In this rendition of the classic Greek tragedy, Teatro La Candelaria addresses once again the horrors of political and social violence in Colombian society. When director and writer Patricia Ariza visited Urabá, a region in Colombia, she talked to a group of women who could not bury their dead husbands, killed in the civil war. She connected this awful situation to the myth of Antigone and read it to the collective. This version of La Candelaria involves a series of transformations to the original myth. At the beginning, we see Tiresias walking around an empty space; taking the place of the chorus, he gives the audience the historical context, recounting background events that are important for a proper understanding of the play. The play presents three Antigones and two Ismenes who discuss the possibility of violating Creonte's rules in order to bury their brothers according to tradition. The discussion is thus polyphonic.
Teatro La Candelaria's play "De caos y deca caos" poses a critique on the Colombian ruling class in all its miseries and contradictions. The piece is comprised of a series of skits. Some of the characters are: an upper class couple, an old dying aristocrat, an old and lonely lady, and an 18-year-old nerd socialite at her birthday. Corruption, violence, superficiality, materialism and pettiness are some of the traits explored in the piece.
In this collectively created play, Teatro La Candelaria wanted to address the problem of social and political violence in Colombia through an exploration of both verbal and non-verbal languages (the latter given special emphasis). "El Paso" looks like a road bar, a place where people go to rest or have something to eat while traveling across the country. The truth is it is a kind of no-place surrounded by violence and social conflicts. The characters constantly refer to issues from the outside as if political violence and other danger exist only outside, and the bar was a haven. However, violence makes its way into the bar: two shady characters irrupt in the bar's status quo, forcefully involving the patrons, employees and passers-by in their shady business. The people at the bar need to negotiate their complicity or resistance to the illegal activities performed by the two newcomers, who with their guns and money set an atmosphere of fear and violence in an otherwise uneventful crossroad's "cantina."
The tape shows bits of "El Quijote," theater piece by Colombia's Teatro La Candelaria; it also presents Santiago García explaining his perspective on the work and his own staging. Speaking about his creative process, García tells how he read the book over and over in search of dramatic parts, trying to find events and adventures in the play that were not well-known to the public. He found twelve scenes that interested him and started elaborating on them, working closely and experimentally with the actors. He also comments on the work of Pedro Alcántara, the person in charge of the visual aspects of the play, to which Santiago García gives a lot of importance. After García's intervention, the tape shows different scenes of the play. Humorous skits, the excerpts evidence how costumes, puppets and choreography play a crucial part in La Calendaria's staging of "El Quijote." Santiago García then explains what the figure of El Quijote means to him: he sees great powers of vision in Quijote's madness.
Video excerpts of Teatro La Candelaria's theater piece "El viento y la ceniza," which recreates the drama of a Conquistador, spellbound by American exuberance, who returns to his country defeated and sick, just to be punished and forced to keep looking for El Dorado. We see one of the Spanish conquerors in his last days. He is haunted by several ghosts who tell him to go to America to do great deeds and to become rich. One by one, all the ghosts from the past come to pay a visit and judge him. This is one of La Candelaria's plays concerned with the violent conquest of America, but it focuses on the conquerors, their miseries and their dreams.
The play deals with one of Colombia's most excruciating problems: social exclusion and its effects on everyday life. The characters in this play are all urban outcasts: homeless, prostitutes, beggars, etc. They are trying to build bridges to the larger community through participation in a theater group. The group wants to do a rendition of García Márquez's "Crónica de una muerte anunciada." The difficulties and tensions that arise around this project underline the extreme character of their exclusion, by-product of the abject poverty and lack of opportunities they experience in a society dismembered by class fragmentation and inequalities. At the end, the place where they were rehearsing is shut down and one of them is killed. The project, too, had a "foretold death." This play is part of Teatro La Calendaria's exploration of non-verbal languages as a means of dramatic expression; it also marks the beginning of the collaboration with urban poor communities and the organizations trying to help them.
A folklore band tells the story of Guadalupe Salcedo's murder, one of the first Colombian "guerrilleros" of the Liberal party. The band works as a Greek Chorus. Through the intervention of this Chorus and other narrative strategies (like a trial and a press conference), the play reconstructs the social and political context of this ominous murder, part of the endless string of violent deaths caused by political violence in Colombia. Teatro La Candelaria goes back to the historical origin of this violence (the fight between Liberals and Conservatives for national supremacy and its disastrous effects for the rural poor) in order to offer an interpretation of its persistence. Guadalupe Salcedo was one of the first victims of political violence in Colombia. The play ends, as it begins, with his murder. Likewise, political violence in Colombian seems cyclical and never ending. The play explicitly connects the 50s to the present.
