Trevor Schwellnus and Beatriz Pizano say magic happens when artists pool resources.
PANAMERICAN ROUTES/RUTAS PANAMERICANAS, AN INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF THEATRE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (Aluna). At Theatre Passe Muraille (16 Ryerson). Opens Tuesday (May 15) and runs to May 27. $15-$30, pass $100. 416-504-7529, alunatheatre.ca. See listing.
As a Latin-Canadian company, Aluna Theatre has come to understand the importance of sharing work internationally.
They've toured and workshopped their pieces in Latin America and now bring some of the artists they've met to Panamerican Routes/Rutas Panamericanas, a new multi-arts festival of performances, workshops, a conference and photo exhibit examining various aspects of human rights.
"It's hard for small companies, especially culturally diverse troupes, to produce shows," says artistic director Beatriz Pizano, who runs the company with her partner, scenographer Trevor Schwellnus. "To present Canadian works and mix them with international productions is what we feel helps us all grow as artists.
"Mounting a festival like this often turns out to be easier than people think it will be. Something magical happens when artists come together and pool their resources. That's one focus of this event."
Originally from Colombia, Pizano thought back to her own roots when devising the fest.
"I remembered Simón Bolívar's idea of the Americas as one big continent; for me, that includes Canada. Trevor and I see Aluna's work as being about breaking down divisions and making connections."
The first week's productions include Loco7's ("from Bogotá via New York") Urban Odyssey, a puppet/dance show devised by Federico Restrepo and Denise Greber, and Violeta Luna's ("from Mexico City via San Francisco") Parting Memory. Both deal with immigrants who look backward and forward in their lives.
The second week involves Canadian artists. Aluna remounts its production of Nohayquiensepa (which has played in Medellín, Colombia, as well as Toronto), performer Mayahuel Tecozautla revives IXOK' in Spanish (a work by Guatemalans Carmen Samayoa and Edgar Flores performed in English for SummerWorks 2010), and Rosa Laborde stages a reading of her new play, Marine Life.
That second week also features Vancouver writer/actor Carmen Aguirre (The Refugee Hotel) in her new show, Carmen Aguirre's Blue Box, about her time as a Chilean revolutionary, produced by Nightswimming.
"It's a post-political piece about Carmen's personal and public revolutionary ideals and how they've changed over time," says Schwellnus.
"The material is about issues," adds Pizano, "but it's neither didactic nor ‘political' theatre."
Other visiting artists include Carlos Satizábal, who offers a writing workshop and delivers a conference paper on how actor training can encourage machismo, and Patricia Ariza, whose La Pasarela - "The Catwalk" - will involve 35 local women from immigrant and refugee communities in an empowering fashion show catwalk.
"It's vital to have these encounters between Canadian and Latin American artists and audiences," notes Pizano. "Like others in the festival, I'm part of both communities and believe that theatre can help bridge those two worlds."