Argentinian theater struggles to survive pandemic – Sylvia Colombo

The metal doors of the failing stores are closed, the movie posters that were lit before the start of the pandemic, torn but still stuck in the windows of the films. Bookstores and second-hand booksellers serve outdoors due to entry restrictions into businesses, few people walking, beggars on street corners asking for change.

This is Avenida Corrientes, the epicenter of bohemian Buenos Aires, which once gathered hundreds of people every night. They frequented it looking for entertainment in cinemas and street theaters, or because they wanted to buy books at dawn, or even find one last bar or restaurant open at the dawn of a new day.

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the restrictions of a long quarantine and the current ones, although more flexible, have silenced this symbol of the city of Buenos Aires. In recent weeks, the local government, in opposition to the national government, has tried to reopen businesses there, under pressure from food and entertainment unions. The national government, on the other hand, fearing the spread of new variants of the coronavirus in large urban centers, is resisting allowing the full resumption of activities in downtown Buenos Aires. Behind the political showdown, which takes place in the context of the legislative elections in November, there are actors, producers and directors who insist that “the show must go on”.

One of them is the controversial and renowned Luis Brandoni. The comedian, known in Brazil for some of the films in which he participates, such as “A Odisseia dos Tontos” (2019) and “Minha Obra Prima” (2018), is one of them. Criticism of Peronism and the current administration of Alberto Fernández, a former opposition MP and activist of the União Cívica Radical, Brandoni considers that the policy of restrictions and confinement is ineffective and has ruined a whole category, that of the actors, directors and employees. theaters. “If we follow all the protocols, I’m sure no one will be infected in the theater. And we have a bunch of protocols. The theater makes people happy, makes them think, it is necessary for the mind. Humanity has needed theater for centuries, we must continue, ”Brandoni tells Folha, walking through Corrientes, looking for a place to eat after the ceremony, among the few places still open.

Last Thursday (24), in a screening of the work “El Acompañamiento”, Brandoni, one of the main actors of the country, thanked the audience at the end of the show saying: “Do not be afraid, go back to the theaters, call your friends. Theater is in the soul of Buenos Aires and we must keep Buenos Aires alive ”. He received a standing ovation. The audience was predominantly over the age of 50, many of whom were older.

Currently, the theaters of the city of Buenos Aires are allowed to operate with only 30% of the capacity of the hall. At the entrance, the temperature is taken and hydroalcoholic gel is distributed. The room is not ventilated. Before the start of the session, an employee explains the rules to the spectators, seated with two chairs far apart: “Do not take off your mask at any time. When the play is finished, we will start again row by row, I ask everyone to be patient ”.

The initiative to reopen cinemas is frowned upon by doctors and sanitary facilities, at a time when Argentina has already lost more than 90,000 people to the coronavirus. “We operate at the limit of intensive care units, it is not possible to make more reopenings”, explains Claudio Belocopitt, owner of Swiss Medical, one of the main health plans in Argentina. “If we are already familiar with this pandemic, it is because staying indoors, with little air circulation and with other people is risky, especially now with the new variants”, explains infectiologist Carlos J. Regazzoni .

Brandoni does not agree and defends that more people can attend the plays. “With 30%, we barely cover the operating costs of the theater. We find that over time more and more people lose their fear and see that with protocols it is possible to continue, ”he says. Already vaccinated and refusing to be qualified as a denier of the virus, as his detractors say, he believes that “other alternatives should be considered for the pandemic, without taking people’s freedom”.

The piece with which it is presented, moreover, deals with the theme of freedom. “El Acompañamiento” was written in 1981 by playwright Carlos Gorostiza, when Argentina was under military rule (1976-1983). The play debuted in the Teatro Aberto movement, which brought together several writers, directors and theater actors to show their disagreement against free speech. Many ended up in prison. Although he does not deal directly with the dictatorship, he portrays it as two old friends face life within its limits. Brandoni’s character Tuco is a frustrated tango singer who has spent his life working in a metallurgical company but still dreams of singing in front of large audiences with an orchestra. Sebastián (David Di Napoli), owner of a kiosk, tries to make it happen.

“The play is a dialogue about the ability to dream and to aspire to freedom. It is not possible to compare the dictatorship with the pandemic, obviously, but I believe that we are also at a time when we must value freedom, make us think about what is happening. I will continue to fight for the theater to resist, because it is the soul of Buenos Aires, ”he said.

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