Biography

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 432

Cruz, the son of Tina and Nilo Cruz, was born in Matanzas, Cuba, in 1961. A staunch opponent of the new communist government, Cruz’s father, a shoe salesman, was incarcerated in 1962 for opposing the increased militarization that resulted from Cuba’s ties with the Soviet Union. After his release from prison, the elder Cruz was subsequently caught onboard a ship in an attempt to flee to the United States, where he would prepare for his family’s arrival at a later date. Cruz’s parents remained steadfast in their opposition to the Castro regime; they bought food on the black market and withheld their son from a highly organized system of physical education classes by having a physician friend declare that Nilo had contracted hepatitis. Consequently, Nilo was forced to perpetuate the lie and could not play outdoors with his friends as he had previously. In 1970, the family took a Freedom Flight to the United States, but his parents later divorced. Cruz earned a master of fine arts degree from Brown University in 1994.

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In 2000, Cruz was appointed playwright-inresidence at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey, while receiving a similar appointment at the New Theatre in Coral Gables, Florida, which commissioned and produced Anna in the Tropics in 2002. Cruz has received grants from the Theatre Communications Group, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. His play Night Train to Bolina won the W. Alton Jones Award; Two Sisters and a Piano received the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award. Cruz won the American Theatre Critics/Steinberg New Play Award for Anna in the Tropics just two days before winning the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Upon learning that he had won the award, Cruz had this to say (quoted in an article in the New Theatre): ‘‘By honoring my play Anna in the Tropics, the first Latino play to earn the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, the Pulitzer Prize Board is not only embracing my work as an artist, but is actually acknowledging and securing a place for Latino plays in the North American theater.’’ Another note of interest is that Anna in the Tropics was selected by the Pulitzer Prize jury before the play was performed in New York City.

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Cruz has taught drama at Brown University, Yale University, and the University of Iowa. Cruz’s previously produced plays were set to be published in book form in 2004 by Dramatist’s Play Service. His The Beauty of the Father was also set to premiere at the New Theatre and at the Seattle Repertory Theatre during the 2003–2004 theater season.

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