Hello everyone,

So, in the end, we got a no from ACE with regards to our NPO bid. For those not in the arts NPO means National Portfolio Organisation. Every three years the Arts Council invites organisations like ours to apply to be an NPO and if you’re successful, then you get three years of funding and the security that comes with that. And if you’re not, then you have to keep applying for project funding. Not becoming an NPO is obviously disappointing as we worked incredibly hard on the bid and we know that we got very close and that our application was deemed very strong. Of course it hurts. A no always does… But here’s the way we see it. Arts Council England have been incredible supporters of CASA and the festival for years now and we hope that they continue to be through grants for the arts project funding.

As a festival that presents work from countries where public funds are minimal, we are grateful that a high level of public funding for the arts exists here in the uk and we wish the companies who have been successful in their npo bids the best of luck. Beyond that, not much else has changed. We still believe in what we do. In its intrinsic value. In what we bring to the UK’s cultural landscape. In the international artists we present and the UK artists we support and will continue to present and support. In the community activities we already do and the deeper engagement we are planning.

And so, rather than dissuade us, this “no” inspires us to do more and to aim higher. We will continue doing what we do. And then some.

And we hope you’ll stick with us and join us and join in.

Daniel, Felix, Lora, José and the entire CASA team wishes you all a very happy day.

“How will you develop your piece after this night? What is your next step? Do you think this experience is helping you develop as an artist? If so, how?”

Whoosh – and it’s gone! And what a brilliant festival it was – packed to the seams with Latin treats and closed with some incredible Afro-Andean jinga! It’s been wonderful to be part of it and I come away with several special memories and new openings.

The scratch offered an invaluable opportunity to get some of my ideas on their feet, and having a space and focused framework within which to play, I could begin freeing up my pages of text for Lara and Manuela to emerge. And it’s only really in front of an audience that a piece can live and breathe, so that first encounter was fantastic and the start of an exciting journey!

The three days rehearsal space CASA’s offered were at their current ‘casa’ (home), with the crew down the corridor, buzzing away and hatching festival plans at their desks, which gave me an immediate sense of being part of something. Creating in an environment where we were all on countdown in preparation for the following week felt much more like a ‘residency’ than being stranded out in a room with no-one else around and I miss it already! Trying to work at home ends up being largely restricted to sitting at my laptop, and as a maker, I find that can lead to a disconnect between the words and my body. Although I’ve always written, my background in theatre is primarily as a performer, so what I create comes from my body as well as the words. It needs the physical space to grow – doesn’t need to be huge but somewhere separate from my domesticity and outside my own four walls!

Being my first experience of writing a play which I perform, and also a play for one, making a piece for the scratch was for me, a way of physically testing out what my process with that is. It’s so different to writing and performing my poetry, or devising the kind of pieces I’ve created on my own before – often more physical using fragments of text and non-linear narrative, or durational performances and installation-based pieces. It’s also totally different to working with a script by another writer, or devising a piece with other actors. And, as with any creative, it’s exciting and scary and messy! Play is integral to that, and play isn’t neat.

This was also the first time Anthony and I had the chance to properly work together and get a sense of each other’s process. On one of the three days, each artist/company also had their festival mentor join them, and having a new person in the space and an extra set of eyes was invaluable. When working out what I’m going to write I often talk to myself, or hear the voices(!) and words in my head. Sounding that out is vital but on my own at home I tend to get stuck with words on a screen once I start writing, so a large part of having a space and even more, working with someone in a space, is being able to improvise around my ideas. I find that really helpful as a performer – even if the script is fully formed – and it seems it’s an essential part of my process as a writer too. Anthony tends to work directly a set script, and while following the text was getting good results at times, for me something felt a bit stuck initially, and I knew I wasn’t accessing what I could. The more I did it the more I wanted to mess it up, and it soon became clear that my ‘playwriting’ process is in part about finding words through playing, freeing up the actual text and feeling what works. My mentor – Malu – comes from a more devised background too so was able to help support that need for a messier approach, and in improvising completely free of the text, Anthony could see me work in a different way, complementing what we’d started. We all grew from that – Lara and Manuela included!

