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The Iberoamerican Theatre Festival of Bogota as an international event

Jose David Quiñones V.


Volumen 4 - Nº 38 jun./2018
ISSN: 2422-2216

 The Iberoamerican Theatre Festival of Bogota as an international event

Gesture, speech, music, dance and all kind of pantomime and poetry are some of the artistic elements used to express and communicate the most varied experiences of human beings, performed by the actors in stage.

Many of the deepest dramas of humanity, the never ending tragedies or comedies, legends and myths of all kinds, have been represented by theatrical works in different stages through all history.

Theatre has been a way to transmit the unforgettable sense of human’s journey from the East to the West, from the North to the South and all around the world with a complete sense of universalism. It is also known, according to the Greeks, that the place where the performance was presented was also called “theatre” which means: “To see, to watch, to observe” from the Ancient Greek θέατρον (Théatron, "a place for viewing").

In this sense, the theatre that we know today, and the way we know it, come from the classical Helenistic Greece, where the ancient Greek drama was born and spread to the western culture by the Roman empire.

Even though, there are clear differences between theatre and other performing arts, it has been connected with literature, and the arts in general by feeding itself from them and by contrasting with its uniqueness and originality. Theatre, I would say, is the living art in the stage, the memory in the audience and the never ending story in the imagination of the play writers.

Around the year 1550, theatre was introduced in Colombia by the Spanish conquers through their zarzuela companies, that were basically a Spanish lyric-dramatic genre composed by spoken and sung scenes and dance, which was also influenced by the opera and the popular song. Today, the Cuban zarzuela is very well known and preserves some of the colonial aspects that characterise it after the independence, to give an example of the contemporary world that was inspired by the same motives.

The modern theatre, as we know it today, includes a varied way of performing plays and musicals. It is naturally connected with ballet and the Italian opera which was also presented on stages, with a varied style of costumes, orchestral accompaniment, and singing, between other various forms.

Bogota, Colombia, which is today the world’s capital of theatre, has been fighting for recognition over decades and it is growing in importance since the Iberoamerican Theater Festival of Bogota started to be known around the world. At first it was supported by private organizations and now it also has the favourable participation and backrest of the Ministry of Culture.

The Iberoamerican Theatre Festival of Bogota in the local context

The Iberoamerican Theatre Festival of Bogota has been one of the most innovative and inclusive theatre festivals of the world. It was created in 1988 by the Argentinian enterpriser and director Fanny Mikey and the Colombian director Ramiro Osorio. Although it was focused in Bogota as its unique scenario, from 2008 it starts to be decentralized and open for a wide number of local artists and a wider public that included all family members in Colombia.

Its first edition was called “Un acto de fe” which means -an act of faith- due to the extreme violence that Colombia was living at that time and the great effort and risk that was taken by the artists to make the festival possible. It was the first time that a festival like this was taking place in Colombia. 59 Companies from 21 countries from three different continents where starting to change the history of scenic arts and making a cultural shift in Latin America.

By the year 1998, for the 6th edition of the Festival, The Call for Faith in Colombia and scenic arts was taken again and this time the 17 days celebration, was done with countries of the 5 continents and a special tribute to the most outstanding theatre directors that showed the routes for the XX century display. Great companies assisted to the festival and the presence of masters like Yuri Ljubimov, Theodoros Terzopoulos, Robert Wilson, Tadashi Suzuki, Roberto Ciulli y Paolo Magelli was memorable.

By this time the Iberoamerican Theatre festival was an organization that keep its structure in the head of Fanny Mikey and Ramiro Osorio. It was basically a pyramidal organization though, the participation of the general assembly was also important for most of the administrative decisions and also for the planning and program making of the biannual event.

Since the beginning, the festival was including classical theatre, street theatre, performance, circus, music events, pantomime and other dance and scenic performances that were presented in different stages of the city for an increasing number of people. Some of them where taking place at different squares of the city, but also in fairs, parks and off course most of them in theatres, like the National Theatre, which was bombed during the opening by some extremist group against social movements. The Major Theatre Julio Mario Santodomingo, the Colon and the Libre, between others.

