Visa Problems Plague Times Square Theater Festival

By Mathew Katz on January 10, 2012 1:59pm 

The Roy Arias Theater center lost out on two plays that couldn't get visas to enter the country before next week's Times Square International Theater Festival.
The Roy Arias Theater center lost out on two plays that couldn't get visas to enter the country before next week's Times Square International Theater Festival.
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DNAinfo/Mathew Katz

MIDTOWN — An international theater festival has run up against one of the most frustrating aspects of the arts world: they've had to cancel a show after its Ukrainian cast and crew could not get their visas to enter the United States — the second time that an immigration issue has stymied the upcoming show.

The Times Square International Theater Festival, which kicks off on Jan. 16., has been forced to cancel Ukrainian play "On the Field of Blood" after most of its cast and crew failed to get their visas to enter the country on time.

And a couple of weeks ago, another play, "A Man And Words," was scratched off the list because its Iranian cast and crew couldn't get their visas.

The festival's goal is to give off-Broadway space to both U.S. and international shows that otherwise could not afford the location. The theater gives the companies space for no charge, and splits the box office take with them.

The festival will put on 15 plays and stage two readings at the Roy Arias Studios and Theaters at 300 W. 43rd St., between Jan. 16 and 22.

Replacing the Ukrainian play is a Dominican-produced show, "The Night of the Assassins," written by Cuban-born playwright Jose Triana.

In a twist, the play's cast and crew, the National Theater Company of the Dominican Republic, got last-minute visas to come to the U.S. Organizers had originally thought the Dominican company wouldn't be able to make due to their own visa fracas.

"Assassins," was originally produced in 1965 and has been banned in Cuba for 40 years because it was believed to have insurgent undertones.

Festival organizer Roy Arias, an actor originally from the Dominican Republic, was upset that the international theater companies couldn't make it in for the festival, but said the festival would still be able to show off some of the world's top plays.

"There's so many great shows done outside of the United States," he said. "It’s a shame we don’t get to see those.

"It's frustrating. We did understand that this is the first year, and we're learning. It's our expectation that things are going to get better."

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