That morning, when improvising Manuela’s scene, I ended up cutting straight to the darkest part, and what emerged was raw and guttural. I went to places I’d not felt able to on paper. Some of what came out was more than what I wanted to present to an audience. But it meant I ended up introducing Manuela in a very different way to how I’d planned, cutting immediately to a dark and physically restricted place whereas the first scene I’d written for her was much lighter, domestic and flirtatious.

As mentioned in my previous blog, the structure of this piece was inevitably different to the full-length play but it was also a great exercise in trying to cut to the core. Malu’s advice was to create a fifteen minute ‘theatrical trailer’, and though I was worried that in by-passing some crucial twists I’d be revealing things too quickly, and that in having to pair the humour and a lot of the detail right back to make space for both characters something would be lost, I think it was the right choice to create a strong and clear piece that could cross both worlds and present some key connections between them. I was also really glad to get the feedback that it seems Lara and Manuela did manage to capture and surprise the audience afterall, even with things revealed so instantly. The transformation from one character to the other also seemed to work and that was initially something I’d not been sure how to find, so a real relief. I’m yet to have my one-to-one feedback session with Malu and hear the audience’s written feedback, but the group session was super helpful.

Now I want to play with the full arc of Lara’s journey, and in parallel, her mother Manuela’s. I am going to look again at the full dramaturgical structure and journey plot of each of these characters, as there is so much to try and fit into one play. Malu has suggested I have to choose which of the two stories I’m telling, and her dramaturgical experience has been really helpful. There is certainly too much to fit everything in but in a sense, though I feel it’s primarily Lara’s story I’m telling, I’m still tied to Manuela’s, and it’s the relationship – or lack of – between them that I believe is key. Selecting which parts to show and re-mapping out the actions they take, now with the experience of what I’ve learnt from this first stage, I hope to build a clearer frame to play on. I’ve got lots to work with and am really looking forward to developing the piece and building the contrasts between the two worlds. I totally agree with Daniel’s feedback of pushing Lara’s humour further and making her more lippy Londoner in contrast to Manuela. In his words ‘The Del Monte joke is the way to go for Lara!’ I also want to play with the contradictions and contrasts within each of the characters as well, which have more space to emerge over the course of a full-length piece.

The decision to use this wonderful opportunity as a space to create something from scratch from the material I had, rather than work on something I had planned, was definitely an uncertain and potentially risky one, but I’m so glad I did as it’s challenged me in new ways and apart form being a fantastic experience, I’ve learnt so much from it. It was such a relief and pleasure to finally get into a space to play and build and I’m really grateful for that.

It was also brilliant to work with a musician in this way for the first time, and definitely something I want to develop. John and I had very little time together and it was also a first for him to work with an actor/writer. But already in working through my rough ideas for sound and John offering compositions based on that, we began to develop a dialogue between the sounds and nuances of Lara and Manuela’s actions and emotions. His instrumentals brought something truly beautiful, helping to bridge between the two worlds and subtly emphasise shifts in the piece. With more time there’s a lot we could do. Funds and space to support this and enable us to find time for development will also be really important so any offers are more than welcome!

Pati the lighting technician was also lovely, and though we had limited time together, it was fantastic to get Lara’s Peckham bedsit lit so she could come out and play! Lighting was particularly important in accentuating the contrasts between Lara and Manuela’s worlds but also the contrasts within Manuela’s world – between Villa Grimaldi (the torture centre), and her life in clandestine with a newborn Lara.

There are several things I’ve got coming up in the next few months and a couple will be opportunities for developing the piece. In December I’ll be at the Tristan Bates Theatre as part of a ‘Women In The Arts’ festival, and I’m hoping to ‘scratch’ the itch a little more there! Anthony’s also offered me some space at Open Ealing this week where I can go and be on my own in a studio to have a play and see what comes. This past post-festival week has been admin-heavy and I’m gradually chipping away at the mini-mountain of things built up throughout September! As time and space allows, the journey begins to take the play to its next stage…

So for now, thank you soooo much once again to all the CASA crew and to all the wonderful people I met and had the pleasure of playing and sharing with, listening and talking to, watching and growing from.

