An interview with Francisco Morales, Director of Open Space Theatre.
“Chile is amongst the 10 most unequal countries of the world in the distribution of wealth and that disparity is reflected in education and the arts.
Chilean Universities are the most expensive in the world. The market regulates access to education which not only reflects the social inequality but founds it.
State support for education and arts languishes.
There is no doubt that poor people have little or no access to the arts. Therefore we decided to direct our action to children living in poor areas, devising plays of a high technical standard to tackle concepts which though vital to live are not included in the formal school curricula—or are even politically displaced in Chilean life.
One of these concepts is participation. We put this idea in action stimulating children to take part in the stories we put on, before, during and after the show, being active participants opposed to passive spectators. The concept is later developed by teachers in the class room encouraging children to create fictional stories, progressing into the idea of creating stories about themselves, some 10, 15 or more years in the future. This generates the thinking that they are responsible for creating their own individual and collective stories in real life, mastering their destiny and not just leaving people in power to dictate them what to think or do. The project’s called ‘Once upon a time…children and their gift to create stories’.
Parallel or beyond the social side of our work we have been happy to hear the collection of recorded opinions we have of very poor kids who saw a play for the first time in their lives. They said ‘the story or the movement were beautiful’ or that they ‘could do imagination’, travel and see wonderful places when in actual fact there was nothing on stage but the actors playing and miming and children doing it with them. Or when they said the story was like families should be: ‘there was no fighting’.
This is why we carry on with this project, we believe in art and the wonderful sign that is in people’s lives, minds and hearts. We have put on several plays working on concepts like history, freedom, violence, (the collective creation of a city of the future with a non-violent structure to be exercised over its inhabitants). These plays have been enormously successful with children and teachers.
For obvious reasons we have never been able to get any subsidy from the state or successive governments as we work in an area which is not a worry for the establishment, we are not part of it and our very stand questions a model of development based on greediness, individualism. Inequality and gross merchandizing of art and creativity.
As we perform for audiences unable to pay a reasonably priced ticket our weakness lies on the economic side of our work. So much that we were forced to stop performing for a long while as we could not afford to carry on due to lack of money to pay ourselves.
We are starting again with a play called ‘A Healthy City’ which is about the consumption of fast and unhealthy food which has derived on a 26% of children under the age of ten suffering from obesity, high cholesterol and blood pressure and even diabetes. This has gone beyond the limits of a health problem becoming a social one.
We thank IPAT and all its supporters for helping us to continue our work.”