Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Street Spectacle in China Today (III). Chengde.

My research on contemporary street theatre has been unsuccessful; the materials I have picked up these years are the best example of its lack of existence. My suppositions and theories about the causes of its non-presence on Chinese streets, among which the Chinese Cultural Policy, are reinforced every time I stand in front of any scenic manifestation in my walking through this nation.

Last April (2008) I travel to the city of Chengde, in Hebei Province, in the north of the country, and even though I didn’t find any contemporary street theatre, I could experience the Chinese reaction to it: a re-creation of the past.

Any street spectacle in Chengde is linked to tradition; we can see street theatre which was a common sight before the Communist era (at the end of the last dynasty, the Qing, at the beginning of the 20th Century). It is a street theatre without soul, it is part of a cultural policy which is aiming to preserve the past or even reinvent it, always based on the preconceptions the government has of it. Street theatre has become a stamp from the Chinese past, a way to recreate the imperial dream when spectacles fed the people (yes, communist goals remain). Today, this street theatre gets its own stage: new traditional (and touristy) streets where acrobats and musicians can perform under the watchful eye of the police of cultural policy and keeping the order of the Chinese society.

Never before until now had I experienced the latent danger of the art I chose as a living. Its non existence speaks for itself.

Spectacles with animals, an Asian tradition

Everywhere in the world we can see street spectacles which utilize animals, but it is in Asia, especially in Japan, where these spectacles have reached a really high quality; spectacles where the treatment of the animals in question could be considered “humane” or “professional”. From my point of view they, the animals, well treated or not, are being abused in any form. The imitating (though they don’t imitate knowingly) or mocking (nor do they mock knowingly either) of human behavior provokes smiles, laughs and applause.

猿回しsarumawashi (Japanese monkey actors)

In China the situation is less nice and interesting. If street spectacles are under the police eye of cultural government policy, spectacles using animals are simply not an issue: they are not dangerous (they are using animals, not humans), they are not regulated, they are few and they co-exist with beggars, like casual acts. Using animals in China has a religious origin, linked with the past, but today there is no trace of that, we can only observe small groups of two or three beggar-like men, exploiting (without any scruple) animals in productions of very poor quality.

Spectacle using monkeys in Chengde, China.

Traditional street spectacle makes a come back at Puning Temple

Chengde is known as the summer city for Chinese emperors; there, emperors built a palace to spend a big part of the summer because of the terrible heat of Beijing during that season; around the palace there are dozens of small replicas of the biggest and well known provincial icons of imperial China, sites where emperors wanted to please their provincial chiefs by showing how big their knowledge about their culture was. Small replicas meant big temples, like the replica of the Potala palace of Tibet for example. So, the city of Chengde is a very expensive theatrical production where temples and palaces don’t function as such, where they were visitor parlors, halls for receptions (one or two receptions!), expensive guest rooms for personalities and, now, they are museums of uselessness, beautiful replicas, but nothing else. We see a big theatrical scenario without any plays.

Puning temple is a real religious (Buddhist) point of reference in Chengde, and it’s a very important tourist site for the local government; it has the biggest statue in China of the Kuanyin with many arms. The temple was rebuilt and now it is the only beautiful spot inside the modern, ugly and polluted city of Chengde. Its monastery is now a very interesting traditional hotel and restaurant, with a special “tourist street” called “Puning street”, where Chinese life at the end of Qing dynasty is recreated, with shops, actors (real actors) dressed like people from that time and performing short spectacles which were usually given on the street: acrobatics, pantomime, musicians, storytellers, etc.

Even though this wasn’t a kind of modern street theatre, my interest was to record them in video and compare these spectacles with those I have seen in ancient films about Chinese life in 1927. For me it was a kind of anthropological production; Children acrobats, 二贵摔绞 (ergui shuaijiao) an actor in comic pantomimes, 拉洋片 (Layangpian) storytellers and their “image machines”. Puning’s small spectacles were technically not as good as their counterparts from the past, and people, that important ingredient, showed a little less interest that you can see in the ancient films.

