What to Know
- Nine performances of "Que Pasa, U.S.A.? Today ... 40 Years Later" are scheduled in May at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
- The original series was produced with a federal grant aimed at funding shows that addressed issues minorities faced in local schools.
Some of the original cast of this country's first bilingual television sitcom say they have been left out of a stage production celebrating the show.
"Que Pasa, U.S.A.?" originally aired from 1977 to 1980. The public television show, built on a cast of professional Cuban actors and writers living in exile, followed three generations of a Cuban-American family in Miami.
Nine performances of "Que Pasa, U.S.A.? Today ... 40 Years Later" are scheduled in May at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.
In a Miami Herald report , New York actress Ana Margarita Martínez Casado said she was surprised when a cousin in Miami called to congratulate her on reprising her role as Juana Pena in the stage production.
Martínez Casado said she knew nothing about it.
In West Miami, retired actor Manolo Villaverde said he's been having similar conversations with neighbors asking if he's reprising his role as Pepe Pena, the sitcom's patriarch.
"What happens when the theme song plays, the curtain goes up and then come the questions, 'Where is Juana? Where is Pepe?'" Villaverde said. "It's not a bitterness I feel but a hurt. What hurts is they're using our images and making it seem like we're the ones that are going to be in it."
The original series was produced with a federal grant aimed at funding local and national television shows that addressed issues minorities faced in public schools. Its cast included Steven Bauer, who found stardom in the 1983 film "Scarface," and it earned accolades nationwide. People magazine wrote: "Juana and Pepe Pena may become the next Ozzie and Harriet — Latin style."
The cast and crew forfeited their rights to royalties so that the show would remain free for educational purposes.
"The contracts were una miseria, a pittance," Martínez Casado sid. "But the series brought us a lot of joy and positivity. I was happy to have done it."
WPBT-2, the South Florida public television station that co-produced the original series, has used the sitcom to promote the station, sell DVDs and now produce the stage revival.
Officials at WPBT-2 said the station uses the show and any proceeds from it to advance its mission of serving the arts in South Florida.
"We're well within our rights to do anything we want with it," said Jeff Huff, COO of South Florida PBS, which owns WPBT-2 and WXEL. "We're well within our rights to work with this theater company or any other company."
The new stage production picks up with the Pena family decades later. "Today, the abuelos are gone, the parents have become grandparents, and the kids have kids of their own," reads the summary on the Arsht Center's ticket website. "Now, it's up to the next generation to continue the Pena legacy, facing new challenges and forging a new future for the Pena household."
Ana Margo, who played Carmen Pena in the original series, and two actors who played her high school friends are expected to appear in the revival.
Villaverde and Martinez Casado said they were not asked to be part of the show.
"How can I not feel resentment?" Villaverde said. "I don't need the money. What I would like is some kind of acknowledgment."