Forty years ago, on September 11th, the Presidential Palace in Santiago was attacked. The elected President of Chile was ousted by coup, replaced with a CIA backed sham democracy under the dictator Pinochet. The name is familiar to many, but few understand the story. I had read about it for the first time in the New York Times, just several days ago, on September 11th.
For Americans, it represents the beginning of a terrible war and the loss of many civil liberties, plus the beginning of spying programs resembling Big Brother. For Chileans, it was the beginning of an awful 20 years under the false reign of Pinochet. Amazingly, Pinochet was democratically defeated and so his corrupt constitution is still in place, despite various amendments and a regular turnover of Presidents since the 1990’s.
What does this have to do with T:BA or the arts? A theatrical rendering of the story, from the children of folks that were connected to that coup, either on the side of Pinochet or on the side of the resistance. Directed by Lola Arias, The Year I Was Born unfolds in pieces performed by these young descendents of history with a live musical soundtrack. With an electric guitarist setting the tone throughout a lively narrative, this two-hour performance keeps you in suspense.
The scenes are energetic, visual storytelling. A projector connected to a camcorder is used to provide live effects. Photographs and other historic documents are placed in frame while using things like transparent sheets to mark up the documents with zoom effects to help the viewer isolate the rapidly moving data. The technique is playful and charming, but more importantly it provides necessary evidence to support the story.
It really is not a controversial performance because it is nothing but fair. It seeks not to disrupt existing knowledge. It basically just runs through the lives of the parents of these kids—aged between 34 and 24 years old—whom may or may not have been conscious of what their folks were up to.
In fact, the truth as it is in this play has given Lola Arias political capital in Chile. Many politicians, even former Pinochet party members and pundits have attended it. She pointed this out in the post-show talk, moreover that she receives nothing but positive reviews and the work is healing wounds across the country. Solid.
I think this is a T:BA must-see and I am attending the translated read through right now. Literally.