Layangpian, the storyteller and his “image machine”, grabbed most of my attention. I had seen one of them at another temple fair in Beijing almost three years ago and from both experiences I can recall some elements: the voice technique, the rhythm and melody and, of course, how the story is told. The spectacle consisted more of the voice more than the images, but your eyes must focus on the inside the machine, watching the cartoons, while your ears create the world the voice proposes (2).

The video I took is frustratingly short because of some technical problems with my camera, but I could get one from Youtube that shows a scene of this street scenic manifestation and where you can appreciate the whole experience.

Now, you can compare what I videotaped in Chengde with these performances from a German documentary 80 years ago.

Children acrobats in Chengde, year 2008

Girl Acrobat in Shanghai, year 1927

二贵摔绞 (ergui shuaijiao) Comic pantomime, Chengde, year 2008.

二贵摔绞 (ergui shuaijiao) Comic pantomime, Shanghai, year 1927

拉洋片 Layangpian. Story teller and his “image machine”. Chengde, year 2008

拉洋片 Layangpian. Story teller and his “image machine”. Beijing, year 2008.


I’ll keep looking for street spectacles while I stay in China. I simply cannot believe that the evolution of street spectacle can only be seen on TV, I’m a faithful believer in the biological needs of real life theatre.

I will keep waiting for the new wave of Chinese street spectacles, where, possibly, tradition becomes a trampoline for a new way of doing theatre.

(1) This or any other manifestation that is not viewed as dangerous in China will remain so until some foreign NGO criticizes such manifestation or until it is negatively reviewed in some publication as an error of Chinese cultural policy, thus shaming the Chinese government.
Layangpian is quite an important activity in China’s cultural tradition. The use of the machine is not very common nowadays, but the tradition persists as comic shows with two or three actors, telling stories, telling jokes, using some vocal play. But only with the use of the machine, of the Magic Lantern, and the fantastic use of voice rhythms, that the show becomes, from my point of view, remarkable.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tamasaburo Bando's "Mudanting" in Beijing (2008)

Note: This entry is the first of two parts (or more, I don’t know yet), where I express my views and concrete facts (information, photos, videos) on “Mudanting" (牧丹亭) by Tamasaburo Bando and the Suzhou Kunqu opera company on May 14th 2008 at Huguang Theatre, in Beijing.

My intent after the performance was to write about my impressions as soon as I got home, but my mind was (and has been) in a state of confusion since that night and for two days already. Reading and dreaming has helped me clear things.

I observed with attention, calmness and rare pleasure the greatest feminine role specialist actor of our time, Tamasaburo Bando (坂東玉三郎).

I found out about Tamasaburo on the internet, through videos of his work, most of them exposed by a faithful fan of his (1), and I simply adored him. I saw and reviewed each and every one of those videos, I recognised in him not just his technique, but the creative greatness of one of art’s greatest phenomena. His presence held me like Kazuo Ohno's years ago, I anchored myself to him and his acting. On the night of the 14th I had him just metres away.

Huguang Guildhall (北京 湖广会馆), the oldest Chinese Opera theatre in Beijing, built in 1812 and rebuilt in the 1990’s, has been home to the work of many generations of great Chinese actors, it has seen the divine ones (2). This is one of those rare occasions in which it welcomes a foreign star with a classic Chinese piece like “Mudanting” or “The Peony Pavilion”.

Staging The Peony Pavilion in China is crazy, is artistic suicide, unless one is sure of what one’s doing, of what lies behind oneself. You can’t simply go to London and tell Britons how to do Hamlet!

China is Japan’s cultural mother, its only, main and basic source; China is also Japan’s biggest political rival: hate, envy, resentment and sorrow flow in the blood of the people; but China is also the challenge and the peak for the Japanese. Not to fear China is not to fear the force of tradition and the weight of great figures. Tamasaburo, being great, being a genius, being polite, is the adequate one for an encounter under such conditions.

