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All the world's a stage in Costa Rica.

For Costa Rica, the celebration of one hundred years of democracy during November 1989 was an opportunity to host events of wide-ranging human concern, including a presidential summit and the First International Theatre Festival of San Jose for Peace.

While the press scurried to cover the meeting of world leaders, the people of San Jose enjoyed 30 theatrical performances by troupes from 21 countries of the Americas, Asia and Europe, including the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. "We are pleased that so many artists have come together to share their creativity and vision with the people of Costa Rica," remarked Dionisio Echeverria, Executive Director of the Festival and Administrator of the National Theatre company of San Jose. "This encounter will open up new roads for Central American culture," added Adriana Prado Castro, Costa Rican Vice-Minister of Culture and President of the Festival Committee.

The activities were kicked off with a gala ceremony attended by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, whose official support was vital to the realization of this ambitious project. Opening night was awarded to the Belli Theatre from Italy, which presented Machiavelli's The Mandrake with scenery and costumes designed by Costa Rican artist Ernesto Rothemoser. An exhilarating two weeks of continuous theatre followed: formal productions on four different stages, street theatre and dance, enriched by concurrent lecture series and meetings among the participating companies. Several groups took their shows to the provinces, in keeping with the festival's objective of making theatre accessible to all sectors of the population.

Performances provided wide exposure for new writers as well as for recognized authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez. There were two different dramatic adaptations of Marquez novel El coronel no tiene quien le escribe (The Colonel Has No One to Write Him), one by the Subotica theatre group of Yugoslavia and the other by the Rajatablas Theatre of Venezuela.

Widely varying origins and styles were demonstrated by the participants. Colombian Alvaro Restrepo staged Rebis, a visceral dance tribute to Spain's Garcia Lorca; Nicaragua's Comedia Nacional and Justo Rufino Garay company performed El Caso 315 and Escenas de mi ciudad, respectively, two works which explored everyday life in that country; and Costa Rica offered La Tragicomedia del Serenisimo Principe Don Carlos by Spanish writer Carlos Muniz, and Juana de Arco by Costa Rican author and director Juan Fernando Cerdas. The spectrum of theatre included a popular mystery play by the Podol company from the USSR, a contemporary drama by the celebrated Galpon of Uruguay and a circus-style piece by the Rainbow Gypsy Theatre of the U.S.A.

Officially representing the United States, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater performed a musical show, A Gershwin Serenade. Also from the U.S., GALA Hispanic Theatre of Washington, D.C. staged Matatangos, a satire based on the life of Carlos Gardel by chilean Marco Antonio de la Parra. This was one of several works to stir up considerable controversy, along with Expreso a Pandora from Guatemala, Blood Wedding by La Ribera de Zaragoza from Spain (which was sold out two months in advance) and two different Honduran productions, Ocurrio en 1789 by the Zambra group and Aguirre by the Taller Theatre of Tegucigalpa. Notable among the controversial productions was Cierren las puertas, presented by the Universidad Veracruzana of Mexico. This piece was wonderfully colorful and at moments anecdotally similar to Aeschylus' Oresteia. Typical of popular Mexican theatre, it was set in a "gallera", or cock-pit.

Ranking high among audience favorites was Brazil's Ornitorrinco, with its outrageous version of Moliere's Le Malade Imaginaire, incorporating nude actors and flying scenery. Within the street genre, the greatest impact was made by the Catalan company Els Comediants, which performed Los Demonios, an original piece utilizing oversized masks and elaborate fireworks.

The festival closed on December 1, the nationally-observed anniversary of the abolition of the Costa Rican army in 1948. The occasion was marked by a spectacular performance by Carbon 14, a Canadian company, in what was undoubtedly a red-letter event of the fortnight.

Although the 1989 Festival of San Jose was organized largely in support of President Arias' Peace Plan and carried out on a limited budget (participants paid their own way), it demonstrated its essential artistic value. There is already talk in San Jose of organizing a festival every two years, a plan which would make the 1989 festival slogan, "Todos al teatro" ("Everyone to the theare!"), an ongoing reality.

Jorge Arroyo is a Costa Rican playwright of the "Teatro Joven" (Young Theater) school. His play, L'Anima Sola de Chico Muniz, is the longest-playing theatrical work in Central America.
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Title Annotation:First International Theatre Festival of San Jose for Peace
Author:Arroyo, Jorge
Publication:Americas (English Edition)
Date:Jan 1, 1990
Previous Article:Shining on: Orozco's "Epic of American Civilization".
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