Teatro La Máscara: Twenty-Eight Years of Invisibilized Theater

Marlene Ramirez-Cancio

PhD Candidate, Comparative Literature, Stanford University


Whenever Latin American theater is mentioned--especially the Nuevo Teatro Popular and the practice of "collective creation"--the names of two Colombian theater companies tend to follow: Teatro La Candelaria and Teatro Experimental de Cali (TEC). The artistic directors of these groups, Santiago García and Enrique Buenaventura, have impacted theater on an international level, being renowned for their ground-breaking, politically committed dramaturgy which flourished in the 1960s and 70s. What we rarely hear about, however, are the Colombian women that have always worked alongside them. In this paper I will focus on Teatro La Máscara, a feminist all-women ensemble from Cali that is now celebrating twenty-eight years of artistic endeavors. Despite their longevity and their close ties to the TEC, this women's collective is practically unknown. Based on a series of interviews I conducted with La Máscara's director Lucy Bolaños and with longtime member Pilar Restrepo, as well as a look at their latest play "Los Perfiles de la espera," I will explore the various sets of obstacles and resistances that this political group must confront. For over fifty years, Colombia has been in a state of political crisis, torn by ever-escalating violence, caught in the "triple crossfire" of the guerrilla forces, the paramilitary, and the army. Contrary to the situation in countries such as Argentina during the dictatorship, there is no attempt to cover up this violence: the words "violencia", "secuestro," and "crisis" appear in almost every newspaper article, every radio show, and even many advertisements. Bombarded by this excess in the media, people in Colombia are suffering, I suggest, not from the "compassion fatigue" so often heard about in the States, but from a kind of "crisis fatigue" that affects the entire nation. The last thing audiences want to see when they go to the theater is violence --again. In discussing Colombia's situation, I open up a discussion about the current challenges facing political theaters' investigation of violence, especially for theaters like La Máscara, whose challenges are multiplied by their unwavering commitment to feminism.