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Saúde / 31/05/2020

In Buenos Aires, culture fades to protect the metropolis

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In Buenos Aires, culture fades to protect the metropolis

You will never know for sure how many theaters there are in Buenos Aires. Officially, there are about 300. But there is much more. And at any moment, in any patio or room, another one appears. This is a city of theaters, bookstores, strange and nightly people who discuss philosophy. The closure due to the pandemic inflicted a very deep wound on the soul of Buenos Aires. Under one of the strictest confinements in the world, with very few tests carried out, with the country economically devastated and on the verge of suspension of payments, with an apprehensive hospital system that foresees the worst moments for June, Buenos Aires contemplates the abyss.

It turns out, however, that the Argentine capital is used to disasters. Claudio Tolcachir, a 45-year-old playwright, actor, director and teacher, conspicuous representative of the new Latin American theater, knows this very well. He was 26 when he opened a room next to his apartment in the popular neighborhood of Boedo. We are talking about 2001, the year of corralito (confiscation of bank deposits) and the financial hecatomb. “There were people who dressed elegantly to come to our theater, a very humble place in a very dangerous area at that time”, he remembers. “In times of great crisis, porteños go to the theater.”

The word “necessity” comes up frequently when talking about culture in the Argentine capital.In this new hecatomb, one cannot go to the theater. The theater, therefore, is delivered at home by telematic means. At 8 pm, Claudio Tolcachir appears on the screen and greets the audience, asking him to turn off his cell phones and turn off the light, and presents a recorded work. Or broadcast live a piece represented, for example, in your home kitchen. "The theater was not made for the camera, but it is what is there." The Timbre 4 school, Tolcachir's company, was also not created for students to accompany classes home. Once again, this is the case: every morning, the playwright and his teachers connect with the students and continue the program. “For the little ones, it is not easy to rehearse in these conditions, sometimes in front of the family”, he admits.

Whoever can pay, pays. Who doesn't, no. The same happens with the shows: the actors spend a “virtual bag” and each spectator deposits in it the money he considers appropriate. In a weekend, the audience can exceed 100,000 viewers.

Claudio Tolcachir is one case among many. He believes that crises stimulate creativity. Especially in an activity as incorporated into Buenos Aires history as the theater. According to him, the identification between Buenos Aires and the stage came with immigrants, who had the need to reconnect with their culture. Each community had its theaters and catharsis moments. the Spanish sainete, for example, the Argentine sainete arose. Dictatorships and numerous dark times reinforced the role of theater as a place of communion and resistance. “We work close to the present and do survival theater, without production, without wages, simply because we need it”, he says.

The word “necessity” comes up frequently when talking about culture in Buenos Aires. To cite one case, Pablo Braun, a descendant of one of the wealthiest families in Argentina, should not be fighting with the distribution of books: he could occupy an office in one of the Braun companies, as he did for a short time. But it needs to save its bookstore, Eterna Cadencia, perhaps the best in the city (there is not a single volume that is not worth it), its publisher and the small chain of bookstores in shopping centers it has recently acquired. And you need to regain personal contact with your customers. Pablo Braun is the kind of bookseller you ask what you should read.

He founded Eterna Cadencia in 2005, when Argentina was starting to recover the great crisis of 2001. He believes that the current one is worse: “What is to come is a disaster, something dramatic that forces us to reinvent ourselves”. He's already come back to work. Distributes books with a driver. Sit more cheerfully than you did a few weeks ago. But one wonders whether the pandemic will force culture to take refuge in the arms of large digital corporations. “The culture itself will have to reflect on that”, he comments. And sighs: "I think that the theater is even worse".

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