Artzénico Theater Company: La Insistencia del Silencio

By Greg Haynes

The theater scene in Xela this year has been dominated by a cell of artistic revolutionaries operating under the code name Artzénico. These underground subversives tackle complex social and political issues that mainstream media, comfortably in bed with the entrenched political establishment, will never touch. The genius of this theater group is that they make you laugh while they address some of the most painful aspects of repressive campaigns directed against political dissidents. Until you understand something about this dirty underside of Latin American politics, you’re still just another gringo living in a sheltered dream world. Artzénico makes you get real, but in such a way that reveals the terrible and ridiculous absurdity underlying the system.

But be forewarned. If your poetic and dramatic preferences run toward the likes of Robert Frost or Judy Garland, then you may not enjoy the latest creation by Artzénico. In that oh-so-simple land of Oz, evil is always vanquished before it can cause any real harm, and the most serious moral dilemma faced by Frost’s character is whether to stop and admire the stars on a snowy evening or to hurry home and finish the chores before it gets too late. The truth however, is that here in the third world the big boys play hardball. Saying the wrong thing at the wrong time could earn you a one-way ticket to some Guantanamo where you will be interrogated by people who don’t feel your pain in the slightest. On the contrary.

The latest drama by Artzénico, entitled “la insistencia del silencio,” addresses the moral and physical annihilation that awaits the agents (in addition to the victims) of political repression. In a conspiracy of silence that surrounds this practice, victim, perpetrator, and a public that prefers not to notice, all share a tacit agreement to pretend nothing is happening, and so the disappearances continue. A literary precedent for this theme can be found in the short stories of Uruguayan author Mario Benedetti, who every Spanish student should read. Like Benedetti, Artzénico is sounding a wake up call at a time when the world is slipping backward into the abyss. Sit up and take notice before they come knocking at your door.

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