Tamasaburo belongs to that great line of traditional oriental art actors who possess the spark of change and of the revolutionary; he knows his world, he does not challenge it up front but seduces it into change. In that sense, Tamasaburo is a divine reincarnation that, as it is perceived all over Orient, has subtly attracted the unrefined attention of the people that love him, and so promoting the support of the connoiseurs, and getting respect for his vision.

The stage entry at the Huguang Theatre was measured finely: with the surrounding frame of a beautiful Japanese style choral chant, the introduction to the history of the Peone Pavilion, in that mythical and delicious garden, lets us see little by little a Tamasaburo in a role that personifies what Chinese consider romantic and idealist love.

(This is a special note written after the publication of the post: I realized that this first scena wasn't Tamsaburo's performance of Du Liniang (from Mudanting), it was a special personal portrayal of Yang Guifei, the concubine. After that he performed Du Liniang the whole show. I strongly believe that this mistake doesn't change my points of view about his work that evening.)

With singular beauty, the creator chooses the golden details of his dress, with a subtle yellow backdrop for the base cloth, thus offering us the birth of the sun at dawn. Yes, Tamasaburo does not follow Kunqu’s dictates, but he introduces changes which deserve no negative criticism.

In order to present a different staging of Kunqu (and in order to be accepted in China), he had to work with an open but stable company, and so the choosing of the Suzhou Kunqu Company was perfect, as the company was renowned for its daring versions of this same piece (2) and other belonging to the same genre, with changes not only in the way of staging it but, what’s more difficult in China, in the way of singing it. They’re very famous for their scandalous plays and they’re opening the field to the outer world. Their singers are educated with the best techniques, they act with precision, they know how to be clear and subtle, they know how to be loved and, as young people growing and flowering, they have the way open for creating the new Chinese opera, an opera that can evolve following the Oriental tempo. (4)

Tonight I’ve seen a stage paradise, I’ve seen dreams and love; I’ve enjoyed singing like I hadn’t heard before, a difficult singing, to be honest, for a Japanese speaker. The then divine presence of Tamasaburo joined the beauty proper of this immense lyrical and poetic work from the 16th century.

In the very Oriental play of reincarnations I saw, in the work of Tamasaburo’s body, the mythical Mei Lanfang. At last I could break away from the horrible feeling of watching those videos left from the most important Chinese Opera female impersonator, acting during his last years, fat, slow, insecure and with a voice that was hard to enjoy. Mei Lanfang was divine from his adolescence until his forties, and afterwards he just lived on his success (5). The images of his acting during his glorious years remain in the memory of the spectators, not on recorded materials; there are many recordings of his voice and also photographs, just photographs, undoubtedly beautiful, and 5 minutes of silent material filmed by Einsenstein during the 1930’s. Tonight, May 14th, I could see him move on stage, I could see what Chinese who know about Chinese Opera see, the genealogy of teachers in the “doing” of the actor.

The singing, the dresses, the choreography and the acting (not the mimic). With deep knowledge about his own talent and of his creative personality, master of his eyes and column, Tamasaburo is a magnet, and possesses as well a fabulous control of his projecting: he knows where we should be looking and how.

Seeing him, then, is seeing the past in the present. Seeing him then is seeing the masters. Seeing him is also seeing the presence of the mythical Western starts of the 19th and early 20th centuries, masters of body techniques and of projection. I remembered Sarah Bernhardt and Eleonora Duse, I remembered their poses, their body control and, thanks to the recordings they’ve left, I also remembered their voice work. Tamasaburo’s acting is, I think, an example of how the acting of those divine actresses would have been perceived. As soon as got back home I looked again at pictures and images of these goddesses, I watched their eyes, I compared their written impressions, I was stupefied. “They use the same principles”, Eugenio Barba would probably say (6).

