This is very impressive. It is something most Americans would expect to only be possible in New York City. Consider over 2,000 theater artists from five continents representing almost 30 different countries presenting over eighty live plays in twenty well known theaters in only seventeen days. Now add to that another 800 functions including 300 in a place larger than Cobo Hall. Mix in theater education from some of the best theater acting experts in the world, and hundreds of street presentations from one end to the other in a city of eight million people and you have the XIII Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro.
All of this takes place not in the USA, some European capital or Asian country, but in Bogotá, Colombia starting March 23, 2012 and running through April 8, 2012.
I was fortunate enough to get an exclusive interview with the festival's special projects director, Jorge Ogliastri. He gave me the time to discuss this unbelievable event before sixty other reporters from around the world descend on this South American capital hoping for the same opportunity.
"The whole city lives the Festival," said Ogliastri. "Hotels set-up for it. Country embassies advertise it. Taxi drivers receive special training. The mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, is putting out the red carpet."
I asked Ogliastri about the history of the festival. "Franny Mikey and her story begins the history. She is the icon of theater culture in Colombia." he said. "She died three years ago, but she set a base foundation that we are building on today."
Twenty-six years ago Fanny Mikey, an accountant turned actress, started this event along with a theater foundation that promotes Colombian artists to the rest of the world. The festival has been presented every other year since. This is the thirteen world presentation. "There is no other event in the city like the festival," said Ogliastri.
My next question was about the language. Since the plays are from around the world presented in a Spanish speaking country do all the actors speak in Spanish?
"Many are presented as a contemporary dance, circus or acrobatic where no words are spoken," he said.
I looked at the brochure he gave me and found fifteen such shows. Nine are dances. The others are circus, mime and acrobatics. To give the reader a idea of the diversity, following are the names of the shows not needing language and the country they are from with links to their descriptions.
Cayetana, su Pasión - Spain (one of my favorites)
Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo - USA (amazing comical ballet)
Vistaar - Inida (highly impressive)
Ginga - Brazil
Rushes + - Israel
32 Calle Vandenbranden - Belguim
Camino Vertical - Great Britian
Sin título - Serbia
Conjunto di Nero - Holland
Circus, Mime and Acrobatics
Cocorico - France
Paraíso Translunar - Great Britian
Los Ciegos - Poland
Donka, Una Carta a Chejov - Switzerland
Tom Tom Crew - Australia
Cantina - Australia (this one looks very interesting)
Orliastri explained that all of the other productions not spoken in Spanish have Spanish subtitles shown on a large screen. And some of the plays are in English because they came from English speaking countries. This includes from the USA Tim Burton's production of George Orwell's 1984.
We talked a little about prices. The theater tickets range in cost from around $30 USD to $75 USD, which is very well priced compared to what people pay in other countries for the same opportunity to see just one of the plays. Ogliastri pointed out that this festival is for all the people and that is why there are the other venues offering quality entertainment at even lower prices. Admission to the Coreferrias is only about $5 USD and to see the many productions at that location cost under $2.50 USD each. Plus the artistic offerings outside the Coreferria buildings and what is presented on the streets of Bogota are all free.
Now to get there and get tickets. Delta Airlines and American Airlines fly from Detroit to Bogota for around $850 round trip. The cost of the same flight on Spirit Airlines ranges from $250 to $450 round trip. According to Ogliastri, the travel company Aviatur is set up to arrange for theater packages with hotels in Bogota. He also stated that the following hotels are also offering packages which include tickets: Sonesta Hotel, Hilton Hotel and Tequendama Hotel.
My wife and I have attended the festival in previous years. We have also viewed the free presentations. If you enjoy and appreciate the art of live theater, this is your opportunity to see in one place some of the best that the world offers. Don't forget while you are in town to also see the other sights mentioned in my writing about Bogota.