IdeaMe is an online platform, which helps creators, be they inventors, artists, or designers, among others, to finance their projects through crowd funding. Each week, the Indy features and promotes one project every week, with the aim of helping the creators finance and achieve their dreams. This week: Teatro Ciego.
Theatre is, without a doubt, a visual experience. While sound is not absent, the emphasis is laid on what you see. The audience looking in one direction, collectively watching on stage action. They watch actors’ movements and facial expressions, while cleverly placed lighting visually heightens tension, drama and emotion.
As such, ‘blind theatre’, in which the entire concept of visuality is removed from your theatre experience and replaced by absolute darkness, may seem like a bizarre idea.
Yet, El Teatro Ciego has been plunging theatre audiences into disconcerting darkness for the last ten years. With a wealth of experience, the group has established themselves as the only blind theatre group in the world, offering a highly unique and alternative theatrical experience.
This week’s IdeaMe project sees one of Buenos Aires’ most innovative theatre groups hoping to raise funds to put on their next play. This time round, the actors are presenting their own interpretation of the contemporary Argentine comic, Inodoro Pereyra, in total darkness.
Written by writer and cartoonist Roberto Fontanorrosa in 1976, the work follows the life of Inodoro Pereyra, a solitary gaucho. The character parodies traditional gaucho figures of Argentine literature, not least Argentina’s most famous gaucho, Martin Fierro. The use of incessantly repeated phrases and Pereyra’s bizarre characteristics allows the author to poke fun at accepted and tired notions of gaucho tradition.
In preparation, the group are studying the entire work, comprising of more than 20 chapters. Through a selection of the best and most important parts of the comic, the group are creating their own play, offering a unique interpretation of a popular story, well-known to many Argentines.
The idea for blind theatre originally arose in 1991, and El Teatro Ciego was born after founder Ricardo Sued became inspired by the Tibetan notion of “Zen”, seeking to create a unique theatrical experience, in which theatre-goers were rendered blind.
By placing audience members in the dark, El Teatro Ciego forces audience members to ‘see’ by using other senses.
Comparable to how the blind or partially sighted find alternative ways to visualise the world around them, members are encouraged to focus on hearing and feeling, as well as trusting and working with others in the audience in order to understand and ‘watch’ the plays being presented.
The theatre group then not only upturns theatrical norms, but also radically changes the notion of visuality: the emphasis is not laid on seeing things exactly how they are, but instead on visualising plays in an imaginative and personal way. As the group so aptly puts it: “The darkness excites the senses and works to destroy the preconceived notions of how we see things and replace it with them with how we imagine them.”
While the group is quick to note that “this is not a theatre of blind actors nor is it for the blind,” El Teatro Ciego also allows blind and partially sighted actors, as well as those with disabilities, to work in an environment that would usually present obstacles to them. One actress in the group, Julia Francisquez, says “theatre in the dark gave me the chance to work and prove what I’m capable of.”
The experience of theatre in the dark also aims at social inclusion, and to give members an understanding of what it is like to be blind, allowing them to discover how it is possible to see even when the physical ability to do so has been lost, partially or altogether.
While El Teatro Ciego remains the only blind theatre worldwide, the group needs help with funding, in order to uphold the highly innovative and unique theatrical experience offered equally to audience members as well as blind and partially sighted actors.
“We want to generate a deep impact with this show, we want to share it with a wider audience,” says Martin Bondone, director of the group. “We know that theatre in the dark is good for people, and it has a positive effect on the people that experience it.”