Tamasaburo is a modern actor that lives in the educated body of a Kabuki actor. By going beyond his tradition (as he’s done on previous occasions) he’s had to act like a serious Western actor would do when playing a role in a foreign context and with a complicated technique: observing each detail and working on it, imitating what’s necessary, recreating, searching for the character, using his personality and talent. Tamasaburo didn’t perform Kunqu, he recreated Kunqu. He gave warmth to a character that most Chinese actresses project perfectly thanks to the confidence that years of detailed technical work has given them; Tamasaburo endowed his character with subtleties (like those that Mei used himself), he acted in our Western conception of the verb “to act”, yet he never disrespected the technical bases of Kunqu; we never stopped watching and listening to “Mudanting”(7).

At the character’s death, as difficult as any other death on stage, I perceived an almost dangerously excessive use of gestures. The difference in his signing was audible but it didn’t damage his work, nevertheless in the last scene, for a second, I thought I saw the beauty of that mask, created for the character, break apart; I saw the imminent danger of the loss of tradition and the colapse into “realism” (why precisely he, an actor of Japanese tradition? I don’t know), there was a divergence with the specific detailed technical gestures; but it didn’t go too far. Great people do sometimes get close to tripping, and sometimes they do fall; this time and from my point of view, it was’t the case. I applauded with relief.

At the end, the divine Tamasaburo thanked a euphoric audience (8) with the same personification of dawn (as my memory now remembers it) that served as opening for the play at Huguang Guildhall.

( Translation from Spanish: Tadeo Berjón)

Video of Tamasaburo’s performance in Beijing

(1) Youtube:
(2) The story of the Huguang Guildhall is truly interesting, it’s the story of theatrical space in the world: first, a sort of shelter for travellers, then, an important gathering place for intellectuals travelling to Beijing to sit for their bureaucratic examinations, a tea house and restaurant, always with a special room that was continuously adapted for social events, ever more stylish, ever more specifically suited for the Opera that was performed there. Finally, rebuilt in the 1990’s, it became and has become a point of reference for many events concerning Peking Opera. Although not always with the best actors, and almost exclusively dedicated to shows for tourists, it still stands out as an architectural gem, without parallel in Beijing. When I heard that Tamasaburo had chosen exactly this space for his performance, it gave me great pleasure, and it confirmed in my mind the importance of this theatre for Chinese Opera
(3) The company has created a “juvenile” version of Mudanting that became a real headache for Kunqu purists.
(4) Breaking apart from the links that, in the West, have united dramatical processes for centuries is a battle few dare to fight, and many lose it and fall into rejection and oblivion; big personalities like Mei Lanfang were victorious by sticking to their own tradition, becoming its best performers, and then subtly changing, perfecting and, most importantly, creating new pieces with those new details; that evolution is what we call “schools” which can then become a “style”. We must not forget that Peking Opera itself is the result of 100 years of evolution that finished in the 19th century and reached its peak with the revolution of Mei Lanfang. The arrival of communism marked the death of his art. The chaos after the cultural revolution in China created a governmental barrier to everything revolutionary concerning traditional arts, now seen as intangible relics from the past, and few have been allowed access to the processes of renewal and change.
(5) With the arrival of communism, Mei Lanfang dedicated himself to promoting Chinese Opera education, yet he became a sort of living museum; he wasn’t admired for his present work but for his past, and as he was losing his technical ability he gained in the creation of his own myth. Seeing him acting in those videos where he was 60 years old is, from my point of view, deplorable, given how great he was in his youth and middle age. Most of the actors that performed his roles had to retire before losing the abilities to remain great in the memories of the spectators.
(6) This is a reason for not one, but many posts.
(7) One of the characteristics of most of the Chinese stagings of his theatre is technical coldness; as Westerners we look for emotional energy, for which we have prepared for years as spectators as well as creators. The Chinese, knowing little of this kind of work, confuse it with the emotional demands of "melodrama" and imitate it till death. We see their theatre as cold, they see ours as an explosion of cheap emotions. Tamasaburo, I believe, creates or discovers a middle ground where voice, body and gesture techniques from Oriental tradition have their place next to the requirements from Western interior projection. It is the “soul” that only a few achieve in their performance, Zeami made it look as the most precious of achievements, a professional peak to become a divinity on the Japanese stage. It’s obvious that Tamasaburo is not a Western actor and neither has he been trained in a Western school to achieve that but, as we can find physical principles for a theatre work, I strongly believe that there are internal principles (psychological, mental, emotional principles) that can be practiced the same as physical principles.
(8) The euphoria came mostly from the Japanese spectators, which filled half the theatre. The Chinese spectators, though happy, we’re more reserved. Tamasaburo has been praised in the Chinese press and by famous artists of this genre, but the qualifiers have not been excessive nor effusive, but rather reasoned and respectful.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Photographs from the Antonio González Caballero's Nacional Homage (2008)

