The value of theatre; why Huaraz needs to support local drama

S unday night marked the last performance of Yocasta, a play adapted by Santiago Serrano based on the tale of Oedipus, told through the eyes of his incestuous mother (after whom the play is named). After the curtain descended, director Luis H. Gonzales solemnly thanked the audience for coming to watch the performance, lamenting that there are many in Peru who see the theatre as a “waste of time”, an opinion which sadly results in a lack of funding for the art.

Is he right? Should more money be given to support regional theatre groups, such as Kunturwasi here in Huaraz, or is it a “frivolous” use of funds?

From the outside, it can be difficult to understand the community surrounding theatre because the benefits are more clearly felt from within. The actors, directors, technicians, costume and set designers, not to mention friends and family of all the above, all have been working hard and volunteered their own time over many months to produce something to take pride in.

In addition to perfecting and working as a team to create something, theatre demands that you delve into literature, analysis, discuss and develop your emotional intelligence and empathy by telling the story of another. Most importantly, theatre is a masterful method of storytelling, and Peru has more untold stories than most.

Perhaps the Ministry of Culture is more interested in funding more ”high brow” investments such as museums- ones that may turnover a profit or contribute to Peru’s carefully constructed image. But amateur theatre has never been about the money. No one gets involved in amateur dramatics to line their pockets; the benefits are deeper and harder to quantify, and not necessarily for tourists.

Performance art is not foreign to Peru. Every week there is some form of performance, parades in the streets, marinera dancing, cumbia even. But theatre is not always in your face, happening in the streets or outside your window. Neither can it be marketed as part of a tourist drive. Peruvian theatre is, for the most part, by Peruvians and for Peruvians. It can create and tell myriad stories, drive and inspire Peruvian children and adults alike. Furthermore, it could be an opportunity to reclaim some of Peru’s great folklore, currently enjoyed by Western tourists. For those who can’t read or write but who can engage verbally with a play, funding can help make the theatre more accessible by lowering ticket prices.

So if you want to support drama here in Huaraz, pay attention to what’s on. Have a look inside Centro Cultural Municipal just off the Plaza de Armas. Look at the webpages for the theatre groups here in Huaraz, Kunturwasi and Asociación Cultural Raíces Huaraz. As a tourist, I went in to Yocasta feeling sceptical, and was surprised to see a dedicated and excited team of actors, performing a novel take on a well-trodden story.

Author: Nicola Anne Phillips

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