The Festival Iberoamericano is not only the largest theatre festival in South America, but is also the largest such event held anywhere in the world. The 2010 edition of the festival included more than 800 performances by over 100 international theatre companies and 170 Columbian companies. The large number of performances means that the festival takes place in dozens of venues across Bogota, including not just traditional theatre settings but also parks, public squares and, in some cases, on street corners.
Origins of the Festival
The original purpose of the festival was to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the establishment of the city of Bogota. Fanny Mikey and Ramiro Osorio were responsible for the first edition of the festival, which took place in 1988 and featured the slogan, "An Act of Faith in Columbia." Although a primary focus on Columbian dramatic performance was to be an important facet of the first festival and every one thereafter, a parallel goal was the presentation of dramatic arts from other Latin American nations. This presentation was intended to demonstrate the artistic accomplishments of Spanish-speaking nations before the entire world, and in particular to illustrate the cultural cohesion and artistic integration that existed across the region.
Growth of the Festival
By 2006, the festival had become an event lasting more than two full weeks and drawing talent from across the world. Performances took place The Festival Iberoamericano is not only the largest theatre festival in South America, but is also the largest such event held anywhere in the worldacross 17 days, with almost 2,500 dramatic artists participating in one form or another. These actors, actresses, directors, and producers came from nearly 50 separate countries that represented five of the world's seven continents, making a reality out of the 2006 slogan, "The World on Stage."
Attendance at the 2006 festival was in excess of two and a half million spectators with even more attending in 2008. In that year, theatre groups from such diverse nations as Canada, Finland, Japan, the Czech Republic, and Serbia, as well as the United Kingdom and virtually every nation in Latin America were represented. Live television transmissions of the festival in 2008 included special events and the closing ceremony.
During the most recent festival, audiences averaged more than 4,000 people per performance with some performances garnering more than twice that number of audience members.
A Snapshot of World Theatre
The Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro de Bogota presents a variety of dramatic forms for public edification. In addition to plays and free street theatre, the festival includes such diverse productions as classical dance, theatre for children and youth, dramatic storytelling, and concerts featuring music from various cultures and nations. There are even a number of circus performances intended to entertain children as well as adults.
Aims of the Festival Today
The festival seeks to promote tolerance among cultures and recognition of the plurality present in all societies, Multidisciplinary focus, where performance art is just as respected as more traditional forms of theatrical performanceincluding those of Colombia and Latin America. As such, the festival presents a diverse collection of works and strives to achieve a multidisciplinary focus where performance art, for example, is just as respected as more traditional forms of theatrical performance. A secondary goal is international cooperation and a search for harmony among the world's nations.
An important result of more than two decades of the festival has been the elevation of Colombian drama's reputation both within the country and worldwide.
Notable Dramatic Performances
Past festivals have included the performance of some of the world's most significant dramatic works with an emphasis, in some cases, on recent developments in theatre. Examples of past performances include The Three Sisters directed by Declan Donnellan, The Coat directed by Valery Fokin, War and Peace based on Tolstoy's classic and directed by Piotr Fomenko, and Queen Margot presented by Slovenian director Mlandisko.
In keeping with the effort to promote a truly international flavour to the festival, another notable play included in a past festival is the classic La Casa de Bernardo Alba (The House of Bernardo Alba), written by Federico García Lorca, one of Spain's foremost playwrights of the early 20th century. The production did not come to the festival, however, from a Spanish theatre company or even one from Latin America; it arrived from the Balkan nation of Macedonia, proving that the human condition as expressed through the skilful pen of Lorca is truly universal.
The festival consists of more than diverse and culturally significant performances. It also exemplifies a determination to educate the public at large about the theatrical arts and provides a venue where professionals in the industry can exchange views. To these ends, the festival features seminars, workshops, and courses, many of them taught by professionals who can speak with authority on their specialities.