I've just received some pictures from the homage which started this May 12th, 2008:

During the opening ceremony, the re-unveiling of "La Cosecha", mural painted by Antonio González Caballero:

Homenaje Naciona a Antonio González Caballero (2008)

The same day at Teatro Hidalgo, the cast of "La Maraña":

Elenco de "La Maraña"

Some picture of the special course about González Caballero's Acting Method (as part of homage events):

Clase muestra del método de A. González Caballero

Clase muestra del método de A. González Caballero

Clase muestra del método de A. González Caballero

Friday, May 16, 2008

Street Theatre in Today China ( Part 2): Old days and Performance Art

Note: this is the Part 2 of the post I published on the 3/31/08, Street Theatre in Today China (part 1).

Acrobatics and Street Theatre in 1927 Shanghai

I invite you to observe some spectacles offered on Shanghai streets in 1927. Thanks to the preservation of a German documentary made specifically to show Shanghai’s common daily life in 1927, we can observe scenes of street comic theatre 二贵摔绞 (ergui shuaijiao), acrobatics and martial arts (all of which have been linked to each other throughout the history of Chinese spectacle), and we can also experience one kind of Chinese Opera performed in the open air. We can not forget that Chinese Opera had two lines of performance, one thought for interiors (Tea houses, saloons, theatres and palaces) and another one for exterior spaces (streets, fairs, temporary stages and squares).

These scenes are an example of the life Chinese streets had in last Century’s 1920’s, life completely lost now except on those exceptional moments the government allows.

Shanghai Street Theatre. Ergui shuaijiao. (1927)

Acrobatic Spectacle in Shanghai (1927)

Martial Arts spectacle in Shanghai (1927)

Martial Arts Spectacle in Shanghai (1927)

It is said that a big part of the evolution of Peking Opera (Beijing Opera) during the 19th Century was as open air events; some characteristics of its music, movements and stories had much to do with the requirements of performing on open air stages: attracting the public’s attention in the midst of a multitude during special events. This kind of Chinese opera doesn't exist anymore, at least in important Chinese cities where, today, Chinese Opera is a cultural institution performed always in enclosed spaces, full of depth, elegance, and only accessible to the initiated.

The Street Spectacle in China doesn't have a dramatic structure, it is generally a series of isolated acts of singing, acrobatics or dance. So far (April 2008) I have never seen any street spectacle based on any dramatic structure as (we recognize it) outside China, besides some Chinese Opera special performances in the open air.

Mass events (even those organized by the government or by television producers) are strictly controlled, yet offer an example of one aspect of street theatre evolution. Groups and theatre companies, which had been isolated or independent in the past, have been extinguished and absorbed by cultural institutions and big entertainment enterprises; now, they are part of immense choreographies where multitudes of dancers, actors or martial artists participate. Choreographies where 1000 taijiquan practitioners show their skills on television, where hundreds of children dressed like Shaolin monks perform some amazing routines, or where Chinese ballerinas in a river of movements accompany a famous singer (or just being part of a touristic experience at some important sight).

