And when Radha saw Carla read the part, she knew the young actress was perfect for it.
Perfect, all around. But Radha, a Hamilton playwright, did not suspect just how perfect until she learned more about Carla’s special passport into the character and her unique access to the events against which the action occurs.
The backdrop of Radha’s story is Cuba in 1958. Che Guevara and his army of “bearded ones” are burrowed into the Sierra Maestra mountains, poised for a great surge.
Yes, Carla, 24, is Cuban — she grew up just outside of Havana — but the revolutionary struggle happened long before she was born. How could she know anything about the feeling and quality of those times?
The answer lies in the colourful past of a man named Luis Carlos Garcia. He is 98 now, lives in Havana where he is a legend of sorts (a film has been made of his life http://vimeo.com/82497444), and he pulled Carla’s first tooth.
That’s what grandfathers do, especially if they also were dentists by profession.
But Luis Carlos Garcia, Carla’s grandfather, was not just any dentist. He provided dental care to the aforementioned Che Guevara.
Yes, even iconic revolutionaries get toothaches.
“Not just a dentist,” says Carla. “He was a secret agent for the revolution, making dentures and prosthetics for disguising the appearances of rebels and forging passports and false IDs.
“When Che went into hiding, my grandfather often went with him,” says Carla. “Fidel and Raoul and the generals would visit his clinic.”
Her grandfather, whose nickname was Fisin, became a revolutionary when he was 17.
“He could see that the government didn’t work and was ready to do anything to fight against it. There were situations where my grandfather was close to death, even at 17. He was very courageous. Everything he did, he did from his heart.”
Naturally, this part of her grandfather’s character was of little interest to a small girl. She knew, vaguely, that he had some historical importance in Cuba.
“I remember being in their house, my grandmother cooking and going up to their room to look at pictures.”
One time, she had a loose tooth.
“He said, ‘Let me look.’ I said, ‘No, no, no, no!!!’ He said, ‘I’m just going to look.’ So I let him and when he pulled away he said, ‘There, look.’ My tooth was in his hand.”
Carla left Cuba in the 2000s, disaffected with the revolution.
“It is not working,” she says, despite her great admiration for her grandfather.
This internal dividedness may help inform her inspired performance as Hermosita, a young woman torn between her love for one of Che’s soldiers and her complex relationship with her forceful mother (wonderfully played by Tamara Kamermans), who is hard-headed and brutally practical, or so it seems.
Radha, who lives in Hamilton and teaches at the Toronto Film School, conceived of the play when on vacation in Cuba.
“I was lying on the beach, watching a mother and daughter, and it came to me almost fully formed.”
When Radha told colleagues and students she was looking for someone to play Hermosita, they said, “Carla!!”
(The young actress had studied at the school.)
So now you know how Hamilton is host to the granddaughter of Che Guevara’s dentist.