Lately, the Exhibition Fair Ground (Corferias) became a continuous presentation theatre where the festival is enjoyed by adults and children for the ultimate editions.

The festival is primarily sponsored by private enterprises and international cooperation and the government is only providing 12% of the investments needed for the organization. Since the festival is highly known by the most exigent performers and critics of theatre, Bogota has become the capital of theatre and the festival is recognized as the most important event for theatre around the world.

By the year 2008 Fanny Mikey passed away and many things stated to change for the Festival and in its organization and administration. Its new director, Anamarta de Pizarro tried to keep the same line of organization, but still things started to go more on her way. For example, the festival started to organize workshops and lectures by the greatest masters from around the world for the delight of amateurs and savvy actors.

Anamarta, was Fanny’s close friend and they worked together for 15 years. She is characterized as a very optimistic and energetic woman, passionate and joyful. Fanny and her travel together to all the theatre festivals around the world with other members of the festival crew in order to choose plays and other performances that met their high standards. For them was very important to see the pieces in live sessions because they knew how technology can show a piece just to sell tickets.

From this moment on, the decentralization of the festival took place and more people were included to participate in the events. Even if many of the street performances and spectacles of the festival were free, there were some others were people had to pay, so there was also a big investment in new programs that helped the inclusion of more people from other regions to access the festival and join the events.

The program of the festival was now part of a project of television that showed with its own images the festival to other regions. If it was a mainly international theatre festival, it started to have more and more national participation thanks to the new TV channel and the innovation from the administrative office and its new agenda.

From this year on, with the help of the Ministry of Culture, 40% more events were included in the agenda. They presented 195 spectacles and included more participation of the locals from different towns and regions of Colombia. The main scenario was also moved to a bigger place were more people could participate and in some cases the prices for tickets were more accessible.

We can see that The Iberoamerican Theater festival of Bogota has been changing with every edition but specially from 2008 when its founder and director Fanny Mikey died, in fact to honour her death but also because of some administrative changes that have called the attention of the government and the media in the last years in Colombia.

It is important to recognize the inclusion of new technology and specially the opening of a TV channel for the festival and the particular issue related with the inclusion of more locals in the new agenda and the opening of new programs that allowed more participation in the arts for the young people of many other regions of Colombia. Definitely it is a great event that has been opening the door for many artists to be known in the national and international field and a great opportunity for scenic arts to be recognized and strengthen their position in the world of traditional arts and the modern world.

For the year 2010, 270 young students had benefit from the opening of the program “Jovenes Conviven” which means, “Youth get together”, led by the government secretary which helped including new regions to participate in art programs and specially with the visibility of the new young artists as a promise for the future.

The Iberoamerican Theater Festival of Bogota has been changing with every edition but specially from 2008 when its founder and director Fanny Mikey died, in fact to honour her death but also because of some administrative changes that have called the attention of the Government and the Media in the last years in Colombia.

It is important to recognize the inclusion of new technology and specially the opening of a TV channel for the Festival and the particular issue related with the inclusion of more locals in the new agenda and the opening of new programs that allowed more participation in the arts for the young people of many other regions of Colombia.

Definitely it is a great event that has been opening the door for many artists to be known in the national and international field and a great opportunity for scenic arts to be recognized and strengthen their position in the world of traditional arts and the modern world.

The Ibero-American Theatre Festival of Bogota in the International context.

From Bogota to Beijing, and around the most prominent cities where theatre is highly appreciated, such as Athens, Avignon, Almagro, Adelaide, London, Paris, Edinburg, Madrid, Milan, Chicago, Toronto, Buenos Aires, and Mexico City between others, the best actors and actress represent the most prestigious theatre companies of the world in a never ending play that shows the inexhaustible creativity and will of human’s nature.