Street acts with political character are non-existent, and I'm sure the reason for their non-existence is the risk everyone in China could run by trying to produce anything outside the law.

Dashanzi 798

Spectacles have become a "Performance Art"; this artistic manifestation, a cousin of theatre and visual art, has given Beijing a singular way of expressing feelings or some ideas not dangerous to Chinese law views. There is only one place allowed to do "Performance Art", the Cultural Center Complex of Dashanzi 798, the main venue dedicated to Avant-guard culture in China.

A huge space with some useless communist factories (some of them still working), it has been converted into the new Chinese Soho. Dozens of galleries, handcrafts shops, cafés, restaurants and two or three special spaces have become the point of reference in the new artistic wave of the powerful economic China. The special characteristics of those former factory spaces, their squares and alleys, give place to creative events which try to give them new life and try to transform them.

Performance Festival in Dashanzi 798:

In Dashanzi we don't see street theatre, instead we see "performance art events"; there is no dramatic structure but they do keep some aspects of similar street artistic manifestations from the 1960’s, "the happening": improvisation, the idea of a unique act (every performance is different because of many factors, including the public and space), and of course an artistic conceptuality.

Performance Art has become the most serious way of constructing a street spectacle in a Chinese city, even though we are not strictly speaking of a theatrical manifestation. More linked to Visual Arts (painting, sculpture and video) than to Stage Theatre these, they border on it; as a postmodern way of expressing artistic ideas, it shares public and surprise with happenings from the 1960’s, but it doesn't care about dramatic structure, characters or stories. Doing performance art doesn't mean doing theatre. The Gao Brothers are one of the best examples of visual artists doing "performance art" without any knowledge of theatre (or at least it seems to me so); their importance lies in their powerful way of reaching their public with out-of-normal acts or through contexts different from which those acts are usually seen. Aside from some famous Chinese names, most of these performances are created jointly with foreign artists.

Ameret performance in Dashanzi:

Even though we can say that Performance Art is the new choice which substitutes street theatre (if that is possible), it also faces a big challenge. Performance art in China reached its peak between the 1990’s and 2000, and little by little it has become less strong and powerful (1). Since 2005 the number of new style "rebel events" has decreased, and only some not very publicized festivals have had place. No more explosions of fire along the Great Wall or people hanging for hours from their own sculpture as we can saw some years ago. Dashanzi has then become a refuge of all of them.


Streets are fascinating for the scene creator, they are a space where theatre goes to the scenography, where life is surprised by the fictitious act of the theatre. The Chinese government fears it because of its surprising and liberating way of reaching spectators, and it has been looking to at least control it (if not repress it), almost to its extinction. But hope for its permanence lies in all those experiences of Chinese street spectacle from the past, in the essence of it, in imagination as creator; street spectacle opens our imagination where we don't expect it and that shows us another way of getting our priceless freedom.

(1) Only as a point of reference for the reader, this is what Wikipedia says about Performance Art in China: "Performance art in China has been growing since the 1970s as a response to the very traditional nature of Chinese state-run art schools. It is becoming more and more popular in spite of the fact that it is currently outlawed. In 1999 the importance of contemporary ChineseChinese artists in the Venice Biennale. In recent years many of these artists have made performances specifically for photography or film. Interest in Chinese art has never been higher. art was recognized by the inclusion of 19 contemporary.

Some of the more extreme examples of Chinese performance art have become notorious in the West. In 2000, Zhu Yu, a painter and performance artist from Cheng Du, created a scandal by taking a number of photographs of himself, supposedly, eating a foetus as a protest against state abortions as a means of population control. Peng Yu and Sun Yuan have also worked with human body parts as well as with live animals and are equally notorious. Some younger performance artists who have exhibited widely in the west in 2005-6 are Shu Yang organiser of the Dadao performance art festival in Beijing, Yang Zhichao, famous for having his identity card number branded on his back and Wang Chuyu who went on hunger strike as part of an exhibition called Fuck Off that took place in Shanghai in 2000 in opposition to the Shanghai Biennale.

