Bogota Theatre Festival

On March 23, most of Bogota will be transformed into a stage for the world’s largest international theatre festival, when the curtain rises on the XII Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogota- FITB - By bogota Brilliance -

Some really cool street performancesWhenever Festival is mentioned to a Bogotano, their eyes light-up and their breath quickens with excited anticipation.  Over 100 performing arts companies of only the highest quality from 80 countries, spanning 5 continents will take their places in the bullring, on stages, in libraries, up in the air, at shopping centers, on the streets and in public squares to showcase the carefully selected performances.

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With colourful costumes!Amongst the many offerings there is sure to be a performance that will satisfy any visitor’s taste for the dramatic, comedic, whimsical and fantastic.  The traditional opening night parade will include more than 2,000 performers with an emphasis on the colorful costumes of different Colombian regions.

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The parade will step-off at the Plaza de Toros de Santamaria, and make its way to the Plaza Bolivar in the historical district of La Candelaria.  Half-a-million spectators are expected to line the route and help usher-in the newest incarnation of this singular international event.

 

This year’s nations of honor are Belarus and Cataluña. The latter will host a gala featuring the work of its poets.  A cornerstone feature of the festival is the fantastic Ciudad Teatro / Theatre City at Compensar on Avenida 68, which is home to over 700 events, including children’s theatre, improvisation competitions, a theatre-centric flea market and a gathering place for performers.  Concerts by the haunting Mallorcan chanteuse Concha Buika at the Plaza de Toros, and the very different Scottish rockers Franz Ferdinand (performing in Colombia for the first time) will also be special features.

The range of plays cover a wide-breadth of performance, offering everything from a full-scale Chinese opera to Colombian adaptations of the film Trainspotting and August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson,pyrotechnic acrobatics by a French street theatre troupe, and Krapp’s Last Tape as presented by U.S. theatre master Bob Wilson.  Dance is also an important part of the Festival; among the offerings are the electric modern ballet inspired by Romeo and Juliet, titled Radio & Juliet by Slovenia, which is set to the music of Radiohead, the gravity-defying Condición Aérea, tango and flamenco performances.

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Comparative theatre buffs will have much to see and discuss with three entirely unique interpretations of Medea (Germany, Japan and France), and two renderings of the classic La vida es sueno (Life is a Dream), by Russia and Colombia (coincidentally, the Russian version is also directed by a Colombian).

An important part of the Festival is the training of young theatre aspirants with a series of workshops, classes taught by international masters, networking events and conferences.  This special programming takes place before, during and after the Festival, providing many unique opportunities for the enrollees.  The Festival will also extend to coastal cities with a series of events starting at the close of the program in Bogota.

Founded in 1988 by playwright Ramiro Osorio and actress Fanny Mikey (a theatre artist who also founded the Fundacion Teatro Nacional), to celebrate Bogota’s 450th anniversary, the first festival was presented under the slogan “An Act of Faith in Colombia,” to bolster confidence and international trust during a violent period in the nation’s history.  The 2010 installment carries the banner “Homage to Fanny Mikey” to honor the work and legacy of the event’s indomitable co-founder and iconic leader who died in August 2008.  Fanny, Argentinean by birth but Colombian by passion, was a veritable force of nature that became the face, heart and soul of the event.  Her very being was synonymous with the Festival.  A lasting and fitting image of her amazing life is when, near the closing of the 2008 Festival, Fanny was cradled in the arms of an aerial dancer who was in the guise of an angel as they flew over the Plaza de Toros, Fanny’s signature fire-red hair sparkling in the night.  “I’m flying!” she exclaimed with delightful abandon.  Indeed her spirit continues to fly throughout this city that she came to call her own  This year, Fanny, in the form of a 20-foot marionette, will lead the opening night parade; a towering presence heralding the arrival of yet another Festival!

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Although some people may have preferred that the curtain be drawn over the Festival with Fanny’s death, the fact that her work continues, gaining a new momentum and shape while honoring the past, is an enduring tribute to a woman who would demand that the show to go on and thrive.  Few candidates would be better to pick up the banner than Fanny’s longtime associate and close friend, Anamarta de Pizarro.  Anamarta, a whirlwind of unbridled energy, passion and joy, worked closely with Fanny for over 15 years.  She and Fanny traveled to countless theatre festivals around the world (with other representatives of Festival staff) to choose plays and other performances that met their high standards.  “It is very important to experience a piece live.  You cannot get that from photos or a video,” stated Anamarta when we met at the Casa del Festival in Chapinero.

Whether talking excitedly about productions by Colombian troupes, the rarity of seeing a full-scale Chinese Opera, extravagant circus spectacles, or the multitude of street theatre options, words like “unique,” “enchanting,” “magical,” “incredible,” and “divine” pepper Anamarta’s monologue as she describes the varied programming; her overwhelming enthusiasm for all of the works imbues her audience with a strong desire to see as many performances as possible.

During their many travels together, Anamarta came to be not only Fanny’s “tongue” with translation and interpretation, but also her compass due to Fanny’s limited sense of direction.  Anamarta recounted that when the pair was last in Avignon, France, the festival schedule was a somewhat cryptic map and timetable.  It was here that she discovered a need for reading glasses, but didn’t have a pair, and Fanny was unable to accurately interpret the map –or find her way alone.  Together, they devised a technique of decoding the information by Anamarta asking Fanny very specific questions, and estimating the venue placement on the map, and Fanny in-turn reading aloud the pieces of data.  They employed a method that they had used over their long association; each one completed a part of the other, enabling them to navigate many roads and create an emblem of not only Colombian culture, but also of world patrimony along the way.

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The actual scheduling and logistical challenges of the Festival are managed by Manuel Jose Alvarez, Director of Programming.  One can only imagine how he deftly juggles such diverse needs as a pyrotechnics, live goats, artificial rain, and the installation of 700 meters of cable in the Plaza de Toros. 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.

When the curtain rises on March 23, Anamarta and her team hope to show the world that the extra care they took with every step planning this year’s Festival has resulted in a new kind of magic, a new kind of tradition and a new era.  Doubtlessly, Fanny will be applauding and laughing from the wings.

Whether dramatic or fantastical, a clown spectacle or a musical extravaganza, the comedic and the harrowing, intellectually challenging or farce, the Festival has a seat waiting for you.

For complete programming and ticketing information, see: http://www.festivaldeteatro.com.co/

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