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Peruvian Theaters Mourns the Loss of Playwright Sara Joffré

Sara Joffré (2009). Imagen en Flickr del usuario Diego Rojas.

Sara Joffré (2009). Image on Flickr by user Diego Rojas. (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Sara Joffré González, a very renowned figure in the Peruvian theater industry, passed away on December 17, 2014. She was 79 years old.

Born in El Callao on November 16, 1935, the woman who would become a playwright earned applause from a very young age, according to a profile published by Agencia NaN exactly four years before her death on December 17, 2010:

Tenía apenas dos años cuando conoció los aplausos y le gustaron. Acompañaba a la escuela a su hermana mayor. “No tenían dónde dejarme”, recuerda […] “Mi hermana tenía que decir un poema y se olvidó la letra. Salió tres veces. Era una fiesta importante, porque celebrábamos la independencia de Panamá. Alguien me empujó y yo recité La huerfanita harapienta. Como estaba más flaca que ahora creyeron que me refería a mí”.

She was barely two years old when she came to know praise and applause, and she liked them. She used to go to school with her older sister: “My parents didn't know where to leave me,” she remembers […] “My sister had to read aloud a poem and she forgot the lines. She went out three times. It was an important date, we were celebrating the independence of Panama. Someone pushed me and I read aloud The ragged little orphan. As I used to be skinnier than now, everybody thought I was referring to myself.”

She staged her first play at the Theater Club of Peru, then received a scholarship to study in Europe. There, she was influenced by Bertold Brecht's “The Irresistible Rise of Arturo Ui,” and social criticism became a common element in her plays for children thereafter. Back in Peru, she founded the Homer Theater of Cricket was born in 1963.

In 1974, she created probably the most important theater conference in Peru that brought together national theater groups and from where the iconic groups Cuatro Tablas and Yuyachkani first appeared. Thanks to this initiative, Joffré is considered a cornerstone of dramatic art in Peru.

She also dabbled in editing other authors and theater criticism. Her dramatic productions include titles such as “Lope's Daughter,” “Flowery Girl,” “Camille Claudel,” “Plays for the Scene,” “Seven Plays for the Scene” and the second edition of her book “Theater stories for children.” On YouTube you can find some of these plays, where you can see the particular features and colors of the childlike world she created.

Her passing has shaken Peruvian theater, and many local figures related to theater have expressed their sorrow for the loss.

Eduardo Adrianzén, a writer and theater and TV producer, honored her on Twitter:

Theater is in mourning, Sara Joffré is gone. A playwright, teacher, editor, cultural host. There is no Peruvian theater that doesn't owe her a lot.

Playwright César de María also praised Joffré:

Sara Joffré, playwright, director, an example of work and creativity, has died. She did a lot, enthusiastically and well.

The Peruvian Association of Authors and Songwriters, APDAYC, posted:

Sara Joffré, a playwright, and enthusiast promoter of Peruvian theater has passed away.

Tributes poured in from many others:

Tributes to Sará Joffré keep coming. There is a piece in local newspaper Peru21.

Last night, a touching tribute to Sara Joffré after a wonderful season opening of the eternal musicians.

On Saturday, we will be remembering the great Sara Joffré…

Sara Joffré was known for not being comfortable with praise. This is what playwright César de María shared in a public note on Facebook:

No pidan homenajes ni ceremonias de, por ejemplo, el Ministerio de Cultura, porque Sara les tiraría su homenaje por la cara. Les cuento una anécdota: un grupo de teatro le organizó […] un reconocimiento público por sus muchos años teatrales. Sospecho que Sara aceptó a regañadientes. En un momento determinado, con el teatro llenecito, los organizadores anuncian como super-sorpresa la llegada del alcalde de Bellavista […]. Sara, en el centro del escenario, no aplaudió, se incomodó, torció el cuello, apuntó al cielo con el mentón y cuando el alcalde se acercó a darle el diploma […] ella, sin tocarlo siquiera, pidió el micro y le soltó algo así, con el desprecio y la potencia con que podía decir las verdades más duras: “oiga señor, con lo sucio que está el distrito, con la cantidad de piletas y cochinadas en las que se gastan la plata y con todos esos manejos que los vecinos conocemos… usted que no hace NADA por la cultura ¿va a venir a homenajearme a mí? Por favor, váyase ahora mismo…

Don't ask for tributes nor ceremonies from, let's say, the Ministry of Culture, as Sara would throw your tribute back in your face. I'll share a story with you: a theater group organized […] a pubic recognition for her many years in theater. I guess Sara accepted reluctantly. In a given moment, with the theater packed, the organizers announced as a mega surprise the arrival of the mayor of Bellavista [El Callo district, where the tribute was held] […]. Sara, center stage, didn't applaud, she was uncomfortable, she turned her neck around, she pointed up with her chin and when the mayor came close to her to hand her the diploma […] she asked for the microphone and without even touching the diploma, blurted out something like this, with the contempt and power she could use to say the harshest of truths: “Listen to me, with the district as filthy as it is, all the water fountains and the dirty things you spend money on and all those things we residents know of… you who doesn't do ANYTHING for culture, you are giving me a tribute? Please, leave right now…

Goodbye, Sara.

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