the Sea Drowns in Sand)


Exiles in New York, 1999


The Day You’ll Love Me, pr. 1989 (of José Ignacio Cabrujas’s play El d’a que me quieras)


Eduardo Machado (mah-CHAH-doh) arrived from Cuba in 1961, at age eight, with his brother Jesús, five years younger, as a “Peter Pan” child. The Peter Pan project, a collaboration between a United States-based Roman Catholic bishop and the United States Central Intelligence Agency, brought fourteen thousand Cuban children to the United States without their parents, ostensibly to “save” them from communism and from the governmental policies under Fidel Castro. Arriving with no knowledge of English and undergoing major culture shock, the brothers were sent to an aunt and uncle in Hialeah, Florida, who had their own children as well as other immigrant relatives living with them. Machado’s first memory of the United States is celebrating Halloween by trick-or-treating, believing that they had been sent out truly begging, as the children had moved from an economically privileged childhood in Cuba to poverty in the United States. His parents came a year later.{$I[A]Machado, Eduardo}{$I[geo]CUBA;Machado, Eduardo}{$I[geo]UNITED STATES;Machado, Eduardo}{$I[geo]LATINO;Machado, Eduardo}{$I[tim]1953;Machado, Eduardo}

The house in which Machado had lived in Cuba was taken by the government and transformed into a school. His father, a self-professed “professional rich man’s son,” initially could not find work in United States. Machado finished growing up in Canoga Park, a suburb of Los Angeles. By the time Machado was sixteen, his father had succeeded economically as an accountant. Machado’s parents later divorced, reportedly due to his father’s infidelity, which has been an item in his dramatic work.

Machado began his acting career in 1978 at the Padua Hills Playwrights Festival, where he met María Irene Fornés, a Cuban immigrant playwright who would become a major influence on his work. He became her assistant on her Fefu and Her Friends (1977) at the Ensemble Studio Theater. Machado began writing plays at the suggestion of a therapist, who recommended writing an imaginary letter forgiving his mother for sending him away.

By 2002, Machado had written twenty-seven plays, all but seven dealing with his family or Cuba in some way. In New York City, as part of INTAR (International Arts Relations) Hispanic American Arts Center, he wrote The Floating Island Plays (The Modern Ladies of Guanabacoa, Fabiola, Broken Eggs, In the Eye of the Hurricane) between 1983 and 1991. He has been commissioned to write plays for The Public Theater, the Roundabout Theatre Company, and Wind Dancer Productions. He took his first trip back to Cuba in December, 1999, followed in rapid succession by two more visits to his homeland. Machado says he has always been at the mercy of politics. Critics say his works show his conflicts: capitalism versus communism, heterosexuality versus homosexuality, Cuban identity versus Cuban American identity.

Machado has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, New York University, the Mark Taper Forum, The Public Theater, and the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis. He has headed Columbia University’s graduate playwriting program in the School of Arts since 1997 and has been an artistic associate of the Cherry Lane Alternative, the Off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre’s nonprofit wing.

Machado received a 1995 National Theater Artist Residency to be playwright in residence at Los Angeles’s Mark Taper Forum. He has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the City of Los Angeles for his works. He received a National Endowment for the Arts grant for a one-act play at Ensemble Studio Theatre. He first debuted When the Sea Drowns in Sand at the twenty-fifth annual Humana Festival of New American Plays. It has since been rewritten and performed as the autobiographical Havana Is Waiting.

BibliographyArmengol Acierno, María. The Children of Peter Pan. Needham, Mass.: Silver Burdett Ginn, 1996.Bigsby, C. W. E. Modern American Drama, 1945-2000. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Bigsby writes succinctly of contemporary American drama and the diversity of Spanish-speaking communities and writers in the United States. Machado appears among the Cuban American writers.Brand, Ulrika. “A Master Playwright Teaches His Discipline: An Interview with Eduardo Machado,” Columbia News (June 28, 2001). On the occasion of the premiere of When the Sea Drowns in Sand, the public affairs office at Columbia University featured an interview with Eduardo Machado as director of the graduate playwriting program in the School of the Arts. He talks about his unique approach to teaching playwriting and the success of his students.Brantley, Ben. “Eduardo Machado,” New York Times Magazine (October 23, 1994): 38-41. Theater critic for The New York Times Ben Brantley discusses the four-play cycle of The Floating Island Plays as Machado’s metaphor for political strife in Cuba. As such, the plays address the experiences of the Hispanic immigrant in the United States; several generations of Machado’s family become a mirror for a society in emotional, cultural, and economic flux.Conde, Yvonne. Operation Peter Pan: The Untold Exodus of Fourteen Thousand Cuban Children. New York: Routledge, 1999.Machado, Eduardo. “The Entire Canvas: An Interview with the Playwright.” American Theatre 14, no. 5 (May/June, 1997): 15. Machado expresses concern that he often experiences the ultimate prejudice when he is treated exclusively as a Cuban American playwright by arts institutions. He argues that, despite the color of his skin and birth-place, he writes about the truth of the human condition.Mayer, Oliver. “In the Political Soup.” American Theatre 12, no. 1 (January, 1995): 17. Mayer examines Machado’s Cuban American themes, which confront politics, sex, and race.Muñoz, Elias Miguel. “Of Small Conquests and Big Victories: Gender Constructs in The Modern Ladies of Guanabacoa.” In The Americas Review 20, no. 2, (Summer, 1992): 105-111.Ortiz, Ricardo L. “Culpa and Capital: Nostalgic Addictions of Cuban Exile,” In Yale Journal of Criticism 10, no. 1 (Spring, 1997): 63-84.Palmer, Tanya, and Amy Wegener, eds. Humana Festival 2000: The Complete Plays. Lyme, N.H.: Smith and Kraus, 2001. The volume contains When the Sea Drowns in Sand and a brief biography of Machado.Rubin, Don, and Carlos Solórzano, eds. The World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theater: The Americas. New York: Routledge, 1996. Machado is included in the section on Cuban American theater.Sterling, Kristin. “The Return to Cuba Helps Eduardo Machado Find Home and Inspiration.” Columbia News (October 29, 2001). This feature article focuses on Havana Is Waiting and discusses the circumstances surrounding Machado’s exile from Cuba and the play about his return forty years later to his homeland.Triay, Victor Andrés. Fleeing Castro: Operation Peter Pan and the Cuban Children’s Program. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1998.
Categories: Authors