Popelei Theatre
writes Tamsin Clarke

How will you develop your piece after this night? What is your next step? Do you think this experience is helping you develop as an artist? If so, how?

So the festival has been and gone in a flurry of exciting theatre, fun workshops and friendly people – all topped off with lots of beers and bum wiggling to fine Latin music. What a hoot!
The stress and nerves from the scratch night on Monday seems long gone, transformed instead into feelings of excitement and anticipation. Manuela took the stage with her hearty musician and she came alive. She popped out of my head and off the page, out through my words and into the lights – and it was truly exhilarating.

I am and I guess I always will be, a performer at heart. Writing is fun but for me there is really nothing like being on stage. And for that reason it was so nice to be up there with my creation and enjoy it. The audience were incredibly generous and the whole thing felt like magic. My relationship with Jamie developed so sweetly onstage – there was no way of predicting or rehearsing for such a genuine encounter. The moment of the blackout at the end I desperately wanted to continue. I knew there was so much more in my head that I wanted to share.

And so it is back to writing I go. I am going to get stuck into finishing the script; ready with new ideas and thoughts that came from the 15-minute performance as well as the great feedback I received from participants, organisers and audience members afterwards. Once that has been written, ripped apart, re-written and eventually finalized, the plan is to get together with Jamie again and start rehearsing it early in the New Year. Then we will see how we get on. Ideally, I would like to translate it into Spanish and take us off to South America to perform it for a Latin audience. Maybe Edinburgh?
We’ll see what happens.

What I can say with absolute certainty is that having the opportunity to put together 15 minutes for the CASA festival scratch night and getting the chance to perform it at RichMix to a smiling bunch of people, was a huge leap forward in the development of this project. I would still be sitting behind my computer typing away if it hadn’t been for this festival. The support from my wonderful mentor Malu Ansaldo was invaluable and I’m really looking forward to staying in touch and working with the whole CASA team in the future.
Any opportunity to perfect your craft and do what you love will always help you develop as an artist-so gracias CASA for this chance.

Developing DWELL IN during this month has been very inspiring. It really fascinates me how a small idea can grow in the process of making it, as one encounters so many questions and possibilities while filming, editing, and rehearsing. I’m very happy with the result of what I’m showing on Monday, it’s indeed a great opportunity and a challenge for me to perform and communicate my work to a new audience and I’m really looking forward to it.

Within the work I think I still have much more to develop, starting with the technical side of the work which could be more precise and polished. I have also been thinking in the possibility of including another element and another action to this piece. I thought about the use of voice as well, something I never did. I have to say that the more I experiment the more I discover new ways of expressing myself and communication my ideas.

This next Monday will be the first time I will be performing at a theatre space and it’s a great challenge that I’m totally up to. My idea of space has always been one of an immersive place where the audience enters and experiences my action from a very close and involved position. (At my previous piece, THE SHELL, I put 2.500kg of soil on the space floor, where the audience had to walk. There was the smell of it, its instability and it was dark and cold, as I had an air conditioner on as well). However, for DWELL IN I’ve done subtle changes due to the fact that I’ll be on stage myself and the audience will be seated in front of me. I have focused on how my work can still be intense and engaging within this context and I know for sure that, through this experience, I will discover something new about this, especially from the audience’s feedback.

Working with Sarah (my development mentor) has helped me a lot to reflect about my practice from a new perspective. A perspective which has driven me to re-think my practice and my goals as an artist too. She has an amazing energy and knowledge that have helped me develop my Dwell in with more trust and to push forwards my goals as an artist. Thank you!

Writes Daniel Goldman, Artistic Director

Over the weekend, I sat down ready to write a new blog and promptly gave up as I heard what was happening in Nairobi, a place I was directing less than a year ago.

