BETHEL — A play co-written by Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco of Bethel tells the story of a Cuban American baker living in Maine, one of six fictional characters inspired, in part, by Blanco’s experience coming here 20 years ago.

Vanessa Garcia of Miami and Richard Blanco of Bethel co-wrote the play “Sweet Goats and Blueberry Senoritas.” The fictional characters from Cuba and Maine were inspired, in part, by Blanco’s experience coming here 20 years ago. Rose Lincoln/The Bethel Citizen

Blanco, a poet, educator and novelist, is a novice playwright who gained fame when he read his poem, “One Today,” at President Obama’s second inauguration.

Co-writer Vanessa Garcia, a Cuban American who lives in Miami, brought an array of writing experiences to the project, as a playwright, novelist, journalist, children’s book author and educator.

“Sweet Goats and Blueberry Senoritas” play is being performed now until Feb. 12 at Portland Stage at 25 Forest Ave. in Portland.

The baker, named Beatriz, has three friends from Maine who become like family to her. The story is ultimately about community.

“You leave uplifted,” Garcia said.


In “Sweet Goats and Blueberry Senoritas,” Beatriz’s mother and uncle are Operación Pedro Pan Kids.

Ironically, both writers are adapting, in different ways, “Waiting for Snow in Havana,” by Carlos Eire. The book and its adaptations are about Operación Pedro Pan Kids, which was the largest exodus of unaccompanied youth in the Western Hemisphere. In the 1960s parents put their children on planes from Cuba to the United States to escape the Cuban regime. Blanco is writing the musical, while Garcia is writing the film script.

For their ‘Sweet Goats’ Blanco and Garcia divided the writing of the six characters.

“Initially Richard took the people from Maine and I had taken the uncle character, because he was based in Miami, and because ‘I know that person!'” Garcia said. Eventually, however, they blended their roles with both writers contributing to all of the characters’ development.

Both writers worked collaboratively with the cast and director, continuously shaping the play in rehearsals. All the actors use their real voice and accent “that is true to the core of who they are,” Garcia said. Of the three Maine characters, Maynard is the most rooted and his accent is the most Maine-like.

Blanco and Garcia wrote during COVID-19, using a shared Google document with Garcia in Miami and Blanco in Bethel. The script took about a year, with the workshop rehearsals adding another nine months or so.


Garcia describes one of the cultural misunderstandings in the play: “Miamians definitely lock their doors and have gates. Miami in the ’80s was not a friendly place. So it stayed and people lock their doors. The thought of people not locking their doors here is like, ‘What? What are you doing?’ (We are) making fun of it, that the Cuban Americans can’t grapple with it.”

Blanco laughs, adding, “They even leave their cars running. Mostly because it’s so cold here. You leave it running when you run into a convenience store.”

Richard Blanco Rose Lincoln/The Bethel Citizen

Blanco initially came to Maine because his partner, Mark Neveu, a Pfizer molecular cell biologist, was asked by a fellow scientist to transfer to a new job and natural science career in Bethel. Why not? they decided.

Blanco said when he moved from Miami to Bethel, “I came in excited but also thinking I was going to be the oddball. I mean two gay guys from Miami, right? We were welcomed with open arms by so many people, including our own Realtor. Before we knew it we were having dinner.

“I felt really welcomed into the community,” he said. “So that has made it into the play, in some ways. Part of that was my own surprise that this was going to be this quintessential Maine town where everybody was from away, nobody’s going to like us.”

Blanco said he was also surprised to some degree by a kind of diversity in Bethel he wasn’t expecting, “All kinds of diversity, not just ethnic or whatnot. We have a Korean restaurant in town; it’s the best restaurant in the town. But also a diversity of experiences, different walks of life. I thought everyone was going to be a farmer or working at the town store.”

Blanco recently started teaching in Florida, commuting during breaks while Neveu stays in Bethel year-round.

Where the play will go from Portland is unclear. Both writers would like to take it other places. Garcia suggested Texas, California or Minneapolis. Originally they thought it would be great to show the play in Miami and Maine, but then decided against it.

“In some ways the dilemmas that are presenting in this play for the Cuban American characters really don’t happen in Miami (for Cuban Americans),” Blanco said. “It’s not as relatable as we thought. It would be great to show in places that are more struggling with these same themes and dilemmas.”

“The finale involves dancing,” he said. It’s all six characters dancing. You have the Mainers and Cuban Americans dancing. Sort of a moment of unity, symbolically as well.”
The play runs 90 minutes with no intermission. For information on tickets, streaming service and other info call 207-774-0465, email, or go online to

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