May 2014        

Caracas Festival of Theatre a great success

With more than 649 shows, 152 groupings and 26 public theatres, the Third Caracas Festival of Theatre took over the capital city last month in an expression of popular culture that surpassed all expectations.
      The festival, under the administration of the revolutionary mayor of Caracas, Jorge Rodríguez, has grown every year in scope, talent, popularity, and horizons. This year the festival comprised five types of activities: theatre performances in public theatres (239), performances in public squares and avenues (40), special events, such as musical presentations, expositions, and homages (60), academic events (100), and children’s events (171) and youth workshops (84).
      The theatre groups came from throughout Venezuela, and there was international representation as well. For the first time, sixty performances were given by community theatre groups.
      Apart from the strictly theatrical presentations there were also expressions of dancing, music, circus performances, puppetry, painting, acrobatics, costume parades, workshops, art exhibitions, living statues, and storytelling. The festival was also accompanied by nine public sessions aimed at reviving traditional Venezuelan children’s games, such as kite-flying and the spinning-top.
      In the first five days of the festival a massive total of 50,000 people attended performances, and by the end of the week this had exceeded 70,000.
      This year saw the incorporation of three new “recovered” public theatres (Alameda, Bolívar, and La Vega), which add their names to the growing list of public spaces recovered by the Government of Caracas. Recovered public spaces, such as theatres, squares, boulevards, and parks, offer well-lit, safe environments where the citizens of Caracas, especially families, can reclaim their city from the chaos and violence left by its previous capitalist administration. Jorge Rodríguez is one of the strongest believers in the value of culture as a tool for social development as well as the importance of geographical recuperation as part of the struggle against crime and for a better quality of life.
      Emilio Quintero, who decided to visit the festival for the second year running, explained: “I think it is highly important that these activities are held in the city of Caracas, and it helps people to assist and see the recovered spaces, like the Bolívar Theatre.”
      As middle-class districts in the east of Caracas continue to build barricades and make petrol bombs, the theatre performances concentrated on promoting the values of peace, co-existence and tolerance and countering the violent, individualistic values that “are sold on traditional television,” said one of the prime organisers of the festival, Jaqueline Farias, director of the government in Caracas. She emphasised that the festival was being enjoyed in “sanity, peace, harmony, and joy” and that “the theatres have been totally filled.”
      The festival has become famous for being accessible to citizens of all economic backgrounds, with a common entrance price of $2.50, and the geographical use of the entire city to present the performances, which were previously restricted to the richer eastern districts. Numerous theatres in the poorer western districts have recently been recovered and used.
      For Jefferson Leal, who enjoyed his first visit to the theatre, “theatre is a show of universal human art . . . which we should come and see, to see what humanity can produce, as well as seeing what the Bolivarian Government has done to enable the people to have access to this universal art form.” The theatre, he believes, “is a way for the people to become more sensitive, and a sensitised people is a transforming people.”
      The festival follows the International Book Festival of Caracas and forms part of a year-round cultural programme aimed at offering accessible, quality culture to the previously abandoned population of Caracas.

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