Thirty years ago, for the celebration of the 450 years of Bogota, a revolutionary idea was emerging from the funny mind of a woman who made a dream come true for many of those who work with courage and passion. As Fanny Mickey used to say: “This festival is from the people and for the people”. And its final goal was the artistic integration of the Latin American countries to present themselves to the world and make it a better place. A place where the performing arts serve as best they could to promote peace, understanding between cultures, tolerance and cultural and social development.

This goal has been partly achieved, and some of the closest countries to Colombia in terms of culture and ideas, share this amazing stage every two years as if it was their home. Spain Mexico and Argentina, are specially mentioned in various of the most important events and are continuously working for the same ideals.

Given the diversity of artistic genders, its capacity of congregation the increasing number of spectacles and shows, it is one of the most complete samples of the scenic arts panorama of the XXI century. Within the 17 days of display, the most exigent performances are presented in a constant renewal of theatrical languages. The number of functions has not been surpassed by any other festival, giving an enormous variety of choice and highlighting the parallel work between street and classical theatre which makes the social integration process more open for the participants and all the spectators.

Since it started to be recognized around the world, The Iberoamerican Theatre Festival has been a platform where the new artists have the chance to be known in an international context. Many of the theatre companies that have participated in this contest, opened their possibilities to ensure new audiences in Avignon, Singapore, or Hong Kong.

The chance for success in this field is getting higher for the new actor and actress of the theatre scene, since the world is recognising the great value of the different tendencies that work together with the aims of inclusion and plurality. There has been also a growing understanding of the needs of building bridges between the people of the world to have a better communication and relations that prevail in terms of peace and the contemporary expressions of the theatrical language.

All this new atmosphere is working to build a better future in which the arts are actually leading and shaping how the ideal world should be, by showing how it has been and how it is in present times. It is a growing field of new seeds that were planted in the garden of the new world, so the future of all nations can be shared.

Indeed, the fact that the festival was born as an alternative to the violence that was living Colombia, has also motivated other countries to get involved in a peaceful revolution in which new values are exalted. It is also useful to remember that the bomb at the National Theatre during the opening in 1988, didn’t stop the creators to continue and actually gave them the strength they needed to keep making awareness of the need of cooperation between countries and people of the world to overcome the conflicts and the violence of the past.

Every two years, the world gets together in the most artistic scenario of Latin America. In this sense it is also a door to new discoveries. The new continent is full of magic and mystery. It preserves the secrets of the Minstrels that gave birth to legends and myths which are still unknown for the vast majority of the world population.

The new world has been a paradise for the foreigners and it will be forever since it has the power of enchantment that no other land has ever seen. This is the reason why the scenic arts are most welcome there as if it was their natural place of origin. When talking to the aboriginals about their own believes and their views of the world, it seems like if it was a high standard play in which the actors are playing with nature, as having a conversation in which everything comes in perfect harmony with the law of heaven. This is the spirit of the festival, and it is what makes it the best place for an international encounter among cultures.

The possibility of transcendence of the illusion that emerges from the common reality of the modern world in the cities arises from the subconscious of the artists that get together in Bogota to express the new visions of the world that this fabulous encounter offers to the world. As in the carnival of live, the Iberoamerican Theatre Festival of Bogota represents the widest and broadest cultural festival in which the 5 continents get together to interpret every character of the human adventure through the cycles of the universal soul.

Everything gets together from the Patagonia in Argentina with the brave Gauchos and their folklore, to the Andian mountains and all the spectacular cultures that form a colourful painting that inspires the visitors to come and keep coming again to see the new ways and forms of expression that unite the Latin American countries in one whole voice that claims for peace among all nations.

Finally, the festival is in the international context, an exciting event that no actor or actress of the performing arts wants to miss, and a great opportunity for new artists to get together and learn more about the world and the different characters that weave the amazing play of life within the encounter of the five continents. It is the greatest spectacle where all the arts merge and come together for a highest purpose that show and express the uniqueness and creativity of all the nation’s unity and culture.

