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In the digital world with its millions of cheap copies, theatrical performance has become—or has gone back to being—a pricey thing. When we are entertained by live human beings rather than by projected reproductions or digital streams, the budget is inevitably much higher. And so a  ticket to the theatre tends to become a luxury good, a symbol of prestige: by purchasing a ticket, one buys the expensive labor of artists with unusual talents, and by attending a performance one surrounds oneself with other people with the same financial capacity; just by being there we show each other our good taste. Now this is a general tendency, not an absolute rule, but it is the unfortunate niche in which theatre usually takes refuge when it finds itself in competition with viral videos.  Nonetheless, there are exceptions--not all theatre accepts its role as a consumer product in the free market.

One very large group of exceptions could be found at Festa, Festival de Teatro Alternativo en Bogotá, which ran from March 12 to 27. The plays in this festival are not high-priced consumer products, and not only because the tickets are cheap: these plays may in fact be the opposite of status symbols. To attend one of these plays (after waiting for a long time in the long queue that grows each night organically and politely, snaking through the patios of the old colonial houses that serve as waiting rooms for black-box theatres of La Candelaria) isn't an opportunity to show your ability to buy the work of others. It's an opportunity, instead, to share: the audience shares its attention and its willingness to learn and imagine; the theatre artists share their talents and their investigations into something that is important in the world.


I saw nine plays at Festa this March, and all were original, creative and well attended. Packed, in fact, (tetiado, as they say in Colombia, lleno hasta las tetas.) Two plays stand out as conversations between the artists and audience about something important. These plays, which I saw during one long weekend, took me on a journey from political violence to intimate conflict, from the need to remember to the possibility of resolution.

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