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Venezuela: Community Theater Addresses Urban Realities

Nuevo Circo Artístico [es] is a Venezuelan project that uses a blog to document the activities of their group devoted to the exploration of art, creation, and identity through theater. According to their own description, this is a place for ideological debate, the exchange of thoughts and the definition of concepts such as culture, art, politics, and communication. Through theater activities with kids and communities around a part of Caracas that is full of history, changes, and and a violent urban flame, the group looks for new ways to reunite and communicate the ever-growing dimensions of the Venezuelan diversity.

Nuevo Circo Artístico

Nuevo Circo Artístico

Part of their work material can be heard on podcasts [es], and some interviews explain (like the one seen below, transmitted on the radio and broadcasted on YouTube) what their goals are and with which tools they use.

In the video, the group explains that the project was created out of the needs of Caracas. According to the project leaders, culture is a fatherless child, so artists, musicians, actors, and other people in the arts are not taking into account, or even supported by the public. As they have seen so many artists, having to support their own projects with an “actual” job, most of the community projects based on arts are never completely achieved.

The place [es] in which the project started to be developed is very particular, since it is a bullfighting ring built in 1916, and it used to be one of the biggest entertainment places of the city. Nevertheless, it was abandoned little by little, and this also meant that the building itself became very deteriorated. One of the main goals is also to “recover” places of the city that have been dominated by the urban violence of Caracas. With this, the expectations grow with the efforts of communities and the possibilities that come with collaboration and “reconstruction” of the city, making the slums an important part of the city.

As theater is one of the bases of their activities, a lot of texts are devoted to explore the importance of art and culture. They promote the study and new approaches to Venezuela’s own authors and images, and they back up these ideas with texts and discussions around the country’s quest for an identity of it’s own. The following post is a good example of these ideas:

Independientemente de que nuestro teatro en su mayoría tenga marcadas raíces europeas en su sentido formal, es vital de cara al futuro que nuestro mestizaje, y que las culturas aplastadas por los conquistadores, como la negra y la indígena encuentren expresión en el teatro venezolano y sobretodo en el teatro realizado por los cultores populares. ¡Qué importa que la forma sea europea! Lo que interesa es que en principio el contenido, el fondo, tenga nuestra voz, que se cuele algo de nuestros barrios Niño Jesús, las Lomas de Urdaneta, 23 de Enero, aunque estemos montando La Farsa de Maese Pathelin, nuestras raíces pobres estarán presentes, lo ideal es que sea algo consciente y que se reconozca con orgullo.

Apart from the fact that our theater has deep European roots in its formal expression, it is vital that, in the future, our mixing process and the cultures that were smashed by the Conquest of Spain, such as the African and the indigenous cultures, can find a way for expression in the Venezuelan theater, mostly, through our own popular authors. It doesn’t matter if in its form is still European! What is important is that the content has our real voice, that some of our slums (Niño Jesús, Lomas de Urdaneta, 23 de Enero) can be heard; even if we are playing The Farce of Master Pierre Pathelin, our roots will be there. The ideal thing is that this could be a conscious activity and that could be recognized with pride.

Nevertheless, the efforts of making a place safer have been very hard, given the high state of insecurity of the city. The group continues to perform theater pieces, concerts, and also provides children activities and workshops, but the urban violence has not stopped, which was demonstrated this year with the death of a student, during a presentation. In their Facebook profile [es], the group discusses and wonders if all the activities they have been developing for the sake of this zone are as well supported by the public, or whether they were at the begging for support.

Segunda muerte que ocurre en el lugar, el primero fue un policia que resguardaba el sitio, que pasa con los impostores que usurparon el proyecto original, se han propuesto a mal poner al gobierno revolucionario?

This is the second murder to happen here. The first was a policeman that used to take care of the facilities. What's going on with the impostors that usurped the original project? Are they trying to give a bad image to the revolutionary government?

Communities and crime fight unequally to expand their domains in the city, knowing that only the stronger will be the one to stay. The real and unsettling question remains, who would be stronger one? Who will the one to last? One side points the other. Even here the arena becomes political. Since Caracas became one of the most dangerous dangerous city on Latin America a lot of communities in the city struggle with this same issue and its ramifications, inequality, governance, education, and division of society.

1 comment

  • I didn’t know about this. It’s great that still some of our communities are trying to fight insecurity and violence with creativity and culture. Thanks for sharing.

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