17 March 2010

Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogota: The world's biggest theater showcase

I'm not at all a theater expert , nope. But now that I'm spending a few days in Buenos Aires with my loved one ( Argentina's capital city is filled with theaters and a very active cultural life), I realize the importance of our Theater Festival in Bogota. Its funny, because Bogota's  XII Iberoamerican Theater Festival, today's post topic, was actually an initiative started by an Argentinean actress who lived in Colombia.

No wonder that not many people around the world outside theater connoisseurs  really know about the extent of  this fantastic event,  in which for about 2 weeks theater companies, circuses and performers from all continents take Bogota's street by storm, because, to be honest event most of us, the common non-theater-related people in Bogota are notaware that this is, in fact, the biggest theater showcase in the world....

So let me tell you what is hapening from 19th of March and during the following 17 days in Bogota.... gosh! is amazing how  much our cultural scene has grown over the past 22 years and that I'm only realizing it while I think how to write the rest of this post.

The festival as we know it today was created in 1988  by Fanny Mickey, the Argentinean actress, and Ramiro Osorio,  a local artist,  to commemorate Bogota's 450th fundation aniversary. Its first edition was born under the slogan "un acto de fe por colombia", "an act of faith for Colombia". And it really was, during the nineties Colombia suffered one of the most violent decades in its history with important events like in December 1993 when Pablo Escobar finally got caught and killed... just to name the one I remember the most.  During this time it was unthinkable to have such a huge event specially because not even ourselves believed the situation could ever change and the world was scared of Colombia.

It took the strengh of a redhead argentinian entrepreneur who left her home country at 16 (1958) because her family would not support her desire to be and artist, so she came to Colombia believing that here she could have more opportunities to reach her dream. It was then when she decided to start the Theater School in Cali with Enrique Buenaventura,  a well known Colombian dramatist, 8 years later she left her beloved Cali to live in Bogota and to stablished what was going to be the renaissance of theater in Colombia and one of the most important cultural proyects for us, La Fundación del Teatro Nacional.  

Eight years of cultural production and promotion by the Fundacion evolved into what is now, as I said before,  one of the biggest scenic arts  festivals of the world. It started with 49 theater companies from 21 countries with very special guests like Stary Teatr à Cracovie, with "Crime and punishement", y Carbone 14 from Canada, with "Hamlet Machine". For its 10th aniversary version, which transcended iberoamerica,  the Fundacion Teatro Libre with Fanny Mickey as Director, managed to bring to Colombia some of the most important theater companies of the world like the Royal Shakespeare Company from England, Piccolo Theater of Milan, the Suzuki Company of Toga (SCOT) from Japan, the ZKM Theare Zagreb of Croatia, the Theater an der Ruhr from germany amongst others. We are talking about bringing hundreds of foreign artists to a place that was known as one of the most dangerous in the world.... that must have been hard work and stubbornness... and all thanks to Fanny! As you can see in the picture above Fanny was a VERY energetic woman, even when she was in her 70s she was considered to have "the best legs in Colombia" and , if you pay attention to this year's festival logo, you'll see how well represented she is :) 

This year in its XII version the FITB and Colombia will honor Fanny Mikey's life (she sadly passed away in August 2008) and will have more than 2000 artists from all over the world in more  than 15 categories like circus, clown, monologue, poetry and sooooo much more. 

Having lived away for so long makes you much more sensible to whats going on in the cultural scene of a city.  Two years ago, when I came back from my 11 years trip,  I bought myself as many tickets as I could, but the funny thing is that  I didn't find many people to go with to all the plays, thats what I was saying earlier  that I'm not sure if Colombians realize how big and important this festival is. Anyway, I can't even start to describe how much the whole atmosphere changes in Bogota when the festival is on and one of the greatest things it has is that lots of the events are free to the public. So you just basically walk to the supermarket and will breathe theater. There are hundreds of plays in all parks and big stages are built all around the city.
This year is the fifth edition of  Ciudad Teatro Theater City which is a basically a huge city within the city. In 2008 the Theater City was visited by over 600.000 people in 16 days. This year is held in Compensar which is an enourmous venue  that I could easily say is twice as big as a 70.000 people stadium.  We will have so much going on that I'm just going to list it because I want you to know EVERYTHING about it. So, in 16 days would be able to see:

  • 128 Childrens theater acts
  • 321 street theater acts (local and international)
  • 45 circus acts
  • 66 story tellers
  • 32 children' story readings
  • 36 comedy acts
  • 7 match improvisations
  • 42 musical acts
  • 35 bands (Including  Bomba Estereo!)
  • Muppets for grown-ups 
  • Stand up comedy
  • and more, and more and moooore!     

Not to mention all other plays that will be held in the stadium, the coliseo cubierto, la plaza de toros and all three branches of the Fundacion Teatro Nacional with a very modern version of the classics like Eurípides, Shakespeare or  Dostoyevski and a fantastic variety of circus from France, Spain, Italy and Canada.  There is also a very special space for scenic art students during the festival. They, toguether with actors, dancers, directors and tecnitians have the chance to meet and interact with some of the most important professionals through FREE talks, simposiums and so much more that if I told you all about it this entry would be huge!

Here are some tips in case you're lucky enough to be around Bogota during the festival

  • Prices can vary from US$8 ($15.000) to US$50 ($100.000)
  • Buy your tickets from  tuboleta.com but they only take local credit cards 
  • Also in any of Juan Valdes' branches
  • You can fill in a  form, take it to the La Casa del Festival Carrera 19 No 37-53 and get special prices
  • You can also buy tickets at each venue
    • Leonardus: Cra. 21 No. 127-05
    • Auditorio León de Greiff: Cra. 30 No. 45-03
    • Palacio de los Deportes: Calle 63 No. 42-00
    • Coliseo El Campín: Diagonal 57 con carrera 30
    • Plaza de Toros: Cra. 6 No. 26-50
    • Teatro R101: Calle 70A No.11-29
    • PRD: Cra. 60 No.63-65
    • Casa Ensamble: Av. 24 No. 41-69
  • Here is the link to the programe in closed venues 
  • Here the one for the free stuff
  • And this is the link for the Theater City program

I hope you get the chance to enjoy the this spectacular event. Unfortunatelly none of the information available is in english so as always if you have any questions just e-mail me!


Marcela - Colombia Travel 


**All pictures on this post have been taken from various sources. Credits to FITB, Cambio 16, Kai Försterling, Nebbia, El Espectador, Carlos Pereyra, ZID.

1 comment:

  1. I´d love Argentina too! I went there for work and stayed at one of the Buenos Aires hotels very close to 9 de Julio Ave. where I could see the inaguration of the Teatro Colon, increible opera house!