starlady: Carl's house floating above the fields (always an adventure)
[personal profile] starlady
I got an email the other day (from the tour company I'd used for my daytrip to Machu Picchu, natch) reminding me that I was in Peru a year ago. There were many amazing things about that trip, Machu Picchu not least among them, but one thing that has stuck in my mind is the completely serendipitous and completely amazing trip I took to Teatro Yuyachkani (actually formally known as Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani) in Magdalena del Mar in Lima. As it turned out I had weeks before made a connection with the head of the Hemispheric Institute, which maintains a very well-curated archive of digital video of performances in Latin America, including many from Yuyachkani. Which is how I found myself piled in the back of a taxi with four other people including the head of the HASTAC network (we had a hell of a time getting taxi drivers willing to go to Magdalena del Mar from the Ministerio de la Cultura, and Yuyachkani actually held the show for us) driving across town to a performance which I had no idea what it was about beforehand. Sometimes when people in the know say "come on!" you just have to go along.

"Yuyachkani" is a Quechua word meaning "I'm thinking" or "I'm remembering," and based on putting things together online since that night I've come to understand that we were seeing a repertory performance of Con-cierto olvido, the group's 40th anniversary piece, more or less. My Spanish is crap and my Quechua is non-existent, and it didn't matter at all. Masks, instruments, and the human voice as well as their bodies and expressions got the point of most of the pieces and vignettes across perfectly. Yuyachkani is a populist theater group--they found their youngest member more or less in his village in the Andes during a performance/residency/workshop tour there, if I understand correctly--and in point of fact under the dictatorship they mostly went their separate ways in order to survive. So there was a lot about what is euphemistically referred to as "the internal conflict" and life under Fujimori, but there was also a lot of Brecht, Shakespeare, and more familiar experimental theater. It was, in a word, stunning.

I found a review of the show orginally published in Cultura on the Yuyachkani site, and it may help to convey what I'm trying to say (i.e. what I want to remember):

The result is immediate: an impeccable performance. Instruments that everyone plays constitute a melody of memories of past presentations. They treat each musical instrument as an extension of stage presence. The ritual on stage exploded by Edgard Guillén`s Peruvian theater, remains in force with the "yuyas". They have a well defined group culture, not only between the actors and the director, but they work at La Casa Yuyachkani. At Con-cierto olvido, mask work is impeccable: before, during and after use, are respected for their meaning to cultural tradition. Con-cierto olvido collected poems, songs and musical pieces that evoke texts by authors such as Edward Gordon Craig, Bertolt Brecht, Jorge Manrique, and the "yuyas" own plays. In this review of the memory of his service, the actors play different instruments like guitar, charango, mandolin, violin, saxophone, trumpet or clarinet. Great musicians and actors. Yuyachkani, which means "I'm thinking, I'm remembering", invites us to take a cultural tour and a tour of life we can not miss. This is one of the best theater groups in Peru and the world. True to form, seeking truth "not believing they are the owners of it" as they say. The play is over, but [I'm] still standing, clapping.

Of course, as fate would have it, Con-cierto olvido isn't in the Hemispheric Institute Digital Video Library. They do, however, have a YouTube channel, and you can get a taste of the mask work involved in the show (NB the actors changed into and out of costume on stage) from this talk show segment, filmed in 2011:

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