photo: Julio Pantoja
Paola Hernández | University of Wisconsin-Madison
The last essay . Collective creation by the Yuyachkani Cultural Group. León de Greiff Auditorium, National University of Colombia, Bogotá. In the framework of the seventh meeting of the Hemispheric Institute that took place in Bogotá, Colombia, Yuyachkani's last essay was one of the initiators of the varied and rich nightly repertoire. The Yuyachkani group managed to problematize the various aspects of the construction of local, international and transnational citizenships by means of a reconceptualization of the famous figure of " the Peruvian singer Yma Súmac. Directed by Miguel Rubio Zapata and based on the texts of Peter Elmore, this collective work brought together participants: Augusto Casafranca, Amiel Cayo, Ana Correa, Débora Correa, Rebeca Ralli, Teresa Ralli and Julian Vargas.
photo: Marlène Ramírez-Cancio
The theatrical stage becomes a hybrid space where images of 20th century world reality come through a large screen of cinema (with sound to old projector) from which a variety of real events are provided, and either through photos of political figures such as Bush, Chávez, Castro, Pinochet, Allende and several other presidents in taking command, or simply with warlike images from different parts of the world. Thanks to a kind of game, the spaces of the theater and the cinema face each other to impose their presence in this work.
Thus, the cinema screen has a ubiquitous function that manifests itself as the big window of the history of both Peru and the world. Through their images, the abandoned cinema takes on a presence and authority, often paralyzing the actors of the theater, turning them into passive spectators, who read the texts and images of the other characters that inhabit the screen. Through her, Mariátegui's quotes such as "History is a Nightmare I Can not Awaken" (which reflects the same words of James Joyce) frame the theme of the work, formulating from the beginning that the past contains a mixture of nostalgic horror through which fragments of the violent history of the world pass.
photo: Marlene Ramirez Cancio
Photo: Marlene Ramirez-Cancio
The homage is evident when the supposedly true Yma Súmac, already entered in years, arrives on stage in a wheelchair guided by different actors wearing masks of skeletons, on a long red carpet. The images of old age and death merge into a dance between the skeletons and the old woman prostrate in her chair. As if the theater were confronted with the images of the cinema screen, the actress in the role of the old diva reanimated theatricality through her live presence, emphasizing, once again, the gap between the aurality of the theater and the images locked in the cinema. But at the same time, a theatrical fragility is perceived in which death surrounds it, while the images of the cinema will remain intact for future generations. With frequent musical intervals where a public and ritual act is imitated with hymns disarmed in dissonant music, the old lady receives a medal, sings like a bird for a few seconds to quickly thank in English the prize that is translated into Quechua by the actress "diva" stop by your side. Inside a cage, the "diva" finally sings like soprano with several images of the Peruvian nature, emphasizing once again the parody function of its figure and its international reception. The perennial death of the diva, then, gives rise to the new versions of her image that will be carried through the cinema, emphasizing its commercialized Inca flavor.
Paola Hernández is an Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her field of research is Latin American theater and performance, with emphasis on issues of identity, memory, trauma, and nation building. She is the author of The theater of Argentina and Chile: globalization, resistance and disenchantment (Corregidor, 2009). She has also published articles on Spanish American and Brazilian theater in Latin American Theater Review, Gestures, and Symposium among other journals. Her current work focuses on documentary theater of the twenty-first century in Latin America.