They acknowledge a debt to older performance artist/ curator Ai Weiwei. Other well known artist are Ma Luming and Zhu Ming.

The 1996 film Frozen (Chinese title: Jidu Hanleng; 极度寒冷) by Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai, made under the pseudonym Wu Ming, has as its protagonists a group of Chinese performance artists, who are shown engaging in several street performances in the film."

Monday, May 12, 2008

"La Maraña". Esferica Ludens is back.

I started my Esferica Ludens project almost 10 years ago, but I stopped it when I decided to exile myself from my mother country. You can find in this Blog many posts about my work during my Esférica Ludens's years in Mexico City, between 1998 to 2003. (1)

The small group of collaborators I left in Mexico have kept contact with me all these years long and sometimes they have asked me for some kind of advice in their new scenic ideas but this time it has been different, they were preparing a new stage production for Antonio González Caballero's National Homage, a text written by González Caballero, "La Maraña". They wanted to use the name of our company, Esférica Ludens, and of course I said yes.

Esferica Ludens is back to life this 2008, this time with Francisco Camacho (Paco) as a stage director; acting: Marisol Solorio, Javier de la Vega, Guadalupe Durón (from Esférica Ludens), Tomas Esperanza, Humberto Castro and Patricio Castillo (as invited players). El Foro La Gruta, a venue for experimental theatre in Mexico City, is the place and Saturday, May 17th is the day. (3)

So, yesterday I received the invitation to La Maraña's premier, and I'm very happy and proud of it. It impossible to be there but my heart and mind will be.

My best wishes to all of them, my old and good friends.

(1) Esférica Ludens's productions in this Blog: Letanía (1998), Tríptico teléfónico (1999), Inhalaciones (2000), Oscuridad (2002-2003).
(2) There are two other actors but I don't know his names, sorry.
(3) I've been said that the first perfomance will be this May 15th during the opening day of González Caballero's Homage at Foro el Foco.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The re-unveiling of "La Cosecha". González Caballero's National Homage

I've just received an invitation to the re-unveiling of the mural "La Cosecha" by Antonio González Caballero, donated by himslef to Hidalgo Theatre in Mexico City many years ago. This re-unveiling is part of the master's death commemoration and also the starting event of his National Homage.

Some memories come to me and I pleased with it.

I remember how 20 years ago (more or less) González Caballero restored the mural which was almost forgotten inside a big state cellar. Hidalgo Theatre administrators wanted to hold it on the wall theater's lobby, so the mural had to retake its brightness and González Caballero also wanted to repaint some parts of it.

During two or three Sundays and after our usual theatre laboratory session, I accompanied González Caballero to restore his painting; I saw how the mural was very damaged and how the master fixed every problem on it. After the work was finished, the painting had to be cleaned but some government employees were worried about how this could be done, then González Caballero brought one small plastic cube with colored water and told them there was a special substance inside the cube; after the employees went out assured with González's explanation, he told to me: "there is only water and soap; help me to clean this".

The painting was an interesting play of heavy figures and fluid movement, a mythic image which inevitably took me back to my first views of "The Spring" by Boticelli; it was possible to see how González Caballero mixed Classic structure with Mexican flavor bringing a beautiful and powerful stamp of life to my eyes.

Now, 20 years later the re-unveiling of this painting brings its creator back to live, a good starting point for this important national homage.

You can see the poster here, all the events are there including my participation with two lectures about González Caballero's acting method (see, lectures that will be read by my Esferica Ludens's colleagues.

My congratulations to Wilfrido Momox and every one of the organizers and participants in this homage to Antonio González Caballero.

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