Special events

The 2 weeks of festival have a lot to offer for all kind of tastes. For the kids, the young and the adults there is a varied program for every edition. You can be sure there will be a performance that will please any visitor’s choice for comic clowns, the fantastic saltinvankis, the dramaturgs or the musicians. As part of the tradition, there will be a night parade that includes more than 2000 performers wearing a varied colourful costumes from the different regions of Colombia.

The parade will step-off at the “Plaza de Toros la Santamaria” and will continue to the Plaza de Bolivar located at the historical district of La Candelaria; the colonial centre of the city. Here there will be around 500 thousandths people attending to see this strafalarious deployment of grace and elegance of the most exuberant creativity.

The fantastic Ciudad Teatro / Theatre City at Compensar on Avenida 68, is a perfect example of the variety of events that are held in the new editions of the festival. Around 700 different spectacles, shows and performances, including children’s theatre, improvisation competitions, a theatre-centric flea market and a gathering place for performers. In addition, there will be concerts around the city including international musicians of the highest level.

The different range of plays cover a wide spectre of performances, offering everything from a full-scale Chinese opera to Colombian folk of different regions. There are also acrobats from Europe, like the one presented in the 12 edition by a French street theatre troupe, and Krapp’s Last Tape as it was presented by the United States master of theatre Bob Wilson, among others.

Naturally, dance is also included in the shows as an important part of the festival. In this same edition, the electric modern ballet inspired by Romeo and Juliet, titled Radio & Juliet by Slovenia, which is set to the music of Radiohead, was presented also in Corferias followed by the gravity-defying “Condición Aérea”, some tango and flamenco sessions.

Amazing Chinese Opera, mixed with an extravagant Russian circus and a pantomime spectacle from the Ecuador will surpass the expectations of the multitude of viewers that could get the bonus to see them all. The enchanting and incredible atmosphere of the city with all this artistic humour around and the excentric exhibitions of the most refined scenic arts will make you love this experience as an unforgettable journey to the heart of human’s expression.

Finally, there is a good chance for those who want to be trained in the theatrical arts and performance. The young aspirants can participate of a series of workshops and classes taught by international masters the same as networking events and specialized conferences. This programming takes place before, during and after the festival, providing a good opportunity for those who are interested. Furthermore, the festival will be extended to the coastal cities with a different series of events that will start at the end of the contest in Bogota.

It is necessary to conclude that there is no Festival in the world such as the Iberoamerican Theatre Festival of Bogota which invites all the interested countries of the 5 continents and gathers together the most prominent theatre companies and the best actors and actress of all the scenic arts.

Furthermore, it is necessary to highlight the importance of the festival as way of artistic integration of Latin American countries and the whole world that shares the values of respect, tolerance, cultural exchange and understanding between the different people of all nations.

The festival is growing and getting to be a massive event for the participants who can enjoy the city of Bogota during these two weeks of joy and creativity. In addition, the people from Colombia are also getting more involved with the festival, which has brought new unique opportunities for the emerging artists and also for entire populations who are learning more about the world and the performing arts, music and dance from all around the world.

Finally, the main purpose of the festival is getting fulfilled and the ideals of the creators and the organizers are getting to be realized by the strong efforts of a well-planned and creative development that involves the participation of hundredths of people, new technology and emerging ideas.

It is not hard to imagine how such diverse needs as a pyrotechnics, live goats, artificial rain, and the installation of 800 meters of cable in the Plaza de Toros la Santamaria for the opening ceremony can be put all together given the passion and interest of the Colombian people who work for to make possible this magnificent contest. It has been said in some interviews to Anamarta Pizarro, in part as a joke, but seriously, that “the quality of productions at the festival has earned such an international reputation that producers and directors from other countries come to Bogota in order to choose work for their home countries”.

Don’t hesitate and make it true. The festival is waiting for you. Come and join to experience the supernatural, the deep and the unknown. Whether fantastic or dramatic, romantic or spectacular, a clown show or a musical extravaganza, the harrowing and the comedic, intellectually challenging or farce, there will be a seat for all of you.

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