It’s hard to accept that these things happen when everything we want to believe about ourselves as moral beings points the other way. That one group of humans is able to enter a shopping mall and kill another group of humans. In this case, in the name of a political cause.

The individual suffering of those caught up in political violence is a theme that runs through a number of the CASA shows this year.

To name just two shows, Teatro Malayerba’s Instrucciones para Abrazar el Aire is (mainly) about never forgetting the disappearing of children during the Argentine dictatorship of the 70s and then Tavarka Teatro’s Las Cunetas Florecen en Primavera explores with great visual beauty those who died and disappeared in the Spanish Civil War.

The crazy thing is that it’s become so easy for us to ignore. How do you connect with what is happening in Nairobi if you’ve never been, if you have no-one there. It becomes another story. A story to engage with for a few moments and then move on. And I do it all the time. I’ll read a story of some atrocity. In the next moment, I’ll be checking the cricket scores.

Violence is just a story if it’s not happening to us or to the people we know. Either we place it away from us or we reduce it to manageable numbers. Think about our we think of battles when learning about the past. The numbers of dead are grotesque.

Maybe, we’re not programmed to take it all in. We can’t take it all in. We have to transform it, ignore it, lessen it’s impact. I check the cricket scores.

Going back to the idea of violence as story, sometimes of course the story is so big that we are all affected. 9/11 being a good example. I know exactly where I was. How I heard about it. Where I watched the coverage. What people were saying. Hours in front of the TV. My brother being in the States trying to get a flight home to the UK. The death toll rising. My birthday two days later that was impossible to celebrate.

The irony being that in becoming such a big event in our lives, it 9/11 displaced another 11th of September, a date Chile and Latin America remembers for other reasons.

40 years ago today on the 11th September 1973, Salvador Allende was ousted by a military coup in Chile and in effect Pinochet’s dictatorship began. Our Chilean show Poder de Papel brilliantly dissects and examines how Pinochet built up his power. Most of the time they perform in the street. They want to reach as many people as possible.

I’ve wandered a bit in my argument but i guess that my point is that our stories are always superseding each other. And that it’s important to remember. To tell the stories again. And again. And again.

Three of our companies are doing so this year. Come and hear them tell their stories. And even if a day later, the story fades or is replaced, so be it. At the very least, the act of sharing, that beautiful act, took place… and for a moment we cared and that made us better and the more we do so, the more we share, the better we’ll become at it and it might just become a habit we can’t shake.

Writes Artistic Director Daniel Goldman

Only a week to go till CASA Latin American Theatre Festival starts and my story today is about exile.

You see, I am the grandson of two very different kinds of exiles.

On my dad’s side, my grandparents are Polish Jews who in very different ways survived the Holocaust. Both were exiled from the country of their birth. Both came to UK as political refugees. I never knew my grandfather though I carry his name. My grandmother has always lived in the past. Like Aristides, she comes back again and again to the past, she relives it, she retells it, it is part of me now.

On my mum’s side, her parents were pieds noirs living in Morocco and that’s where she was born. You could argue they shouldn’t have been there in the first place but it doesn’t change the fact that the whole family packed their bags and left following independence.

I look around me and it seems to me we live in ever more displaced times. Everywhere around us are people who have made the choice to leave home or have been in some way forced to leave home or are looking for home. That can mean leaving one’s country of birth for another. Or urban migration. Or leaving your flat for a cheaper option…

Maybe you’re an exile. Maybe you don’t know where home is. Or what it is. Some of the people I love most in the world are exiles. I am drawn to you like a moth to light. I admire you. After CASA, I’m buggering off to India and Carlisle. I’ve been away from London a lot recently but then London isn’t my home…

No. For me, a rehearsal room is home. And a theatre with an audience is home. My family on a Friday night is home. My friends and the people I love are home. My grandma’s hand in mine is home. The touch of the person I’m in love with is home. Words on a page are home.

My separation from them would be exile. They are what I come back to again and again.

