Escuela ratifies that Calderón is the most radical contemporary creator of our scene.
Copresented with the Chicago Humanities Festival
“Calderón is an authentic genius of the theater. In his short, hard, and passionate work . . . various themes come together in something you may not even like, but you can’t say you’ve heard or seen any of it before, which may make you want to hear and see it again.”
—The New Yorker
Escuela (School) dissects the conditions that drive ordinary citizens to take up arms. In the 1980s, during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, many left-wing Chilean university students underwent secret paramilitary training in people’s homes—in response to the ruthless and unyielding tactics of the Chilean police forces. In this play, writer and director Guillermo Calderón finds humor amid the terror by peering over a group of hooded youths meeting in a drab living room to receive homeschooling over several nights. Filled with funny, offbeat points of view as much as dogma, they clumsily learn crawling skills, the proper way to clean a rifle, and macroeconomics in their collective eagerness to overturn a regime. Only their clothes betray class difference. As much as the young feel deceived by one regime, so they may be by the democracy that follows.
Calderón was born in Chile’s capital, Santiago, at the height of Salvador Allende’s democratically elected left-wing Popular Unity alliance, and came of age under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet; his uncle was killed by Pinochet’s security police. He shared his thoughts about our age of political violence with The New York Times: “I grew up with that, and with something that I’ve put into my other works too, which is domestic life, life between four walls, in a context of violence. You’re eating at home, and the news is talking about all the horrible things that have happened, you can hear gunshots, they turn off the electricity, all these things. That contrast between the world outside and the domestic world is something I wanted to do here—shut-in but hearing the gunshots.” Escuela comes full circle to confront the dreams and aspirations that troubling activities in our age are made of. It is Calderón’s coda to Neva, his first play and a portrait of Anton Chekhov’s widow (the actress Olga Knipper) on the eve of the Russian Revolution, and Diciembre, his play about an imagined war with Peru some time in the future.
Performed in Spanish with English supertitles
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes with no intermission
This production includes loud gunshots using a prop.
Sun, Nov 8
Audience members are invited to stay at the end of the performance for a conversation with actors and playwright Guillermo Calderón, moderated by Peter Taub and Yolanda Cesta Cursach.
About the Artist
Guillermo Calderón started his first company, Teatro en el Blanco, in 2004 with Trinidad González and two other actors who met while studying at the University of Chile. After earning a bachelor’s degree in theater in 1993 he continued to study acting at the New School for Social Research in New York, the Dell-Arte School of Physical Theater in California, and the International School of Commedia in Italy. He also has a master’s in film studies from NYU. He is the screenwriter of Violeta Se Fue a los Cielos (Violeta Went to Heaven), the biopic about the singer-songwriter Violeta Parra; the film was subsequently nominated for Best Foreign-Language Film at the 2012 Oscars. Teatro en el Blanco disbanded in 2014 after 10 years of producing and touring across Europe and the United States with Neva, Diciembre, and Villa + Discurso, all written and directed by Calderón. His plays have been presented in more than 25 countries. In 2013 he directed the debut of the English translation and the American cast of Neva at New York’s Public Theater. Most recently, he directed his play, Kuss, which premiered in March 2014 at the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus.
Touring support is made possible in part by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile. Escuela is a coproduction of Fundación Teatro a Mil, Santiago, Chile (FITAM).