January 28 - January 28
DescriptionVideo Trailer Interview with Guillermo Calderón
“I’m delighted by the idea of writing from history—by the idea of opening a history book and inside is a theatrical work.” Guillermo Calderón
Join a paramilitary meeting of dissidents planning to overthrow the Pinochet government.
In the late 1980s, the Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, submitted himself to an open plebiscite and lost. The mainstream narrative describes this process as a daring feat in which Chileans defeated the regime by peaceful means. But by giving up the presidency, the dictator secured his legacy by ensuring that all the reforms that he forced on the people were almost impossible to change by the new democratic governments.
Escuela presents the position of the dissidents, those who did not want to play into the dictatorship’s plan: to them, the new transition into democracy was deeply flawed and participating in the elections only endorsed a scam. These were people who thought they could wage war against the dictatorship and win. The dissidents created secret paramilitary schools in dining rooms all over the country in order to prepare for battle and depose of the regime.
Escuela takes you into one of those dining room meetings, where all the participants wear hoods so they may never betray their fellow revolutionaries. They share a common knowledge of secrets: How to use a gun, how to hide, how to make a bomb. And, of course, how to justify the problem of killing and dying.
“I thought it would be interesting to write and direct a play about how the dictatorship ended, about a generation who gave up everything in order to take down the regime but were erased from history because they engaged in violent political action.” Guillermo Calderón
Chilean playwright and director Guillermo Calderón started his first company, Teatro en el Blanco, in 2004 with Trinidad González and two other actors who met while studying at the University of Chile. He is the screenwriter of Violeta Se Fue a los Cielos (Violeta Went to Heaven), the biopic about the singer-songwriter Violeta Parra; the film was nominated for Best Foreign-Language Film at the 2012 Oscars. Teatro en el Blanco disbanded in 2014 after ten years of producing and touring across Europe and the United States with Neva, Diciembre, and Villa + Discurso, all written and directed by Calderón. His plays have been presented in more than twenty-five countries.
In Spanish with English supertitles
Lyrics (translated from Spanish)
Soldier of Bolivia, Bolivian soldier
You go, armed with your rifle, which is an American rifle
An American rifle, Soldier of Bolivia
Which is an American rifle
Señor Barrientos gave it to you, Bolivian soldier
A gift from Mr. Johnson, to kill your brother
To kill your brother, soldier of Bolivia
To kill your brother
You don’t know who the dead is, Bolivian soldier
The dead is Che Guevara, and he was Argentine and Cuban
And he was Argentine and Cuban, soldier of Bolivia
He was Argentine and Cuban
He was your best friend, Bolivian soldier
He was the friend of the poor, from the east to the highlands
From the east to the highlands, soldier of Bolivia
From the east to the highlands
But you will surely learn, Bolivian soldier
That a brother you don’t kill, that you don’t kill a brother
That you don’t kill a brother, soldier of Bolivia
That you don’t kill a brother
FringeArts: Do you remember how the idea for Escuela first came about?
Guillermo Calderón: It was the natural outcome of endless political conversations with my friends. In 2013 Chile commemorated the forty years of the military coup and everyone was discussing the shortcomings of the new democracy. For the last two years the students had taken over the streets demanding educational reform. In that scenario I thought it would be interesting to write and direct a play about how the dictatorship ended, about a generation who gave up everything in order to take down the regime but were erased from history because they engaged in violent political action.
FringeArts: How did the play evolve from initial inspiration?
Guillermo Calderón: I contacted a few people who had participated in urban guerrilla during the late 80s and invited them to our rehearsals. Those visits shaped the play. They gave us classes on political organization as they remembered them and we basically reproduced that on stage. That and countless political discussions with the cast developed the core of the play.
FringeArts: What is the relationship of the audience to the actors on stage?
Guillermo Calderón: Escuela means school and the play is basically a class. The audience becomes a student of a subject they don’t necessarily want to learn. They are expected to stand in judgment and conflicted empathy.
FringeArts: In directing, what was important for you in fine-tuning the performance?
Guillermo Calderón: The play is built around strong and contradictory political ideas so the performance has to engage that complexity. We discuss and try different options until we reach the depth we need in order to strike a difficult balance between intensity, clarity, and sense of humor.
FringeArts: What does the setting of the work allow you to do?
Guillermo Calderón: The setting allows us to turn the stage into a classroom. It’s an upper class home turned into a place in which a secret school is imparting knowledge. Any house can become a classroom and theater stages can be classrooms too. The space we create is open and bare in order to make the ideological discussion come to the fore.
FringeArts: Can you talk of what theater allows you to say/explore creatively, particularly in the political realm?
Guillermo Calderón: I love how theater can isolate a group of people and give them a complex aesthetic experience. Theater audiences think collectively, amazed by being alone as a group, forced to think by themselves, temporarily shielded from the world, only in the company of more engaged people. This collective experience is perfect for a play like Escuela. The silence, darkness and anonymity inside the theater mirrors the experience of the characters. It allows the audience to silently debate ideas while letting themselves be carried forward by the emotions and sense of humor. Politics is a combination of emotions a rationality and that is what Escuela tries to convey an push to its limit.
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Photos by Valentino Saldivar