Giving voice to the forgotten: "White Silence" is puppet theater with much to say

Edificio de la planta de WYFR en Okeechobee

Edificio de la planta de WYFR en Okeechobee

Photo: Photo: Lorenzo Mella

From The Trojans by Euripides to Picasso's "Guernica" Blowing in the Wind "by Bob Dylan in the design of the pink caps worn by thousands of women during last weekend's protests, art has always played a key role in social consciousness. Artists, whether those of our great museums and theaters or are on the street, sometimes make us focus on the beautiful, sometimes on uncomfortable subjects that we might prefer to ignore.

This is the type of art that creates Teatro Silencio Blanco. Fundarte presents the group on Friday and Saturday at 8:30 pm at the Miami-Dade County Auditorium's black box theater. These five puppeteers received their training as actors in the legendary School of Theater of the University of Chile, but learned the art of puppets based on experimentation and years of practice together. They will visit eight states on this tour, their first by the United States.

Santiago Tobares began to enter the world of puppet theater with only a puppet that hung from the neck. It took months to learn for himself how to manipulate it. Dominga Gutiérrez soon became interested in the work and together they traveled through Chile, Bolivia and Peru doing street theater. Little by little the group grew according to the demands of the stories they wanted to tell.

"We are a completely self-taught company on the subject of manipulation," says Tobares. "Nobody taught us but simply we were enchanted with this new way of language and that made us also demand more hours of rehearsal, recognize ourselves a little more as actors, recognize our bodies."

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The work was arduous, poorly remunerated and extremely risky, not only because of the ever present possibility of an explosion or a collapse, but also because of the evils suffered by the miners for working year after year in a completely toxic environment with ceilings so low that they could never stretch their legs. "We put all those pains and all that sickness into the construction of puppets," says Tobar. Ironically, this is the work that has made possible the comfortable lives that have given us all modernization. In the nineteenth century, coal fed the engines of locomotives and cargo ships, and today it continues to feed power plants in many places. But the miners were never enriched by their contributions to a world highly advanced in technology. Quite the opposite.

Chiflón el Diablo closed in the 1990s when it stopped producing enough coal. The people who spent their lives working in their guts no longer have any way to survive. "When it closed this, immediately there was a ghost town," says Tobares. The members of Silencio Blanco, who spent four years going to Lota and interviewing their citizens to create this work, ended up asking themselves an essential question: "How could a job so sacrificed that enriched so many people from one moment to another could have remained in the oblivion "? Chiflón, the silence of coal does not get an answer, but rescues miners and their families from anonymity.

The story is told in a series of images, so the imagination of the viewer will also have to struggle: "It is a work in silence," says Tobar, "but it has all the sonority of silence. We do not need the text to tell the story. " This silence also allows for dialogue, especially between generations. For example, "if the child is going to see the work, the child, the mother with the child, allows the dialogue between them, because if the child does not understand something, he will ask the father and the father will explain, and if the father did not understand something that the child understood from his vision as a child, the child will explain it to him. "

Human communication is something Tobar emphasizes as the basis of Theater philosophy White Silence. In a world so full of screens and people, he believes that we all need a more direct communication, something as simple as "a handshake, a big hug, a saying 'I love you' in person instead of WhatsApp ". This invitation, he says, "is the end of why we do all this. It is to be able to live humanly with the viewer and that the viewer, they too will be able to live humanly among them - they can relate again.

"White Silence", Friday and Saturday at 8:30 pm at the On.Stage Black.box Theater, Miami-Dade County Auditorium, 2901 W. Flager St., Miami; tickets $ 30; www.ticketmaster.com.