The Iberoamerican Theatre Festival of Bogotá (FITB) opens next week and over 17 days will present works by national and international actors in a slate of venues, including Bogotá streets. Founded in 1988 by the legendary Colombo-Argentine actress Fanny Mickey, the Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogotá is among the most coveted in Latin America for established and alternative companies, and celebrates, as a famous Elizabethan bard once wrote, “all the world’s a stage.”
For this year’s edition 17 of FITB, the guest nation of honor is the U.S., and among the 36 shows and 140 street performances, the stateside contribution is “Frankenstein” by the Manual Cinema company and “The Song of the North” by the Fictionville Studio company. With a cast of 258 paper puppets, Manual Cinema weaves a haunting tale of Mary Shelley’s gothic work with cinematic techniques, sound effects and live music.
The Chicago-based collective of musicians, composers, theater artists, and filmmakers is a highlight of this festival, and takes to the stage of Teatro Colsubsidio. The other U.S company that makes its debut in Bogotá is Fictionville studio, founded by the husband/wife team Hamid Rahmanian and Melissa Hibbard.
Based on their latest undertaking, the Shahnameh Project, the “Song of the North” is a large-scale, cinematic performance combining the manual art of shadow puppetry with projected animation. Heralded by Le Monde as “Breathtaking fireworks of creativity” and poetic love story that tells the courageous tale of Manijeh, a heroine from ancient Persia, who must use all her strengths and talents to rescue her beloved, Bijan.
The Song of the North made its world premiere in February at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris, France. Among the other international players that will stage works in the Colombian capital are Lebanon with Origin of a Tale by Collectif Kahraba; Belgium with Nómadas (Eastman Company); United Kingdom with an energetic and mesmerizing take on Pinocchio (Jasmin Vardimon Company); Spain with Trilógia de Mujer (Losdedae Compañía de Danza) and Argentina with Encuentros Breves con Hombres Repulsivos, based on the American author David Foster Wallace’s bestselling book Brief Interviews with Hideous Men.
Two years after the FITB was cancelled with the pandemic, this year’s program is curated by Alejandra Borrero of Casa E and dancer Atala Bernal. “This is a festival of happiness, of seeing each other again, seeing sublime things, of sharing outside the theater the impressions that remain in the soul,” believes the director of Casa Ensamble, highlighting that “words and images transform us into better human beings.” The Casa Ensamble will host two national productions: Victus and Julio Escallón’s Superpasito.
In the visceral play Victus, former combatants of the guerrilla and paramilitary groups share their accounts of being protagonists and victims of Colombia’s internal conflict. Another homegrown production is Unveilings by the Truth Commission and Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo with 100 artists, and who also reflect on the tragedy generated by a half-century long armed conflict. Offering a musical interpretation of Alexander von Humboldt’s adventures in Colombia, the Bogotá Symphony Orchestra Foundation will present its operatic farce “Forest on Forest (Bosque sobre Bosque). With music composed by Daniel Velasco and directed by Alejandro Gonzáles Puche and Mache Home, “Forest on Forest” sings the praises of the Prussian explorer and Colombia’s biodiversity.
Other highlights of the festival include Dos Volcanes y un Laberinto by Cartagena’s contemporary dance company Colegio del Cuerpo. This work by the renowned choreographer and dancer Álvaro Restrepo comes to Teatro Mayor and is the company’s tribute to the final voyage of Liberator Simon Bolívar down the Magdalena River, based upon the writings of Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez and Álvaro Mutis.
Given the coronavirus health mandate in Colombia, all theatregoers must present a completed vaccine certificate to enter the venues of FITB’s edition XVII. The listed venues are: Teatro Colón, Teatro Colsubsidio, Teatro Jorge Eliecer Gaitán, Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santodomingo, Teatro Cafam de Bellas Artes, Teatro William Shakespeare, Teatro Libre de Chapinero, Teatro Libre del Centro, Teatro Ensueño, Astorplaza, La Cometa Gallery, Teatro Arlequín and Teatro El Bonfire.
The festival has also set an age limit (age 15 or 16) for younger audiences, so best check the official program at: www.festivaldeteatro.com.co