El año que nací: living stories bare Chile’s soul and bond us Sep 22, 2013

by Rosa Singer

Darkness.  The spotlight was on a solo guitar player.  The first measures of his singular, electric guitar filled the space and washed over the room.  The hair on my arms stood up.  A stirring and collective lift occurred as the reverberating and forward moving tones, reminiscent of Gustavo Santaolalla’s score in The Motorcycle Diaries, drew us into the present scene together, and summoned us to transition as participants and travelers on the potent journeys presented in El año que nací (The Year I Was Born).

Lola Arias, the actors and the artistic team brought to center stage unique, personal and living stories that were re-enacted and woven together.  They thus allowing the audience to access a deep understanding of the very human, complex and diverse experiences present in the common, historical period of Agosto Pinochet’s dictatorship in Chile.

There was an ephemeral but echoing quality to each intensely, personal story and the political plates they were served on.  Often I felt as if I was sitting around a campfire confessional where cold and harsh air nipped at my hands, nose and toes (the dictatorship) and flames danced to bare light at different angles on the faces of my companions (the cast) and the beauty they were bringing forth.  The play had gathered us under a vast, night sky of imagination and the intimacy and warmth of a united fire to be free.  Thus a space broad enough was created to hold even the most painful or gruesome reality, and the characters purged truths from inner cloisters.

The digging up of the past and the brave pronunciations of these truths, bared Chile’s soul. The vulnerability, danger and exposure, infused with heart, creative set design and often humor, irony and debate, carried the experience into the audience’s collective consciousness.  Yet it was as if even the heaviest moments were transformed by the awesome awareness that the Chilean cast had stepped into their own generational power.  They were shining a light into the dark corners of their parents’ experiences during the dictatorship and honoring it, but by speaking and re-enacting it, they also diffused the authority of the past and refused to be governed by it.

El año que nací not only summons us to stare down and unpack the military rule of Chile over 17 years and its atrocities, but it also calls us to crack open wounds or experiences that deserve recognition and remembrance. It illustrates what the arts, and particularly theater, can do to bring forth living stories that connect, begin to liberate and claim collective healing.

Un fuerte aplauso para Lola Arias, los actores y todo el equipo.