FITLA Latino Theater Festival Returns

Third annual international festival

By Sandy Robertson
Published on LatinoLA: October 2, 2004

FITLA Latino Theater Festival Returns

FITLA International Latino Theatre Festival of Los Angeles opens October 21 at the John Anson Ford Theatre?s 87-seat [INSIDE] the Ford with ?Antigona? staged by acclaimed Peruvian theater ensemble Yuyachkani. The festival continues through November 14 featuring theater artists from nine nations and includes as very special guests the Ecuadorian ensemble Malayerba and Argentine dramatist Eduardo Pavlovsky. Performances take place at the John Anson Ford Theatre?s 87-seat theater [INSIDE] the Ford, at UCLA Freud Playhouse, and at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.
?Los Angeles has one of the largest Spanish-speaking populations in North America, but until FITLA began it lacked regular access to the best contemporary theater being created and enjoyed in Latin America,? says William Flores, FITLA executive director. ?FITLA brings to LA exactly what we deserve: a window on the creativity that is transforming Latino theater worldwide.?

Highlighting FITLA 2004 are return visits by two of Latin America?s three best-known theater ensembles: from Lima, Peru is Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani and from Quito, Ecuador is Malayerba. Both ensembles have roots in the tremendous social and political upheaval of Latin America in the 1970s and in the Latin tradition of theater as a tool for social change.

This year for the first time Nicaragua is represented in the festival, with Teatro Justo Rufino Garay in ?La Casa de Rigoberta Mira al Sur? (in a co-presentation with UCLA Live and Highways Performance Space) and ?El Nica,? a one-person performance by theater artist Cesar Mel?ndez of Teatro La Polea about his experiences emigrating from Nicaragua to Costa Rica.

Also featured in the festival are presentations from Spain (Teatro Albanta in ?Celeste Flora?), Venezuela (Texto Teatro in ?Passport?), Mexico (Mexicali a Secas in ?Cartas al pie de un ?rbol?), Argentina (Eduardo Pavlosky in ?La Muerte de Marguerite Duras?), Puerto Rico (Myrna Casas?s one-person show ?Tres Noches tropicales y una Vida de inf?erno?), and the United States (New York?s Teatro IATI in ?La Edad de la Ciruela?). In addition, a staged reading of Nilo Cruz?s Pulitzer Prize-winning ?Anna in the Tropics? will feature artists who performed in the play?s West Coast premiere last year at South Coast Repertory.

Themes of immigration and change emerge in several FITLA 2004 productions. ?El Nica? takes the tragic-comic plight of a poor immigrant and makes it universal ? a story set in Costa Rica could just as easily be set in Costa Mesa, California. Peruvian ensemble Yuyachkani in ?Los M?sicos Ambulantes? or ?the wandering players? uses masks, music and dialogue to tell the story of a group of peasants who journey from the countryside to the city ? another universal story of migration and extreme social change.

Social upheaval isn?t always a result of migration; Teatro Justo Rufino Garay demonstrates in ?La Casa de Rigoberta Mira al Sur? how revolution and rapid social change threaten and expose family dynamics and personal relationships. Just as the recent immigrants of ?El Nica? and ?Los M?sicos Ambulantes? struggle to reconcile their history and the life they left behind with their new lives as immigrants, the family of Rigoberta struggles to reconcile the ghosts of the past with the challenges of life in post-revolutionary Nicaragua.

The shadow of violence falls across the narratives of several FITLA productions. Tragic but sometimes surreal, violence shatters and then reconstructs characters in Malayerba?s ?De C?mo Mor?a y Resucitaba L?zaro, el Lazarillo? or ?of the deaths and resurrections of Lazarus, the guide? and Teatro Albanta?s ?Celeste Flora?. In ?L?zaro? a young boy learns that dignity will save him from the violence that surrounds him. In ?Celeste Flora? a psychiatrist confronts questions of reason and passion, morality and sanity, when investigating the mind of a botanist who has killed her young students, six little girls named after flowers, and buried (literally ?planted?) them in the back garden.

Questions of identity, reality and sur-reality inform Teatro IATI?s production of ?La Edad de la Ciruela? or ?the age of the plum,? Texto Teatro?s ?Passport? and Eduardo Pavlovsky?s monologue ?La Muerte de Marquerite Duras?. In ?Ciruela? two actresses play simultaneously young girls, old women and ghosts living in a house where anything can happen. The witty and surreal moments of their lives unfold on a landscape of superb theatrical direction and lighting design. ?Passport? critiques the loss of identity in Latin American society and comments on the Kafkaesque reality of bureaucracy and society when a woman loses her passport somewhere along the border of an undetermined Latin American nation. A towering figure in Latin American theater, Argentine actor-director Eduardo Pavlovsky uses his profound monologue to comment on the intense courtship of fantasy and reality that takes place inside memory.

Two actresses rise to meet especially challenging roles in FITLA 2004. Opening the festival is Teresa Ralli, an acclaimed theater artist and a founding member of Yuyachkani, in a poetic adaptation of the Sophocles classic ?Antigone?. Puerto Rican actress Angela Meyer performs Myrna Casas?s hilarious character sketches in ?Tres Noches tropicales y una Vida de infierno? or ?three tropical nights and a hellish life,? breathing life and laughter into Raquelita the well-baubled Cuban housewife, Yaya the trashy masseuse, and Gloria the hopelessly drunk tarot card reader.

In addition to the 24 mainstage performances for general audiences, an extensive slate of education and outreach activities brings FITLA artists into contact with schoolchildren, college and university students, the theater community and the general public.

For tickets to Teatro Justo Rufino Garay call the UCLA Central Ticket Office at 310-825-2101 or shop online at www.uclaLive.org. For tickets to all other FITLA 2004 productions call the John Anson Ford Theatres box office at 323-461-3673 or shop online at www.tickets.com.
For information about FITLA 2004 please visit the festival online at www.FITLA.org or call the FITLA office at 323-960-5132.

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