Theatre in Wales

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The Magdalena Project     

This month Chapter is hosting an artists’ residency project focusing on contemporary intercultural arts practice in Latin America and Wales - LATINOAMERICA. The residency is lead by the Andrea Servera Dance Company who were here last year with their vibrant show Planicie Banderita. Over three weeks Andrea Servera will work with a group of 15 artists from Wales and elsewhere to consider how a Latin American experience can inform and develop an innovative intercultural art practice within a local and international context in the UK.

Guest practitioners from Wales include Fernanda Amerel of Patuá Dance, who on 13 Jan will present a Carnival Night of storytelling, music and dance. Also Jill Greenhalgh, founder and Artistic Director of The Magdalena Project. There will be a work-in-progress performance by the residency on Saturday 22 Jan.

Tonight Jill Greenhalgh gave an account of her organisation’s history and its current dynamic practice in Latin America. Here was a woman clearly and passionately committed to the continuing development of women’s theatre throughout the world. There has always been a particular focus on Latin America where many female performers have to work in defiance of the pervading and repressive nature of the society that surrounds them. She presented a very graphic picture of a beautiful longhaired dark eyed young performer whose work was very much, her stand against her country’s chauvinist regime and where other young girls like her are regularly abducted into the sex trade.

She is typical of many individual and groups of performers in Latin America. How they survive is a bit of a mystery and most of the time their performance space is their own home. The determination and will to perform under such circumstances must command the greatest deal of respect and admiration.

It is this strong mutual support network that has always been at the core of the Magdalena Project and with its philosophy of respect and understanding for each other’s work is an ideal that practitioners in Wales would, sadly, find impossible to follow.

The project was started in Cardiff in 1986. The birth of the project brought 38 professional women theatrical practitioners from 15 different countries to Cardiff for three weeks. Magdalena 86 was the first International Festival of Women in Contemporary Theatre. Between 1986 and 1999 hundreds of women theatre artists from five continents were invited to promote and share their performances and working methods.

Despite the sudden withdrawal of the project’s Arts Council grant in 1999 the enterprise continues to grow and flourish. There have been Magdalena festivals in New Zealand, Bogota. Australia, Buenos Aires, Denmark and Norway and more are planned in Cuba, here in Wales, the USA, Spain, Singapore, Puerto Rico and Brazil.

Jill Greenhalgh is now based in Aberystwyth, the organisation functions with its web site, www.themagdalenaproject as a virtual office from where it continues “providing a platform for women’s performance work, a forum for critical discussion, and a source of support, inspiration and performance training. It functions as a nexus for diverse companies, individual artists and scholars whose common interest lies a commitment to ensure the visibility of women’s endeavour in the field of performance.”

Chapter rounds off its LATINOAMERICA season on March 10 &11 with a visit from the Costa Rican dance company Diquis Tiquis giving, again, another sole female performance by Sandra Trejos of Twilight Eye, a visit to a world of surreal dreams.
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Michael Kelligan
Saturday, January 08, 2005back

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