The fifth edition of Magdalena sin Fronteras (Magdalena Without Borders), the gathering of women of the scene, which took place in January in Santa Clara, in central Cuba, involved more than a hundred artists from fourteen countries in an intense exchange of theatricality, thought and coexistence. The theme this time was “Lives, groups, theater, reality.”

For those who do not know this event, it is the Cuban version of the Magdalena Project, created by Jill Greenhalgh and Julia Varley in Wales in 1986, an international network of women of contemporary theatre that facilitates critical discussion, support and training, and brings to light the professional activity of the creators. It brings together artists and individual thinkers and groups, and multiplies its presence in many countries, according to local needs, to consolidate a structure that transcends international borders and generations. Several produce regular events such as ours, founded in 2005 by the actress and theatre specialist Roxana Pineda, who programs shows, workshops, presentations of publications, audiovisuals and community meetings.

The event brought together the old masters – Patricia Ariza, Geddy Aniksdal and Cristina Castrillo – and new artists – like Silvia Kater and Margarita Espada – to expose their work and their life experiences, which together with nine workshops on different disciplines and techniques of the scene brilliantly complemented the fourteen shows on display.

Magdalena Without Borders privileges a fraternity that, without excluding the active participation of men, guarantees an area of expression for women creators of different disciplines of the scene and beyond. The singular magic of the event generates a sort of tacit agreement to defend a pleasant and fruitful environment of coexistence and permanent learning. Each assistant contributes and participates in a friendly atmosphere and, for about sixteen hours a day, shares varied activities so that leisure and routine never settle in.

Sheets of Paper Flying. Santa Clara, Cuba, 2017. Press photo

The soul of the party is Roxana Pineda, head of the team of collaborators. She takes care that the agenda is nourished and balanced without wasting any occasion to achieve the expected objectives. As she is above all, an actress, she also shows her work. She showed the mounting of the production from her new group, La Rosa Theater – Apócrifas or All of Us Are Maria, a one-actress play from Eylen de León; she was also on the stage acting in The Open Veins and Sheets of Paper Flying.

The Open Veins (Las Venas Abiertas). Performative Concert. Santa Clara, Cuba, 2017. Press photo

On the inaugural night, a concert performance of The Open Veins, also created and directed by Roxana Pineda, with musicians Alejandro Yera (clarinet, voice and direction assistance) and Juan Manuel Campos (piano, violin, voice, arrangements and music production), brought the attendees to a state of reflection and enjoyment, thanks to the sharp texts by Eduardo Galeano and the beautiful Latin American songbook, in an eloquent weaving-together.

Although The Open Veins was conceived in Santa Clara, it had its premiere in August of 2015 in Bogotá, as part of the 24th Festival of Women from the Scene for Peace. It was also presented at La Candelaria Theater, at the Jorge Eliécer Gaitán Municipal Theater, and at the Teatro Mayor Julio Mario Santo Domingo. The Veins also traveled to other Colombian cities and was staged in Havana at Theatrical May 2016, and finally in Ecuador at the 1st International Festival of Living Arts Loja 2016, and in the House of Ecuadorian Culture Benjamin Carrión.

This interdisciplinary production is beautiful and shocking, because it penetrates the path of the scene, music, and poetry, with intelligence and refined taste, affirming a revolutionary and emancipatory ideology. The Veins refutes those who think that exposing ideas such as dignity and anti-imperialism went out of style; it stages critical examination, with fine irony, as a relentless scalpel, or as an appeal to the conscience of the spectator. The texts of Galeano evoke human and social moments, exalting the actions of small and great heroes and heroines, reprimand schemas and demagogues, and reinstate the utopia necessary to building a better world, from everyday actions that exude greatness of spirit.

The brief texts, full of meaning, alternate with songs by composers ranging from Sindo Garay to Marta Valdés and Silvio Rodríguez; from Consuelo Velázquez to Violeta Parra and León Gieco.

The Open Veins (Las Venas Abiertas). Performative Concert. Santa Clara, Cuba, 2017. Press photo

I have been able to follow The Open Veins, and it seems remarkable how the creator and her accomplices know how to balance tones, generic affiliations, and states of tension. For example, “I remember Amanda” evokes the beauty of a love story in the Popular Unity Chile (La Unidad Popular) and the martyrdom of its creator, Victor Jara, in the first years of the fascist dictatorship of Pinochet. The skillful and smiling chords of Duerme Negrita (Sleep, little black girl), of the great Bola de Nieve, follow the opening of a sparkling collection of anecdotes from Victor Jara, gathered by Galeano.

We also appreciate another jewel that Rosanna Pineda composed in 2013, her solo work, Sheets of Paper Flying, a scenic recreation of the homonymous poemario of the Colombian “teatrera” Patricia Ariza. Roxana composes a dramaturgy from the material contained in the volume, and makes flesh of Patricia’s metaphors on the scene. In this way, she pays homage to the artist who is also a feminist activist and a peace fighter. The show goes through a wide spectrum of sensations that outline Ariza’s personality. Fragments of poems of intimate bias speak of the erotic relationship with the man she loved, of personal tastes, and obsessions. Other poems are projected into the outside world, with the memory of exterminated friends. Between words and images, we see the very persecution that Patricia suffered, and the threats that made her lose her fear of death.

Translated by Lola Proaño Gómez

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.