TRANS Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 17. Nr.
Februar 2010

Sektion 3.9. Gibt es ein Politisches Theater des 21. Jahrhunderts?
SektionsleiterInnen | Section Chairs: Tobias Sosinka (Berlin) und Birgit Fritz (Universität Wien)

Dokumentation | Documentation | Documentation

The Treatment of Scenic Objekts in Tucuman’s Contemporary Theatre

Nerina Dip [BIO]



One of the characteristics of the capitalistic system is that the human beings can be treated as objects with a certain utility. In the theatre this effect could also be felt. Thus, the traditional subordination of inanimate objects to human beings changed and the last few decades witnessed a substantial in the treatment of objects on the stage. As a result, many plays featured objects in the leadings roles while man and women took secondary parts; that is, objects and human beings could be interchanged.

The following anecdote can make this point clear. In July 2002, a train which goes from the capital city, Buenos Aires and Tucumán goes stuck in Buenos Aires just before starting the journey. The passengers were stranded at the station but the railway company gave no explanation and worst of all, no solution. The media that covered this incident showed hundreds of families “heaped” like luggage. However, when the person in charge was interviewed by a reporter, he said that they had only one locomotive for this journey, and he added that the “poor” machine was overworked, so they should try to understand her because she was doing what she could. In other words, she had reacted and she needed to be taken care of. So much for the incident. But this is a phathetic example of how unimportant human beings have become and how an object has turned into a human-like figure that demands more attention.

Like in other places, in Argentina plays using objects (object- theatre), are on the increase in Tucumán. Theatrical groups, such as Manojo de Calles, coordinated by Veronixca Perez Luna, La Baulera, coordinated by Jorge Gutierrez and Caverna, coordinated by Máximo Gómez, whose members were relatively young when they started, have working on this type of expression for about a decade. These three directors studied in very unusual circumstances since, due to problems of space in the university, they shared classmates developed aesthetic tasks that, in a way or another, contributed to their personal growth in a different way; that is, they learned not only from scenographers or costume designers, but also from painters and sculptors.

Regarding those traits that characterized this group of directors, it must be stated that due to this unique situation, their orientation makes their productions different from other more traditional ones, and even from other never ones. One of the main features of their works is a keen interest in poetic scenes and classical drama, thought it is expressed in a non-conventional way. It is because of this perspective that they started to use objects hierarchically.

However the irruption of plastic objects on stage was not abrupt, but gradual. At the beginning, the action was focused on the performer, an approach which was closer to Grotowsky rather than to Kantor. In this kind of production the objects had a more secondary role and the scenic action was the axis around which drama spun; plots, relationships between characters, atmosphere and images put performers in the very centre, and objects became an accessory for the development of the play. Besides, in this first stage, the objects appeared on the stage in a natural state, a decision based on economic grounds, as the groups lacked financial support, but most of all, on An aesthetic principle some of the plays of the time are “Antigona Velez”, were the group Manojo de Calles, used soil; “Ajsaraña” where the Group Caverna used corn and water; “Bodas de sangre” by La Baulera; where fire and water were employed.

In effect, natural objects acquired a new meaning when actors used them, and gradually these elements were placed within a symbolic frame. It is well known that each object has a habitat of its own, where it fits. In these performances however, the object, isolated from a natural context, has functions which are different from those corresponding to its space. Their symbolic value becomes remarkable.

Since 1995, the three groups have reinforced their relationship with artists. This can be appreciated in the space design, costumes and, obviously, the objects. In a way on another, the objects are presented in a certain state of manufacture. This fact will determine shape, color and the symbolic character of these new elements. So how the actors use the objects is not determined by the object`s function. This situation gives the object a hierarchical value within the play. Thus, the object`s presence seems to grow on the stage so much so that there are moments when actors work for it to appear in a certain way , it is left alone on the stage and it even becomes the protagonist , while the actors become the chorus. In short, all the energy in a scene is not only generated by human beings but it is also contained in the object`s shape and material structure. Isolated from its natural context, and created by man, it reflects a new scenic strategy.

In 1998 La Casa de Bernarda Alba was performed, directed by Jorge Gutierrez. The stage is empty and sixteen women are sitting in a circle of 8 m. in diameter. All the women, except for Adela and the grandmother, are dressed in black. Grandmother`s dress gradually grows not only in size but also in importance. At the beginning, the audience is not aware of the shape and size of the dress. Throughout the play , the dress unfurls rythmically until it covers the circle in the centre of the stage.

The dress is a remarkable example of how an object becomes a character, and the actor must react according to its actions. The centre of the stage is taken alternatively by the actresses and the dress, which is not a mere object anymore, but an animated being. Through rythm , actions and movements the dress takes a shape of its own , the actresses abandon it and it slowly falls over the actress playing the part of the grandmother, who gently gets into it. Furthermore, the dress is also responsible for setting spatial boundaries. In effect, when the grandmother becomes mad, the leaves the circle and the dress hinders the space along which the actresses may move.

This example goes to show how actors and actresses have had to modifly their positions on the stage , work out on their bodies according to the shape and place of the object in question and , most importantly , accept and understand that in this type of performance, they will have to share the stage.

To conclude, this process of integration of objects to performances was and still is slow and gradual. Actors and actresses are trying to adjust to a new and original way of seeing the theatrical performance. Although it is difficult to uproot old concepts and viewpoints, some groups are doing their best to share and sometimes, exchange roles with objects.

3.9. Gibt es ein Politisches Theater des 21. Jahrhunderts?

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For quotation purposes:
Nerina Dip
: The Treatment of Scenic Objekts in Tucuman’s Contemporary Theatre - In: TRANS. Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften. No. 17/2008. WWW:

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