Imagine the story of “Don Quixote” told as a rock opera. Actually, don’t imagine it – just come see “Don Quijote de la Mancha,” a bold reimagining of the Cervantes classic by the stage company Argamasa (“Mortar” in English). The music-infused adaptation plays this week at the first-ever Embrujarte Theatre Festival in Escazú (not to be confused with the yearly EmbrujArte crafts festival, also held in Escazú).
Costa Rica is remarkably rich in theater, but small companies don’t often travel beyond their own humble communities. To showcase the wildly creative work of small and amateur thespians, the National Theater Company hosted a countrywide contest. The four winning companies now have a chance to perform their works at the Heart of Jesus High School and Bible Baptist Church. The three-day festival is free and open to the public, and all productions are considered family-friendly.
“For the National Theater Company, supporting the development of community theater represents a need to strengthen initiatives that [already] exist in the country,” said Gladys Alzate, director of the Culture Ministry, in a statement. “This new project is part of an institutional decentralization and relates to theater across the nation.”
The program includes “Manchas de Alma,” (“Soul Spots”), by Cartago’s Grupo Reflejos, “Nada de eso compra la felicidad,” (“None of that Buys Happiness”), by the Coronado troupe Amanía, and “Tiempos de Cambio,” (“Times of Change”), by Escazú company Los Despiertos. The latter production has an environmental theme and incorporates music, video, acrobatics and fire.
The festival was largely the brainchild of José Luis Solís, a founder of the Los Despiertos. (The company’s name translates as “The Awakened”).
“Since our theater group was founded in 2006, we have had the desire to do some kind of theatrical season,” said Solís in a statement. “After the [National Theater] contest, the winning groups decided to do a festival in Escazú. We proposed it to the municipality and there was an opening so that the festival could be added to the local cultural agenda.”
Organizers took some inspiration from similar festivals in Puntarenas and the Southern Zone, and they hope that Embrujarte becomes an annual event. Showing off pyrotechnics and a singing knight errant is probably a good start.
The Embrujarte Theatre Festival plays Nov. 14-17 in Escazú. Free. For more information, visit the Los Despiertos website at losdespiertoscostarica.blogspot.com.