In Latin America there is no theater industry

One week after the most important theater awards in the United States, I wonder: why is there no equivalent to the Tonys in any Latin American city?

In Latin America there is no theater industry

I have always liked the theater. From the buildings, with their comfortable chairs, their lights, and the big red curtain, to the scripts and costumes, the theater is one of the cultural forms that fill me with happiness. The actors look taller. The scenery is magical.

Leer en español: En América Latina no hay industria del teatro

London and New York are the theater capitals in the world. There is nothing like going to Manhattan for the first time and seeing with your own eyes that there is a whole street dedicated solely to the theater: the options seem endless, compared to what is in Bogotá. It is even difficult to get tickets, you have to purchase them months in advance and it is rare to see empty seats. In Latin America, an industry of that caliber only exists in Buenos Aires, where private agents invest in importing and translating the most popular Broadway productions, as it does not happen in any other Latin American city.

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In Latin American governments, culture is usually at the bottom of the list of priorities. As reported by ECLAC and the OEI in its book "Culture and economic development in Ibero-America", "(...) cultural institutions are still in development. Likewise, and in a preliminary way, it can be said that the process of formulating cultural policies in the countries of Latin America is also in full development "; this report is from 2014. Although cultural policies have improved in some cases, in most of the continent the focus is not on promoting the arts.

If governments do not care about culture, it would seem that citizens do not either. The theatrical offer, like that of any other product, depends on the demand. An independent theater company can rarely afford a season of more than a month in a theater of 500 seats or more, because, in a city like Bogotá, there is no guarantee of selling all tickets for all shows. This means that there would be no way to pay the lease of the theater, the salaries of all the people involved in the production, and everything that is needed to produce a play: props, set design, costumes, lighting and sound design, etc.

In addition, the offer is really restricted. In Colombia, theaters usually have stand-up comedy offers. The only time when there really is diversity is during the Ibero-American Festival of Theater of Bogotá, which is held every two years. The FITB has suffered from problems of debt and media crisis, which have surrounded by uncertainty what was once one of the most prestigious theatrical events in the continent.

In cities like the Colombian capital there are no awards like the Tony because there would be no reward. The problem comes from the governments, which do not promote theater production, but also from the audience, a very small portion of society.

Latin American Post | Laura Rocha Rueda

Translated from "En América Latina no hay industria del teatro"