BOMB Magazine recently published an interview with Lola Arias, the artistic mind behind El año en que nací. The play centers around people who were born during the Chile’s military dictatorship. The characters all have parents who were either enactors or victims of the violence during the regime. Now, what makes this story even more interesting is all of it is true. The actors are selected based off of their actual parent’s stories. The play consists of non-actors and actors. After the actors were chosen, together they used their parent’s lives to create the play.
This sounds CRAZY to me. Arias asked non-actors to be fully in discussion with their parent’s past. Many of which had parents who were murdered for their involvement. This is a step in a new direction for theater. This type of theater is no longer about creating the most interesting, unique, fiction on the stage. It is real. The play takes time to discuss the very real suffering that comes with state-sponsored terrorism by putting those born out of it right next to each other on stage. The article discusses the conflict that occurs when trying to tell the story. In the room, we have the daughter of someone murdered by police and then the son of a policeman right next to each other. The stakes are risen by having the deep family connections where it is impossible to drop bias.
What strikes me about this work of theater is its boldness to step outside the realm of fiction and into a recreated reality. The relationship between the audience and performers must be deepened. The audience is not listening to a stranger recite a monologue from a play written a hundred years before. The audiences is having a person stand on stage before them and tell them their real story. The audience cannot doze off as someone discusses their father’s murder or wrongful imprisonment. The audiences must give the piece the thought it deserves because the actors are truly sacrificing something. This creates even more awareness to the problem, because everyone involved is involved on a deeply personal level.
When watching the play, audiences cannot view the play as a sad story anymore. We have to accept that this is our history.