While the neon lights of Corrientes may seem inviting, there is a whole other scene in town to be discovered, one without billboards and big names. Alternative theatre in the capital is hotter than ever, with avant-garde plays and actors displaying their work in original spaces.It is a space for experimentation, education and growth for the future entertainers, something that creates an interesting mix of displays sometimes too abstract to be understood, so raw and extreme and on the verge or appropriate.
It is said Buenos Aires has enough shows to entertain its spectators through a whole year, non-stop. Avenida Corrientes is the Broadway of Argentina, and at one point even put on more shows in a weekend than New York.
The origin of independent theatre
Alternative theatre is also known as ‘off’ or ‘underground’ theatre. Here in Argentina the movement was labelled ‘independent’ at first and the first wave of such theatres emerged as early as the 1930s, known as Teatro del Pueblo, the people’s theatre.
Carlos Fos, an investigator and historian from Teatro San Martín, explains how independent theatres served a purpose the popular theatres couldn’t fill. How the spaces became more educational, and it was not just about entertaining, but about conveying a message.
“The independent theatre has an aesthetic difference from bigger productions,” says Fos. “Theatre evolved naturally with the emergence of a new sort of spectators and new poets and became the new language of theatre.”
Although this era of independent theatre historically ended in the 1970s, the interest and fascination has continued, re-emerging as the alternative theatre we know today.
Ring the doorbell
“This type of theatre is very new for a lot of people, and I believe it has become a positive space of experimentation for young actors and dancers,” says Francisco Donovan, poet and actor in the play ‘Familiar – traces of a tragedy’. He explains that he sees alternative theatre as breaking the rules, creating a rupture. “I believe it is often socially critical, also an opposition to the elitist and intellectual circle we see in regular theatre these days.”
An interesting aspect of the alternative theatre scene is the election of spaces to display the different shows. It ranges between everything from cultural centres, cafés, bookstores, subte stations, bars or private houses, where ‘Familiar’ is displayed. The play is acted out as the spectators are taken around the house, to the kitchen, bathroom and living room.
“The creation of the space and scene is important for a play, as it is a part of the narration,” explains Donovan. “I don’t think ‘Familiar’ could be acted out in any other place, the house is the perfect setting.”
“Alternative theatre gives and artistic liberty,” says Ulrico Eguizábal, actor in the play ‘Pathos, a search for lost emotions’, a play of a different genre, called dance-theatre.
Eguizábal started off studying law, but switched career after having taken dance lessons, a form of expression that came more natural to him than diving into books. “I am interested in composition and choreography of dance and theatre, and my dream is ultimately to do my own play: a monologue,” he reveals.
But both Donovan and Eguizábal explain that there is little money in alternative theatre, and that it is seen almost more as a part of the educational process than a life-long career.
“I need to get actual experience and not just take classes,” Eguizábal explains. “So I have to get out there and dance and act, but none of the stuff that I am doing really pays anything, and without payment it is hard to get everything to go around.”
He explains that for a play, it is all about publicity and audience. “I actually believe ‘Pathos’ has the potential to go big and more commercial, that it has the right elements and that we can end it big on Corrientes.”
“Even though there is a conflict of interest between the small productions and the commercial Corrientes, I’d love to go big,” reveals Donovan. “The big productions are seen as more serious and more professional in the end. And there is more money.”
Fos, however, believes thatindependent theatres will never have the same success as the bigger theatres, ‘but will still serve a great cultural purpose’.
“I believe theatre is a great way of communicating,” says Donovan. “The physical association with the public is the best way of communicating something. When musicians leave their legacy through music, we as writers and actors we leave our footprints in words.”
www.alternativateatral.com has a wide range of some of the alternative performances out there, here’s a quick breakdown on the main alternative theatre venues out there:
Where to go:
El Porton de Sanchez: Sanchez de Bustamante 1034
Espacio cultural Pata de Ganso: Zelaya 3122
Centro Cultural Rojas: Corrientes 2038
El Camarin de las Musas: Mario Bravo 960
Patio de Actores: Lerma 568
Puerta Roja: Lavalle 3636
Andamio 90: Paraná 660
El Piso: Hidalgo 878