Interview with Patricia Ariza, theater director, playwright and founder of renowned Colombian theater ensemble Teatro La Candelaria (www.teatrolacandelaria.org.co), conducted by Chicano theater scholar Alma Martinez. "Creación colectiva" (collective creation), political theater, feminism, and current Colombian socio-political and cultural issues are some of the topics covered by Ariza. The artist talks about her role in the creation and trajectory of La Candelaria as well as the joint effort of this ensemble and the Teatro Experimental de Cali (TEC) to create the Corporación Colombiana de Teatro as a mechanism to facilitate a theoretical and practical forum for the discussion, organization, and support of Colombian theater. Furthermore, Patricia comments on her activist and artistic work with marginalized sectors of the Colombian population (women, indigenous people, immigrants, prisoners, etc.), developing interdisciplinary artistic projects designed to empower these communities, exploring the possibilities of collective creation in order to elicit social change. Ariza also discusses the cultural ties and political affinities between Latin American and Latino theaters in the light of shared hemispheric issues like drug traffic, guerrilla warfare, political corruption, immigration, and globalization.
Three-session interview with Santiago García, theater director, theorist, playwright, and founder of renowned Colombian theater ensemble Teatro La Candelaria (www.teatrolacandelaria.org.co), conducted by Chicano theater scholar Alma Martinez. In this extensive interview, García discusses key topics germane to his artistic work, narrating his first experiences in theater, the artistic trajectory of La Candelaria (founded in 1966, and still one of the most important theater groups in Latin America), and his personal take on popular theater, collective creation, the influence of Brechtian theories in his artistic work, the role of the director in collaborative artistic collectives, and the state of the scenic arts in Colombia in the context of economic and political crisis. Santiago also comments on the influences and points of contact between Latin American and Latino theaters based on his personal experiences traveling and working with different theater groups, including Chicano theater ensemble El Teatro Campesino; under the rubric of the "popular," García analyzes the artistic affinities and ideological choices present in collective creation across the Americas. Finally, the artist share his thoughts on La Candelaria's rendition of "El Quijote," based on García's personal adaptation of this literary masterpiece. A carnivalesque mixture of cultures and traditions, this play highlights shared traits between the Spanish novel and Colombian culture, while performing a commentary on illusions, fantasy and utopia, elements that the author finds absent in present-day Colombia.
Video excerpts of Teatro La Candelaria's "La tras escena." We see the backstage of a theatrical production. They are planning to do a rehearsal. The play shows the tensions and conflicts within the creative group as the debut approaches. They are staging a play about the conquest of America. Some of the actors seem to be very frustrated with the play and with their career. The play also shows the connections between theater and political interests and pressures (the group is the National Company of Theater). The director hires a group of Indigenous people to perform as Indians from the time of the Conquest. They refuse to perform without being paid and so the play becomes a mess. This is the first in a series of disturbances (most of them associated with political issues) that interrupts and threatens to ruin the rehearsals and the debut of the piece. This play represents an exercise in meta-theater by this experienced theater group, a fast-moving mixture of comedy and a rather serious consideration of the relationship between art and politics.
Inspired by Vladimir Nabokov's novel "Invitation to a Beheading", Teatro La Candelaria's play follows the last moments of a man condemned to death penalty. He is going to be beheaded but he does not know when. The prisoner is obsessed with the date of his execution and asks every visitor about this. Everybody, including the warden, hides this information from him. The prisoner is alternatively visited by the warden's daughter, his own mother, a new inmate, and by the warden; even a group of ghosts or visions haunts him. Amidst the nightmarish, carnivalesque ebbs and flows of visitors, the protagonist acts as a deluded philosopher. He alternates obsessive references to the date of his execution with deep (albeit weird) philosophical reflections. Faithful to their traditional exploration of marginal subjects, La Candelaria chooses as main character a true anti-hero, an underdog trapped in the power games of society.
Teatro La Candelaria's "Maravilla Estar" starts with a traveler (Aldo Tarazona), who arrives at the stage and affirms he has reached the place where he will stay from then on. But when he decides to claim this piece of land his own, a new character shows up and they start arguing. When still more characters show up, Aldo realizes he was not the first person to arrive at this place. They start judging the newcomer and going through his belongings. Then they welcome him and he stays with the inhabitants of the place. Aldo gets involved with one of them, Alicia; five years go by and they have a child. A priest shows up and tries to marry them. Alicia becomes a circus artist. With the baby on her back, Alicia climbs up to the heights of the circus tent. The play ends with the newcomer begging her to come down. After all these experiences, Aldo learns that reality is more complex than he had thought, that sometimes reason, logic and the senses are not completely trustworthy.