The Festival, which runs from April 11-27 under the administration of the Mayor of Caracas, Jorge Rodriguez, has grown every year both in scope, talent, popularity, and horizons.
This year the Festival was organized around five types of activities: 239 theatrical performances in public theaters; 40 performances in public squares and avenues; 60 special events such as musical presentations, exhibits and tributes; 100 academic events; and 171 children’s events and 84 youth workshops.
The theater groups came from 22 of the 23 states of Venezuela. For the first time, 60 performances were given from community based artistic groups.
Apart from the strictly theatrical presentations, there were also expressions of dance, music, circus performances, puppetry, painting, acrobats, costume parades, workshops, art expositions, living statues, and storytelling. The Festival was also accompanied by 9 public sessions aimed at recuperating Venezuelan traditional children’s games, such as kite flying and the spinning top.
In the first 5 days of the Festival, a massive 50,000 people had entered the performances, and at the time of writing the total number attendances exceeded 70,000 with only a few days left of performances.
This year sees the incorporation of three new recuperated public theaters (Alameda, Bolivar, and La Vega), which add their names to the increasingly long list of public spaces rescued and rejuvenated by the Mayor of Caracas.
Emilio Quintero, who decided to visit the festival for the second year running, explained that “I think it is highly important that these activities are held in the city of Caracas, and it helps people to attend and see the recuperated spaces like the Bolivar Theater”.
Theatre for the people, violence for the opposition
As the middle class districts in the east of Caracas continue to build barricades and arm Molotov cocktails, the theater performances in the Festival were focused on promoting values of peace, coexistence, tolerance, and countering the violent, individualistic values which “are sold on traditional TV” explained one of the prime organizers of the Festival, director of the government in Caracas, Jaqueline Faria.
She went on to emphasize that the festival was being enjoyed in “health, peace, harmony, and joy”, and that “the theaters have been totally filled”.
The Festival, which closes with the world premiere of the latest work of Roman Chalbaud entitled ‘Bingo’, has famed itself for being highly accessible to citizens of all economic backgrounds, with entrance prices of $2.50, and the geographic use of the entire city to present the performances, which were previously restricted to the richer eastern districts of the Capital.
Numerous theaters in the poorer western Caracas districts have recently been recuperated and are in public use.
The Festival comes off the back of the International Book Festival of Caracas, and forms part of a year-round cultural program aimed at offering accessible, quality culture to the previously abandoned population of the city.