One of our shows this year captures all of this with wit and warmth and insight. Susana Lastreto’s brilliant monologue Noche de Verano lejos de los Andes o Dialogos con mi Dentista (A summer night far away from the Andes or Dialogues with my Dentist) is all about this search for home away from home. It’s an auto-biographical piece, it’s funny, and perhaps appropriately, it’s a bit all over the place.

I can only say… come and see it.

And come to CASA. Come home to our home. It’s yours.


Barbican Centre, Rich Mix, Institute of Latin American Studies
Friday 27th September – Sunday 6th October 2013

CASA Latin American Theatre Festival 2013 (“CASA 2013”) celebrates its sixth edition with a politically charged programme of theatre that explores the personal implications of state violence, dictatorship and corruption and in doing so reveal some of the biggest challenges that Latin American society has faced historically and today.

As we remember the 40th anniversary of the military coup in Chile on the 11th September 1973, Teatro La Concepción (Chile) present Poder de Papel (Paper Power), a buffonesque take on Óscar Castro’s Érase una vez un rey (Once upon a time a king). The story of sibling street urchins who decide to play at being king for a day is a darkly comic reminder of absolute power’s ability to corrupt absolutely.

Moving across the Andes, Ecuador’s Teatro Malayerba present a heartbreaking double bill of plays set during the Argentine dictatorship. Written and performed by acclaimed exiled Argentine writer Arístides Vargas, about the suffering encountered by friends and family, both plays are shockingly based on true testimonies.

Teatro de los Andes come to the UK for the first time with Hamlet de los Andes, a highly politically charged play that takes on Shakespeare’s classic to denounce state-level corruption in Bolivia.

Finally, UK-based Tavarka Teatro (Nuestra CASA Scratch Night 2012 Winners) present their new full length piece about the disappeared during the Spanish Civil War.

To complement all these shows, we organize a series of talks and debates on the themes of the plays offering audiences insights into Latin American theatre, culture and politics.

Press information
For further information, full festival listings, images and to organise interviews, please contact Mano on 07845321189 or press@casafestival.org.uk
For further information regarding the Barbican shows please contact Freddie Todd Fordham, Media Relations Officer, 020 7382 7399 or freddie.todd-fordham@barbican.org.uk

Writes Juanita Mora

Be Inspired Entertainment

She presents Payasos de la Frontera/Clowns at Traffic Lights as part of Nuestra CASA Scratch Night 203

My last piece ‘Que pasa con Ramona?’, also known as ‘Que pasa contigo, Juanita?’, was inspired by my own mother and true events around dealing with the migration of illegally crossing the border to a different country for a better life. A hard working mother gives hope to her children, but her children struggle with identity of being raised in a different culture and born into one nationality but descending of another. ‘Payasos de la Frontera/Clowns at Traffic Lights’ is a piece of survival along the borders of Mexico, Tijuana. My last piece inspired me to look deeper into the resilience of the hard-working Mexican. It is inspired by true events of what happens to people when they cannot live at home. Friends that I have had in the past have suffered certain circumstances that made them leave their home and thus taking what they had and selling it. Young adults use their talents such as clowning, get addicted to drugs or prostitute themselves. These runaways or survivors flee home because of some kind of abuse in their family. My own close encounter with this was while living in Hollywood and seeing the dark side of the glitz and glamour. Hollywood, the place of dreams, but also the hidden darkness of so many who desperately try to so-called ‘make it’ in the entertainment industry, be it music or film. The city can accept you and spit you out. Hollywood kids, also known as runaways, see the dark truth when living there as you can lose your way just like along the borders of Mexico, Tijuana and Mexico City.

I actually struggled with what to propose for this piece, and then it came to me out of nowhere and it was the only thing that resonated in my mind. I remember reading an article whilst training at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and being touched by the idea of telling this truth through devising a piece in order to communicate the difficulties and similarities that can cross cultures and nations. One thing that is apparent is that London is becoming more diverse with Latinos coming from so many different countries. But one thing that the English culture may not know is the truth behind the people of Mexico and its beautiful culture, as people continue to stereotype this minority in negative ways in the media. I believe that this piece will communicate, allow interest and expose realities within and unveil the commonalities between cultures.