After 45 years in operation, Bogota’s La Candelaria Theater, Colombia’s first independent theater, continues to have a profound impact on art initiatives around the country, while always maintaining a focus on invention and innovation.
La Candelaria, the independent, experimental theater founded by a community of artists in 1966 in the capital city’s neighborhood of the same name, has served as an important influence in cultural and artistic development among Colombia’s young, alternative crowd since its founding.
Director Santiago Garcia Pinzon, who has been with the La Candelaria theater group since its founding on June 6, 1966, spoke with Colombia Reports on Wednesday, saying that since its foundation, the theater members consistently have presented, supported and participated in art projects not only from the theater’s physical location in Bogota, but also in cities throughout the country.
Garcia Pinzon said that the key objective of the La Candelaria members is to create original, modern art — to invent — by always “performing new works, searching for new elements and influences” to inject into the performances and interchanging material with other theater groups and artistic communities in the country.
The director called the act of invention “fundamental” to experimental theater, and added that the act of exchanging ideas with other groups “is like the life blood of artistic creation.” He said that these alliances also provide a greater deal of strength to the alternative theater movement, “which is an ideology,” and allow them to avoid problems being presented over time by aggression from groups that haven’t wanted to see the development of experimental theater unfold.
According to the director, all of the works presented incorporate political, social or cultural themes relevant to the situation in Colombia at the time. Although in its early years the theater group presented some fresh material from up-and-coming artists in and out of the country, for the last 10 years or so, members have written all of their own material, while continuing to draw influences from avant-garde theater in the U.S, France, Argentina and other countries where the movement has taken hold.
With 13 actors, many of whom have been with the theater since its initiation, the theater functions nearly year round, bringing fresh, experimental material to Bogota residents, and allying with artistic projects around the country through the Colombian Theatrical Corporation, which includes over 35 groups who exchange material and experiences.
Garcia Pinzon said that the young public is “very important” to the theater’s continued success over the years, providing a support base and a crowd to reach out to through workshops, classes and art circles in Bogota and other parts of the country. Young artists are also invited to present their material at La Candelaria, whose program is not limited to plays, but also includes dance, music and visual art displays.
Bogota, and Colombia more generally, have undergone great changes since the theater’s foundation, but, according to the director, the belief of theater members has always remained that “invention is fundamental” to the “artistic objective,” a stance that they have continued to demonstrate over the years in their work.
For further history of the La Candelaria Theater and information on artistic works produced by the director and the rest of the members, visit the theater’s website.