palette • aug|sept 2017 F “ It was a very special time, because I was able to release myself of all the bonds that held me back, and I was able to embrace my life as an openly gay man.” By 1992 he was working with El Publico, a fledgling theater company that he had been following closely. “I saw their production of three American plays: A Streetcar Named Desire and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, and Robert Anderson’s Tea and Sympathy . I fell in love with the group’s aesthetic and with the kind of work their director, Carlos Diaz, was doing.” His time with El Publico was marked by intense creative growth. He was in Carlos Diaz’s production of Albert Camus’ Caligula , and got the opportunity to travel and collaborate with other theater companies as well. The group made a name for itself and became one of the most respected theater organizations in Cuba. A particularly successful year-long tour through Spain saw the group participate in a number of prominent international festivals. At the same time, Chavez began work as an event producer for the Festival Internacional de Cine de La Habana, which opened other avenues of exploration. “I began to make contacts with musical organizations and dance groups, and I learned the logistics of producing larger shows.” Right around the year 2000, after visiting South Florida a few times, Chavez decided to settle in Miami, where he felt he could flex his creative muscle in a more diverse environment and eventually achieve his dream of running his own arts organization. “I was 33 and felt like it was the right time to start a new chapter in my life. In Miami, I saw potential, not for what the city could offer me, but rather what I could offer the city.” rom an early age, Havana native Ever Chavez, 50, wanted to escape the pressures of living in Cuba under his family’s watchful eye. “I remember being 13 years old and already having an intense need to carve out a personal space,” he shares during our meeting at the W South Beach. “I had the kind of angst that comes with the age, and I was just beginning to define my own tastes and preferences.” Chavez’s big moment came in 1982, when he earned a scholarship to study radio communications in what was then the Soviet Union. He describes it as an intense experience that helped him define his earliest views of the world. When he returned to Havana at 19, he says he felt like a foreigner in his own country. He felt lost, no longer able to recognize friendships and having everything seem odd and distant. The one thing that kept him going was his newfound love for the arts. “It was a very special time, because I was able to release myself of all the bonds that held me back, and I was able to embrace my life as an openly gay man.” Overcome by his new restlessness, he became a voracious consumer of anything artistic. He wanted to fashion himself into an integral part of the city’s cultural landscape and set out to meet artists and network with those people who were fixtures in the arts scene. Then the Instituto Superior de Arte de La Habana announced it was starting a theater production program. “At the time, no one had any experience in production in Cuba. It was a profession that did not exist, at least not in the way we know it,” says Chavez. “I felt the skies open. I registered, and in less than a year I graduated.” It was during his studies that he started work as a stagehand for the Teatro Nacional, a state-run cultural institution. There he learned about the inner workings of the theater and discovered a world of creative possibilities.