After 24 in airports and airplanes I arrive in Santiago, Chile and kiss the airport tiles. El Kote is waiting for me and takes me in his decrepit hippie circus truck to his ultimate hippy circus house where there’s a cumbia band playing live to greet me under the trapeze rigging. There’s green starry leafed plants outside the shower.
January 12-17 El Quisco
El Quisco is the closest beach to Santiago, for the poor working class who don’t have enough money to go further. When you pass the hat at the end of the show you have to give them money says El Kote. They’ve gone to a lot of trouble to organize the first ever El Quisco Street theater festival, them being El Kote, his brother Mao (also in the street performing business) the Los Tecai, a traveling puppeteering family.
We’re sleeping in bunk beds in some very beat up cabanas a kilometer from the beach and we eat all our meals in a cheap family restaurant and they are freaking delicious, seafood every day, lots of everything. We eat dinner at 1:00 AM after the shows are over and after that it really doesn’t take a lot of drinking and dancing to stay up all night. A campfire under the Eucalyptus tree helps.
The pitches are all on the beach and are large, except the gorgeous Punta de Tralque where the crowds are small but rocks and sunset make up for it. The festival is a success with big crowds, sometimes over a 1000 people at the pitch,, although true enough, the piles of coins they give don’t add up to much. As is often the case in a new country (Chile is #25), it take me about three shows to find a rthym and put out a good one.
As an international import I’m treated like a big deal, we’re considered key to making this festival fly, but really the top Chilean artists are better. El Tuga, a clown master and organizer of Chile’s most successful street festival at age 27, our host, El Kote, an orginal clown and a force of nature and the Microbanda, a four person circus, well directed, with a fantastic clown, Taillerin. There are several ancient camping circus trucks at the cabins, like Europe 15 years ago. El Kote’s funky truck drops dead as he tries to drive over the hills at full speed with 2000 pounds of scaffolding and seating.
And we took a smaller version of that festival 6 hours North to Montepatria. A valley packed with vinyards and hemmed in by big desert mountains. We did fantastic shows for 500+ plus audiences in the main plaza of two tiny mountain towns. They adored us. We spent the nights in bunkbeds in an empty boarding school further up the valley, absolutely nothing but a canyon full of grape fields and dry mountains.
Our group is Chronopia, a v ery talented 22 year old with an international level contortionist act from Argentina, so light, happy, and easy in her energy. Otto Il Bassotto, an Italian clown, a wonderfully cheerful and even naïve personality, El Kote and his Italian girlfriend Melissa, and Los Tekai, who do a very funny puppet show, Juan Carlos, Roxanna, and 11 year old Nahauel. For three decades they have travelled street shows to big towns and small towns all over Chile.
I split off from the group and went the beach resort town of La Sirena to do street shows.
The Chilean street theater scene is very street. There are great acts here and they play the street all the time, as do the not so great. The main street here is like a juggling convention, only they are all performing for cars at the traffic lights. Here 7 balls, the next light cigar boxes, the next light somebody manipulating a 3 foot cube of aluminium. And so forth, And all the best performers I’ve mentioned above did 3 or 5 or 7 years working the traffic lights as their apprenticeship. Mauro, a fantastic clown and one-man band from Brazil ( Compania OmPeDois) says he made twice as much money as his father ever made playing the traffic lights for four years but it was a trap after a while, drinking too much and doing 30 second shows over and over. Now he works contracts in Brazil, but here in Chile there are few contracts and great acts are on the street.
The Plaza de Armas in La Sirena is filled with acts every night. There’s a puppet show with a large stage, full sound system, and generator. Two clowns with a technician, backdrop, full sound system, computer, and generator. A four person circus I know from a cabaret in Santiago are doing a wonderful show with a full sound system and generator. A fakir, a street Karaoke act, another puppeteer, a group of mimes (they get the biggest crowds) and me doing one show a night with my tiny speaker, staying at a comfortable hostal and getting burned on the beach. Jan, Djuggledy, who does a Diablo show dressed as reggae freak and kills on the street, joins me for the last night.
January 26-28 Back in Santaigo for Entepola, the largest festival of popular theater in Latin America, and by popular theater friends, they mean good old fashioned leftist agitprop theater. Wonderful people, interesting physical theater experimentation, although to tell the truth, not so entertaining for the public much of the time. But they deliver me to some wonderful shows, 500 people in the square of a small town, a wonderful theater in a another small town, and over 1000 people in the audience at the home amphitheater of Pudahuel, a poor barrio in Santiago. And they pay me a little too. We live communally in a school, sleeping on mattresses in the classroom, eating together with Venezuelans, Brazilians, Argentinians, and of course Chileans. We eat dinner at 1:00 AM each night after shows are finished. And then if you stay for drinking and dancing afterward, well–.
Entepola heads North . Dry desert mountains, and on and on. The larger valleys have water and are filled with vinyards. And finally, after all day loading and waiting and driving, we get to Salamanca, surrounded by those dry mountains on all sides.
And 50 theater people pile into the one school dormitory, where we’ll all be sleeping for the next 5 nights and quickly grab up almost every bunk bed. We’ll be crowded. And of course these people like to play music, party, and stay up late, which is what we do next. I go to bed early, 2:00 AM. I think I’m the only one with earplugs.
January 31, 2012
You know the crowding doesn’t matter, I feel fine. I finally have my travelling legs under me and I can enjoy the company and work on my things alone too, Somehow I’ve found my own space to work better then I have all this trip.
I’ve got no show tonight. Which is good because I played soccer really hard in the heat and never quite recovered afterward. I was perhaps the worst player on the cement but I scored two goals both on headers . I always play these games much too hard. Ouch.
A show in a tiny grouping of farm houses called Chuchiñi. The whole town comes out, about 60 people. Before the show we stroll in the beautiful countryside and we do lasso photos of me on an old cart in front of the Cooperativa Agruicultura de Chuchiñi, where we do the show.