Magazine article American Theatre

The Marquez Factor

Magazine article American Theatre

The Marquez Factor

Article excerpt

In late May, when Gabriel Garcia Marquez returned home to Aracataca, Colombia, for the first time in more than 20 years, he rolled ceremoniously into town on a train painted with yellow butterflies. Aracataca is the place that inspired Macondo, the village in One Hundred Years of Solitude that rises and falls over seven generations, has epidemics of insomnia and memory loss, experiences political conflict and violence mirroring Colombia's history--and where one particular character is always accompanied by a swarm of butterflies.

As the story goes, when Marquez was writing Solitude, he shut himself in a room for more than a year, smoking up to six packs of cigarettes a day. His wife and family tended to him, along with every one else in the community, who helped by bringing supplies and good will. They apparently sensed that Marquez was in the process of creating something magnificent.

In addition to being a beloved master of storytelling, Marquez has spent much of his life as an activist in his country and beyond. He's been called upon to help facilitate a peace process in his civil war-torn native land, where his effectiveness relates to many things, including personal conviction and the force of his stature there. A 1999 New Yorker article described Marquez as "the one person who could stand between the two sides shooting at one another and say 'no more,' and everyone would listen."

After reading about Marquez, and his homecoming, I had this thought: If Gabriel Garcia Marquez were a theatre, what kind of theatre would he be?

Undoubtedly, it would be an extraordinary generator of tales, presenting fantastical stories of family and community, alongside expositions of power-mongering and political injustice. It would be an organization that the whole community wants to assist to make sure that next masterpiece comes to fruition. This theatre would leverage its collected influence to affect social change, at times garnering controversy. It might even be a theatre that could stand between two sides shooting at each other, say "no more," and everyone would listen.

At TCG's National Conference in June, a similar topic arose: What do our theatres and theatre artists truly represent within their communities? How does the work we create relate to current circumstance and what matters? And, further, wherein lies the energy of activism?

Over lunch at the pre-conference convening on theatre education assessment models, Susan Nicodemus Quinn, education director of Philadelphia's Walnut Street Theatre, advanced a compelling point of view. She believes education directors are the activists in theatres today. They are fighting for the resources and attention to engage kids, many of whom come from poverty, transience and other dire situations. For some of these young people, exposure to theatre will change--even save--their lives. …

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