lunes, 23 de abril de 2018

The Curtain Rises: getting to know the theaters of Lima


(June 25th. 3.00 pm. City of Lima)

Curtain's up.

A crowd gathers next to the Tourist Information Office located in the Nicolás de Ribera Passage in the Historic Center of Lima. We hope the tour organized by the Municipality of Lima, through its Tourism Department, will begin and that it will lead us to know the history of the main theaters of the Peruvian capital. From Peru Travels Blog we didn't want to miss such an interesting tour and we raised our heads to be able to be attentive to everything that happens.

(Noon is sunny despite being one of the first days of winter. The guide with the unmistakable yellow vest of the institution appears from the tourist office. The murmur of the audience decreases with unusual expectation).

GUIDE (raising your voice): Good afternoon, everyone! In this tour that will take us to see the main theaters of the city, we will made five stops and finish at the Municipal Theater of Lima and the Theater Museum. It is our last tour of June and we will do some more next month that will take us to visit the Monterrico Racetrack and the tour of the Fathers of the Nation in the Maestro Presbitero Graveyard. We will have a small break at the end of July for Fiestas Patrias (National Day). This tour that we are now starting will last about two hours.

(The guide is silent as if waiting for the audience to assimilate what he has just said. A few seconds later, he raises his voice again among the whispers of some of those present).

GUIDE: Does anyone know when the theater began in Peru? (a thick silence is formed among the audience). Any ideas?.... No one? (Those present look at each other).

PERSON 1: 16th Century!

PERSON 2: In the colony!

GUIDE (smiles with relief): Exactly! The theaters arrived in Peru in the 16th century and developed during the colonial period. However, some research claims that there were representations during pre-Hispanic times. In some chronicles it is said that the Inca Pachacútec ordered his subordinates to perform comic pieces for him. The fact that the theatre was present can also be seen in the play Ollantay, whose origin is pre-Hispanic and was transmitted orally and performed in different versions until today.

(He continues) In the colony, rather than talking about theatre, we would have to talk about performances in the Plaza de Armas; Lima was a flat city and there were not too many buildings, so the Plaza was an ideal setting. The Cabildo (which could be compared to the current mayor) was the one who ordered that acts be performed to entertain the viceroy (responsible for administering the city in front of the Crown of Charles V). The atrium of the Cathedral was used as the main stage for the performances. That's how the comedy corrals began to be set up.

(After this introduction, a second guide on one side of the scene makes room with a constant fluttering of his arms and asks the crowd to split in two like the waters of the Red Sea. The GUIDE 2 goes ahead with half of the participants and goes to the first stop of our tour).

GUIDE (surpassing his companion and calling the assistants to where he stands): In the corner of Santo Domingo -Polvos Azules in colonial times- the first theatre of Lima and America was founded in 1594, El corral de Santo Domingo, so called because it was behind the church on Dominican land. (Lifts one finger to the sky). It is important to note that the first representations had an evangelizing nature, since it was one of the objectives of the Spanish Crown. Later, the religious genre did not prevail and the comic genre gained ground, in which politicians and other characters of the time were mocked.

It is the moment when the theatres become more and more famous (our guide continues), with a capacity of 300 to 400 spectators. The figure of one of the most beloved characters of the time also emerged: Micaela Villegas, also called the 'Perricholi'. Does anyone know why they called her that?

(Me, who had already been told on countless occasions about your affair with Viceroy Amat and the anecdote of his fight on a night of alcohol, simply said: "for yelling at him, 'you chola bitch' in Catalan" [what sounds as perra choli]. The guide affirmed with a silent nod, and maintained that the Perricholi was admired by the entire colony and associated with other corrals such as San Martin).

After saying these words, the guide raises his voice and tells us to follow him to the next stop, which will take us to the square of San Agustín. Already in the square, some curious people who are sitting on the surrounding benches wonder what they are distributing so that there is such a crowding of visitors in front of the façade of the church on a sunny hot Sunday.

GUIDE (gazing among the attendees as if doing a mental recount): San Agustín is the second most important corral in the colony. The Augustinian Order thought it convenient to donate this small square for theatrical representations, in which it would be known as the street of the old comedy. The San Andrés corral was another of the great centres of representation, built over the hospital of the same name.

Corral de San Agustín, Theaters of Lima, History of Theaters in Peru

(Although the guide is aware of the two centuries of time jump, he takes the opportunity to ask the audience if they remember the Teatro Colón, which was located on the side of the combative Plaza San Martín and which, as if it were a fairy tale in reverse, It went from being one of the most important and beautiful spaces of the Republican era to suffering a progressive degeneration that led him to show adult films to an audience of addicts and paid masturbators. Some of the older attendees nod with lost eyes and squinting at the appeal to this theater).


GUIDE: A few years later, in 1873, when the Politeama Theatre opened its doors, the largest theatre of the Republican era with some 3,000 seats, the poet and thinker Manuel González Prada gave the most important speech after the War of the Pacific with Chile. That day (it leaves a brief second of uncertainty) was July 29, 1888 (he closes his eyes to recite a few sentences that he will have repeated dozens of times before very different groups): "Those who step on the threshold of life gather today to teach a lesson to those who approach the doors of the tomb. The celebration we are witnessing has a lot of patriotism and some irony: the child wants to rescue with gold what man did not know how to defend with iron".

