My chat with Lola Arias Sep 17, 2013

by Monique

By Nilki Benitez

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak to Lola Arias, Argentine writer and director of El Año En Que Nací (The Year I Was Born). We spoke on the phone and discussed her current works, her beliefs and how she puts her spectacular performance pieces together.

Arias had recently arrived to Portland from Germany where she had staged a documentary performance piece with street workers. The piece examines the theatrics involved in surviving and making a living in this harsh environment. Different from traditional documentary theatre, Arias believes using a cast consisting of nonactors -the people who actually experience this reality - adds a different dimension to story-telling that cannot be achieved by using traditional actors. She believes no matter how good a job the actor does, we admire the actor for doing such a fine job. We cannot completely suspend the reality that the speaker before us is an actor. Listening to a nonactor tell their real story is a different experience.

This is the same method Arias uses for El Año En Que Nací (The Year I Was Born) which will be playing at On the Boards September 19 - 22 as part of her company's first U.S. tour. El Año En Que Nací was born from the workshop of a previous piece, My Life After. My Life After consists of six Argentinian actors and nonactors reconstructing their parent's lives through the use of their clothing and other personal articles. When the piece was workshopped in Chile, there was immediate interest to use the piece as a vehicle to examine Chilean's lives during Pinochet's regime.

Though the subject matter explores citizens' lives during a dictatorship, Arias warns theatre goers that if they come looking for a dark, melodramatic theatrical piece, El Año En Que Nací will not deliver. Instead, it is at times comedic, light-hearted and playful examination of how different people experienced this epoch in Chilean history. 

This being Arias first U.S. Tour with her own company, she is curious to see how the audience reaction will be in regards to a play entirely in the Spanish language with English subtitles. She believes European and Latin American audiences are far more experienced in experiencing theatre in many other languages than the U.S.