40 years ago, on July 28, 1981, the miracle occurred: Open Theater, an artistic movement that revealed the fed up of Argentine scenic creators in the face of fear and darkness that the civic-military dictatorship had established since 1976 with its recipe for death, repression and disappearance of people.
Those who lived through those ominous days recall the prohibition of political activity, the persecution of workers, the closure of unions, the black lists, the censorship in the press, on TV and the cinema, although to a lesser extent in the theater, since its audience was smaller in number and officials imagined it as an irrelevant activity.
In the street, only the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo had organized in the face of the disappearance of their loved ones – they were called “crazy” by the de facto authorities – and even from their quantitative humility it was the theater that gave the kickoff , the one who sought the first breath of fresh air.
A scene from “Gray of Absence”, the work of Tito Cossa. Photo Clarín Archive
One of the creators of Open Theater, the author Osvaldo “Chacho” Dragún, commented: “We were in a bar, we had to do something and we decided with Tito Cossa and with (Carlos) Somigliana, thus, spontaneously, in a moment of ideological closure. Soon they offered us the Picadero room. “
“We agreed: short works, 21 authors with 21 directors – he synthesized -. Nobody said no. We assumed desertions because what was proposed was to work without being paid. Nobody directed the monster. But the democracy of equals worked very well.”
In 1981 General Roberto Viola usurped the Casa Rosada as the second de facto “president”.
Pepe Soriano and Luis Brandoni in “Gray of Absence”, by Roberto Cossa, premiered in 1981 in the Open Theater cycle. Photo Clarín Archive
In addition to Dragún, Cossa and Somigliana, Gonzalo Nuñez, Jorge Rivera López, Luis Brandoni, Oscar Viale, Pepe Soriano, Elio Gallípoli, Carlos Gorostiza, Eduardo “Tato” Pavlovsky, Máximo Soto, Ricardo Monti, Oscar Viale, Eduardo Rovner, Jorge García Alonso, Aída Bortnik and Griselda Gambaro – who were joined by hundreds of actors, actresses, directors and technicians – who had the support of Ernesto Sabato and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel , recently elected Nobel Peace Prize.
How was the modality
The public did not wait: three short works were offered per day in different functions and with tickets at a reasonable price -the works were ad honorem- and among several works that later became classics, others appeared in which the political prevailed over the aesthetic quality.
Open Theater became a sociocultural phenomenon that involved artists and spectators moved by a commitment to their reality beyond any type of interest.
Without any economic benefit and without poster problems, the works paraded in their initial season Say yes (Griselda Gambaro), The one who touches me is a pig (Alberto Drago), The new World (Carlos Somigliana), Far away promised land (Ricardo Halac), Coronation (Roberto Perinelli), The bead curtain (Ricardo Monti), Creature (Eugenio Griffero), Third party included (Eduardo Pavlovsky), Absence gray (Roberto Cossa) and October 16th (Ellio Galipolli).
They also participated Bewilderment (Diana Raznovich), Bye blonde (Victor Pronzatto), The goose (Carlos Pais), The accompaniment (Carlos Gorostiza), Wolf … are you? (Pacho O’Donnell), Dear dad (Aida Bortnik), For export (Patricio Estévez), My obelisk and me (Osvaldo Dragún), Little things of mine (Jorge García Alonso) and Hard work (Máximo Soto).
Nobody charged a peso, neither authors, nor directors, nor actors nor technicians. Photo Clarín Archive
The work Before getting in, allow to exit, by Oscar Viale, could not be mounted for practical reasons and was later released on the commercial scene.
According to journalist and theater critic Hilda Cabrera, “at first there were only five directors, when the project was disclosed 36 were nominated. Later, musicians, set designers and technicians appeared. As for money, there were various contributions, in addition to the one that It came from the sale of fertilizers. The librettist Abel Santa Cruz, then in the Argentores commission, delivered a check. The announcement to the press was made by Dragún along with other pioneers, on May 12, 1981 “.
Everything was going on rails when on August 6 of that same year an incendiary bomb ended the history of the almost brand-new Teatro del Picadero, located in the Rauch 1847 passage -now Enrique Santos Discépolo-, where the first railway circulated in the 19th century. that was in Argentina. There was no doubt where the attack came from.
The news of the fire made several acquaintances run who found out at the time: both the organizers and the director Omar Grasso and the actor Alberto Segado, always late nights, who shed their tears when they observed the flames and the work of the firefighters. Jorge Luis Borges sent a solidarity telegram.
After the initial desolation, the doubts and much of the fear that prevailed in those years disappeared: 17 rooms generously offered themselves to continue nurturing the phenomenon – among the bidders were the businessmen Alejandro Romay and Carlos A. Petit, and finally the Tabarís was chosen -where magazine shows used to be held-, and before the continuation of the cycle, 25,000 spectators ended up parading there.
The cycle was repeated in 1982 in the disappeared Odeón theater and then in 1983, in the then called Margarita Xirgu theater -now Xirgu / UnTreF- and there was a “theater” in 1985, with a street parade included, but already the political and social situation it had changed.
From the Télam agency