Colombia’s capital city, always famous for bustling streets and colorful residents, takes on a new persona this month as the lights go down and the curtains come up on one of the planet’s largest theater festivals.
This March, Bogotá plays host to more than a hundred different performing arts groups as part of the Ibero-American Theater Festival, Colombia’s largest cultural event and easily the most dynamic and important theater festival in the Americas.
The biennial event brings in more than 2,000 performers from around the world for almost 1,000 different functions, making this year’s theme, “The Festival of a Thousand Faces,” particularly appropriate.
Though the roster includes acts from an impressive 31 countries, the spotlight shines most brightly on Romania, this year’s special guest nation. Romanian groups will present three monumental works ranging from the Ancient Greek “Electra” to Samuel Beckett’s modern “Waiting for Godot.”
Three Hollywood veterans also join the festival with works encompassing a version of George Orwell’s “1984” directed by actor Tim Robbins (“The Shawshank Redemption”, “Mystic River”), “Constant Rain” starring Argentina’s Rodrigo de la Serna (“The Motorcycle Diaries”), and “Fires” directed by Mexican actor Diego Luna (“Y Tu Mamá También”, “Milk”).
With four unique interpretations of his timeless and influential plays, including a South Korean version of “Hamlet,” a Georgian performance of “Macbeth” and a Colombian interpretation of “The Tempest,” Shakespeare handily takes the honor of the festival’s most represented playwright.
For those looking for something more contemporary, Kosovo’s “Rock and Roll,” written by Oscar winner Tom Stoppard (“Shakespeare in Love”) intertwines vivacious music and gritty political narrative chronicling the birth of the young nation. In addition, Australia’s “Cantina,” Spain’s “Sing, Sing, Sing,” the “Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo” performed entirely by men in drag, and Czech Republic’s “What Happened When Nora Left Her Husband,” written by Nobel prize winning author Elfriede Jelinek all promise a vibrant, contemporary experience.
Pushing the boundaries of performance art into the realm of interactivity, Corferias, Bogotá’s massive convention center, becomes “City Theater,” a groundbreaking theater space in which spectators become participants. The center’s different halls will transform into a museum, a rodeo, a forest and a city plaza all filled with dancers, bands, magicians, puppet shows and street artists. Spectators can take in traditional shows from afar or immerse themselves in each environment, enjoying a truly innovative theater experience.
Corferias will also host the festival’s International Concert, headlined by Afro-Uruguayan group El Negro Rada and Colombia’s own Electro-Cumbia pioneers Frente Cumbiero. The Cabaret Tent, open every night of the festival, promises equally enticing performances from 46 different groups, including Bogotá’s up-and-coming Bomba Estereo.
A must-see event for visitors and residents alike, the Ibero-American Theater Festival offers an array of functions so incredibly diverse that anyone and everyone should be able to find something to enjoy as dramatic sights and sounds fill the city and Bogotá takes the stage.
Prices for individual performances range from $30,000 to $200,000 pesos (approx. $15-100 US) depending on the show and seating, and entry to the City Theater costs $8.000 for adults and $4.000 for children with additional charges for some acts. Most performances are in Spanish or with Spanish subtitles.
This article is the property of Edward Buckley and The City Paper Bogotá and may not be reused without permission. Photos were provided by Festival Ibero-Americano de Teatro de Bogotá 2012.