This year, I wanted to start traveling more in order to reconnect with the purpose of this blog: to explore theatre around the world. But as we all know, 2020 had other plans. My trip to Athens, the birthplace of European-style theatre, was scheduled for the day after the travel ban was instated. I have also had to postpone my hopes of making my first trips to Canada, where I would have explored Montreal’s theatre scene, and Australia, where I would have been able to reconnect with one of my closest friends.
Even though some minor travel has reopened, I don’t feel comfortable getting on a plane for anything other than an emergency. And even if I took a road trip, there won’t be anything like the theatre I know and love until 2021 at the earliest. So here I am, writing more than ever for a blog about my two beloved and indefinitely cancelled intersections, travel and theatre.
What’s a girl to do? Instead of sitting here lamenting the loss of my plans, I’m going to start taking you on a virtual journey around the world. While I can’t experience the places and shows abroad, I can use the power of the internet to temporarily transport you to a new theatre world outside of my US and Euro-centric context.
First up on my renewed journey around the theatre world: Buenos Aires.
Buenos Aires, Argentina, is South America’s top theatre city. With more than 200 theatres, many of which are situated in the city center on Avenida Corrientes, Buenos Aires rivals major theatre cities like New York and London for the sheer magnitude of performances available on any given night. It is also far more accessible than theatre in other cities: supported by the government, tickets typically range from $5-$15 USD. This post will explore the history of Buenos Aires theatre as well as the theatres I am planning on visiting one day when I make it down there.
Theatre has long been one of the fundamental aspects of Argentine national identity. In 1783, La Ranchería, the first house of comedy in Buenos Aires was founded. While it burned down in 1792, another theatre took its place called the Coliseo Provisional in 1804. During the 19th century, the number of theatres continued to boom, and in the period between 1900-1923, the theatre going population quintupled.
The 1976-1983 dictatorship disrupted homegrown theatrical performances as Argentine human rights, lives, and sovereignty were completely upended. Post-dictatorship, theatremakers formed deep connections with human rights organizations in order to begin the process of restorative justice.
Today, despite recent economic crises and the COVID-19 pandemic, theatre still thrives.
Buenos Aires is home to no shortage of stunning multi-use theatrical venues.
On my list to visit when I am able:
Buenos Aires’ most famous theatre, Teatro Colón is a stunning venue that is home to opera, symphonies, ballet, and experimental performance. With a rich history that dates back to 1857, the current opera house has been standing since 1908. They are live streaming previous performances every Sunday evening.
Founded in 1921, Argentina’s national theatre produces a wide range of comedy, musicals, and dramas. They are also offering a selection of performances online.
Opened in 1960, Teatro General San Martín is a huge complex with three performance stages, a cinema, and several exhibition halls. Check out their wide variety of online offerings here.
Though no longer in operation as a theatre, this grand venue has been converted into one of the world’s most iconic bookstores! Reading is another of my great loves, so this palatial store makes the top of my list for must-see Buenos Aires locations.
In addition to Buenos Aires’ major commercial theatres, they also boast a robust independent theatre scene. Even during the time of social distancing, you can find tickets to plays, talks, and short films streaming online, including on alternative theatre site Alternativa Teatral.
On my list to visit when I am able to go:
Founded in 2000, Patio De Actores is a small theatre in Buenos Aires boasts quality and experimentation. They use dance, music, and other theatrical elements to create their distinct aesthetic that utilizes elements of surrealism, clowning, and theatre of the absurd to center the performer.
Hasta Trilce offers a selection of drama, comedy, and musical performances in their theatre. They are offering online performances here. I am particularly interested in the play they have currently streaming, called Monogamia, that reexamines the idea of what romantic relationships should look like. Plus, their bar menu looks delicious.
This theatre looks absolutely off-the-wall. From their website: “Our works are characterized by being transgressive, dynamic, innovative and avant-garde, both not only for the way in which the topics are addressed but also the taboo topics that we deal with but also for the interaction with the public, where the viewer is part of the story, becoming this in an extreme experience. Breaking the spectator / observer leg.”
Timbre4 has a wide variety of performances ranging from comedic, musical, historical, and children’s works. They have tons of online offerings available, and every year they put on an international new works festival called Temporada Alta that celebrates theatrical works from Argentina and neighboring South American countries.
Theatre And Race
Buenos Aires has a complicated history with race. Arguably the whitest nation in South America, the Black, Indigenous, and other non-white Latinx communities have long been marginalized. While the city was around 30% free and enslaved Africans in the early 19th century, today Buenos Aires is only 2% Black. This is known as the “disappearance” of Black Argentines, both through war and disease as well as the intentional formation of a white, Eurocentric society through immigration. Despite the fact that much of their culture, including the iconic tango, has African roots, this leaves their theatre scene lacking in diversity.
I was able to listen to this short and powerful audio play, Negra, from the project Monomujerteatro, based on the seminal poem by Afro Peruvian choreographer, composer, and activist Victoria Santa Cruz. Both are available for free and worth a listen. (To listen to the audio play, click entradas and select the $0.00 option under price. They will send you a link to the audio.)
I also found this beautiful photo essay with book recommendations about Afro Argentines.
When we are able to safely travel again, I cannot wait to visit Buenos Aires. It will give me a chance to practice my Spanish and open me up to one of the world’s top theatre scenes. Not to mention the food and incredible night life. Next up in this series: Indigenous Theatre In Australia. Let me know what theatre traditions you’d like to learn about in the comments.
Love and theatre,