Friday, November 16, 2007

"Spanish-language theater thrives in Guadalajara"

(published November 16, 2007 in The Guadalajara Reporter)


The 2007 Theater Festival of Jalisco, an ambitious showcase of local talent staged in cafés, government plazas and theaters, comes to a close this week. The festival highlights the city’s blossoming theatrical innovation, bringing together 43 classic and original works presented by largely local groups: tales of mythical creatures, forbidden love affairs, and journeys through time and space.

One of the most celebrated plays realized during the event was Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy,” presented at the Teatro Experimental de Jalisco and directed by Jalisco native and versatile dramaturgist Guillermo Covarrubias. This year marks the 20th anniversary of theater group Palabra Viva (founded by Covarrubias), whose elaborate adaptation of the classic work played with fantastical images through costume and set design, intertwined with multimedia projections and dance pieces.

A choral ensemble supported the narration, and included original music by Jaime Mosqueda.

Covarrubias, who acts as director of Scenic Arts at the Cultural Secretariat of Jalisco, insists that “The Divine Comedy” has a message as communicable to a modern audience as when it was written seven centuries ago: the existence of a decadent society in crisis, and a struggle between political forces which oppress the people.

Alicia Yapur, director of “Relacion Perversa” (Dangerous Liaisons), an adaptation of Heiner Müller’s “Quartet” presented by local theater group Aquelarre, has been immersed in acting and directing since she packed her suitcases at age 16 and moved from Tampico to Guadalajara to become an actress. Her production of one of Müller’s most important works brought to life the explicit and quick-witted dialogue, energized by an extravagant set and “pop opera” music.

Unlike many artists struggling to shine on the silver screen, Yapur finds theater most rewarding and believes our fame-obsessed society has lost touch with the local stage. She believes as much money should be invested into local theater groups as is proportioned to visiting productions in order to support regional artists.

Audiences also enjoyed adaptations of Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame,” a minimalist production about an old man, confined to a wheelchair, and his servant – in this production performed by two clowns – both isolated in a house in a nowhereland at the end of time (Thespis Teatro y la Casa Suspendida); Edgar Allan Poe’s “The System of Dr. Tarr and Professor Fether,” about the strange clinical methods two journalists encounter upon visiting a psychiatric hospital (Grupo Mascarada Teatro Independiente); and “Dakota,” a surrealist trip whose Spanish author, Jordi Galceráan, has gained commercial success in the film industry (Grupo INVERSO Teatro).

Audiences may still look forward to the Universidad de Guadalajara’s production of Johnathan Larson’s “Rent,” on November 16 and 17, 8:30 p.m. at the Teatro Diana. The large-scale musical, based on Giacomo Pucini’s “La Boheme,” centers on a group of struggling young artists in New York’s East Village, who fight against poverty and the emergent AIDS epidemic.