(To make the background of the text clearer, he said that this was a harsh criticism after the boom period prior to the Pacific War, emphasizing the lack of identity and national pride. The Politeama was in the 12th block of the Lampa St. It is the last reference to this space before passing to our third stop in front of the façade of the Teatro Principal Manuel Segura, which burnt down in 1883 during the Chilean occupation under the name of Teatro Principal, was reopened six years later under the name of Teatro Portátil, to be demolished in 1909 and rebuilt as Teatro Municipal, which soon became Manuel Ascencio Segura, the name of the father of the Peruvian national theatre. The eyes of those present move in circles as they mentally try to assimilate all the name changes of this theatre).

Manuel Segura Theatre, Theaters of Lima, History of Theaters in Peru

The façade of the Teatro Principal Manuel Segura is beautiful despite the dirt and laziness that the years brought. After its reopening, it was only intended to host chamber music concerts. Someone among the attendees asks what some of us are thinking as we see the metal door helpless, tired and weighing down the passing of the years: is the theatre still active?

GUIDE: Unfortunately the theatre it is closed for security reasons (you can see that the guide - like Orpheus - doesn't want to look back at the façade, as if he were saddened by this reality. Take a deep breath and get ready to change the subject). Very close by is the Triple A (Association of Amateur Artists), where workshops are held for children and amateurs, but also education and workshops are given to teachers to create top-level artists. Not to make free publicity but good performances are made and tickets are cheap (smile).

Triple A Associaton, Theaters of Lima, History of Theaters in Peru

(Finishing our tour and heading towards the Municipal Theater of Lima we passed by the façade of the Triple A in the Ica St. I wait for our group members to come by and take a couple of pictures. The space is developed around a beautiful and fresh patio, in which some plays are announced; not long ago they premiered the dramatic Collacocha, which focuses on the story of the flood that buried the town of Yungay in just 30 seconds in 1970. A few metres further on, the conceited man of the city with his classic grey colour appears imposing and proud. In 2020, the Municipal Theater will celebrate its 100th anniversary, and the celebrations must live up to expectations).

Municipal Theater of Lima, Theaters of Lima, History of Theaters in Peru


The crowd of visitors from the two groups has gathered again around the entrance of the Municipal Theatre and gasps in admiration at the chandeliers, the neoclassical sculptures and the gold leaf from the boxes and ceilings surrounding the stalls. The most rugged element of the theatre seems to be the red cloth curtain on which a light logo of the Municipality is projected. We are seated in our seats when the GUIDE and GUIDE 2 step aside and give way to the person in charge of the Municipal Theater, Beatriz Carrera. His voice is slow and clear.

Municipal Theater of Lima, Theaters of Lima, History of Theaters in Peru

BEATRIZ (smiling all the time at the auditorium): What a joy to see that so many people are interested in performing art! This Municipal Theater, like the Manuel Segura Theater, also caught fire and it is thanks to the efforts of the current mayor's Municipality that it was recovered for all Limeños.

(His gestures are as slow as his voice. Those who have been in the Gran Teatro Nacional will notice a difference with el Teatro Municipal: the Municipal Theater is more elegant. On the left side is the Presidential Box, which is intended for the president of the nation and senior officials, while on the right side is the Municipal Box, where the Mayor and representatives of the Municipality take their seats. Up there are the high boxes, up there the gallery and the lateral and central casserole dish).

(Attendees move their heads from one side of the room to the other while the theater representative reports that an explanatory video detailing the various elements of a theatrical performance will be shown. Suddenly, a huge screen falls on which the aforementioned video is projected: stage, lighting, sound... Finish the video and you hear some isolated applause. BEATRIZ appears to tell us to accompany her to learn more about the history of the Municipal Theatre through the Theatre Museum, which is located across the outdoor arts square and where, by the way, Beatriz tells us that free performances are held every Tuesday of the week at 7.00 pm).

Group Tour Theaters, Theaters of Lima, History of Theaters in Peru

Once at the Theatre Museum, BEATRIZ points out the various objects and photographs to tell the story of the site. The 4 rooms that make up the museum tell the story of the stages that the Municipal Theater went through until the present day, since the inauguration of the Teatro Olimpo by the Pérez brothers in 1886. This theatre was demolished in 1915 and a year later it was converted into the magnificent Teatro Forero, named after the Tacna architect Manuel Forero Osorio and inaugurated during the Fiestas Patrias of 1920. This theater will be acquired by the Municipality of Lima in 1929 deciding that it will be called Municipal Theater, making that the so called until then, will be called Manuel Segura Theater.

The story will give a new setback to the Municipal Theater, which suffered a colossal fire on August 2, 1998 that destroyed its shell, although its concrete structure remains standing (BEATRIZ relies on small projections that hang from the ceiling to guide his speech). In fact, it is said that it was a wise fire when it did not touch the part of the room in which - even without rebuilding - some representations were made. The restoration began a few years later with the recovery of the original ornamentation, the construction of a new scenic box and the enhancement of areas such as the square of the arts and a large house adjacent to the Huancavelica St. that serves as the new headquarters of the Museum of Theatre. The entire integral recovery project of the Municipal Theater was completed in 2011.

Municipal Theater Museum, Theaters of Lima, History of Theaters in Peru

(The few minutes that passed after BEATRIZ's explanation were used by the public to take pictures with their cell phones, to admire the posters and period dresses and to make themselves selfies with past images. It is admirable how one can feel -and hear- the footsteps of the actors on the stage of this colonial, republican, modern Lima, and still hear the applause and ovations that left the air trapped in an infinite loop. People are starting to make a fuss about the forum. The last electronic shots from the cameras are sounding. The room becomes silent and seems to become the protagonist under the spotlights).


Francisco, Peru Travels Blog
May 2018

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