William Shakespeare may have written his collection of works in English, but for the next eight days, “Shakespeare is going to be porteño,” announced reporter and actress Cristina Pérez at the inauguration of the Buenos Aires Shakespeare Festival on Thursday.
This year’s festival, which opens today and runs until 28th February, was presented yesterday at the British ambassador’s residence in Recoleta. In partnership with the Buenos Aires Ministry of Culture, the British Embassy, and the British Council, director Patricio Orozco presented more than a week’s worth of theatre, film, readings, and activities throughout the city to celebrate, share, and enjoy Shakespeare in the city.
“We were attracted by the possibility of diversity that Shakespeare offers,” said Minister of Culture Hernan Lombardi at the festival’s inauguration. “Its connection to the present is what really draws people in. Shakespeare’s theatre is not elitist but rather speaks of us, the people.”
This accessibility makes it possible for all of Buenos Aires to enjoy the magic of The Bard, especially thanks to new offerings in all parts of the city. New this year are functions in Ciudad Oculta and Villa 20, in collaboration with the Romeo Foundation. These functions will allow for children who have been working in the educational programme ‘Shakespeare for all’ to have the opportunity to view theatrical productions of Shakespeare. Orozco comments that these programmes are critical because he believes that “talents are equally distributed throughout the world. We want to give them this opportunity to develop their talent”.
Two high points of the festival include co-founder of the English Shakespeare Company Michael Pennington’s reading of ‘Sweet William’ and Norma Aleandro’s reading of ‘Venus and Adonis’ in the Usina del Arte in La Boca. Although not mentioned in the programme, Aleandro’s reading will be accompanied by renaissance-era music by Malena Solda and Miguel de Olasso. Orozco notes, “this is the first time Aleandro reads Shakespeare.”
Throughout the festival, troupes from both Argentina and Uruguay will present works including ‘Hamlet’, ‘The Women of Shakespeare’, and ‘Oh! Celo’, a clown adaptation of Shakespeare’s classic ‘Othello’.
The events are not limited to theatre productions: screenings of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with Orlando Bloom, ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’, and Kevin Spacey’s production ‘Now. The Documentary’ will take place in the Paco Urondo Cultural Centre in downtown. Conferences and workshops include ‘In Dialogue with Michael Pennington’ on 26th February at the Centro Cultural de la Cooperación, and ‘Celebrating Shakespeare’ at IES Lenguas Vivas on 23rd February.
The festival proposes offerings for younger audiences as well, including ‘Romeo and Juliet, a Work in Progress’ and ‘How Tired I am this Midsummer Night’.
For those looking to bring their love for Shakespeare outdoors, the ‘Shakespearean Bicycle Ride’ on Sunday and ‘Shakespearean Walk’ the following Saturday will allow participants to read aloud works of Shakespeare whilst appreciating the city’s architecture and the beautiful late-summer weather on foot or by bicycle.
For the first time since the festival’s beginnings in 2011, “we will no longer be able to say that we are the only Shakespeare Festival in Latin America” comments Orozco. This year’s festival serves as a launchpad for the upcoming Uruguay Shakespeare Festival, due to be held from 3rd-7th March in Montevideo.
“The family continues to grow,” he says. On the topic of growing families, Orozco dedicates the festival to his newly born son, his “little Hamlet, who often contemplates the question to sleep, or not to sleep.”
All events are free and will take place in theatres and cultural centres across the city beginning tomorrow, Friday 20th February. All events will be in Spanish, with the exception of the film screenings and Michael Pennington’s reading of ‘Sweet William’, which will be read in English with Spanish subtitles.
Check the Festival’s Facebook page or website for a full list of events, and to reserve free tickets. And if all tickets are sold out? Despair not: often those without tickets are able to gain admission to events in a line outside the theatre, in the event that ticket holders do not show up.