“ Since I was a kid in Bell Ville I wanted to help my neighbor. I studied economics for that. Who manages the economy, manages the world, and can transform it,” says Martín Bondone, one of the founders of Teatro Ciego, the artistic and social company that marks a before and after in the theatre without frontiers, “In primary and secondary school I worked with ecology groups. I looked big about the social. I like to generate things that improve the reality of the other,” emphasizes the playwright and producer of a project that redefined the stage expressions, with an unprecedented immersive experience in the dark, and expanded the idea of inclusion in the arts. One that doesn't leave anyone out. “ I want the viewer to move. Something happen to him inside. I try to write about things that move me,” closes Martin, a “linker of worlds” that require a single capacity. Feel.
“We rented a space in Palermo, big and expensive, and everything was closed from one day to the next,” Martín recalls March 2020, and when he was coordinating works in Buenos Aires and Villa Carlos Paz. “We were left without any income. This pandemic was something unpredictable. At first we didn't know how long the quarantine was going to last and we had to reorganize within a medium-large structure. We have 100 people participating in tours and company events, and a permanent plant of fifteen. When we saw that it was coming for long, we resumed some previous projects with our immersive sound technology. We had an excellent response on the networks, and we thought we could put the theater with that binaural technology in a box, and get it to the houses. The first thing was the Box Gourmet, which is a combo with fresh food, a QR card, and that proposes a sensory experience with aromas, and tastes, similar to those we ride in the room. You even get a cover. We did so well that our network of business contacts, who were making customised experiences of their brands, started calling us to launch products. We work in this way for the launch of international perfumes, and other merchandise, in different parts of the world. Then came the possibility of facing a children's project, at an ideal time when children consume a lot through screens. The idea was to get them out into other senses. And then we add up the Meditation Box. And now we are with a play that is marketed in Argentina and in the United States”, synthesizes this cultural entrepreneur on the proposal of Teatro Ciego, online and face-to-face, at www.teatrociego.org .
Journalist: How did the pieces of Teatro Ciego adapt with health protocols, which used to use tactile before?
Martín Bondone: We were able to return with the proviso that by not having direct contact with the public, and thinking about other tools to generate non-visual effects, we reused the binaural equipment and thus achieved a safe experience. You sit down with professional headphones, in the dark, and you see the musical journey of the protagonist of “Toad from another well, a blind flight,” which is the life of a musician who goes blind and exiled in the United States in the 1960s. And he tells about his return to Argentina. Spectators live a play, without the actors around, and with sound, olfactory and taste resources. A form of theater so novel that we already take it on tour, and that I think we will continue once the pandemic is over.
Q: What are the objectives of Teatro Ciego?
MB: Our overall goal is to generate entertainment products that encourage viewers to use other senses, hidden by the ubiquitous view. And the other more specific is the inclusion of blind people within the theater. It is part of the company's culture and we have more than 40% of visually impaired employees.
Q: With thousands of functions since the group's inception in 2001 with Gerardo Bentatti, José Menchaca and the blind actors of the Argentine Library for the Blind, plus artistic and social awards in the main national squares, are they still facing prejudice today?
MB: All the time. It's a constant. There are many who know us, but the vast majority do not. And in particular, when you raise the concept to a person who did not experience the experience, it automatically comes, but how, nothing goes away? What's so attractive? The fact of the non-image in such a visual society ends up being a counter.
And the other very important is the inclusion of actresses and actors who are blind. There is a large social prejudice to disability, for example that the disabled cannot perform certain tasks. For example, acting. Obviously they can't see, but that doesn't mean they're incapacitated for the arts. It's very common, and it may sound ridiculous if someone attends something called Teatro Ciego, I say the surprise of several when they know that actors are blind. But what do they mean they're blind? There skips the prejudice of where we put the other according to what we assume. Bad.
Q: Were there spectators who could not stand the lack of light?
MB: We had and have. In fact a few days ago there were people who told us that she had felt very touched by the experience of darkness, and that they could not stand the tale of “Toad from another well, a blind flight.” It is that, not seeing, you are so immersed in history, and active other senses, and it happens that in our last work, there are people who seem to not understand the limits of fiction. And it makes up so much, it ends badly. For us it is great, that people are moved, and more with a hopeful message, although it makes us wonder how it might be that a simple story, only told without images, affects more intensively . It continues to surprise us how the mind, and the soul, works without the visual stimulus.
From Tibet to Cordoba, from Cordoba to the world
Q: Teatro Ciego has its genesis in a 1991 Córdoba set by Ricardo Sued, which resumed the Tibetan Zen philosophy, can one think of an energy that is released into darkness?
MB: If you think, all meditations are with your eyes closed, and looking inside. Darkness is meditative. Darkness is a state. You automatically look inside, and if you come in trouble, it can generate distress. Confronting one is always positive. It's always a good trip.
Q: Do you think this spiritual path when you write the works?
MB: From the time we had our own space in Abasto, the motivation of our own texts arose. Basically we tried to adapt to a particular dramaturgy, which cost me a lot. And it has nothing to do with blindness. I work with a lot of blind people, and you notice that it's not a physical matter, but how you tell things. Even the blind say goodbye with a “see you”, or talk about the beauty of a person without having seen it, only for what they tell him. It is quite a challenge to overcome cultural mandates. That is why there are also few works that can be adapted -Teatro Ciego only mounted one adaptation, Roberto Arlt's successful “The Desert Island”, and which was performed several seasons at CCKoneX and the mythical space of Zelaya Street. Among several remembered original pieces we highlight “Lights of Freedom” and “Babylon FX” -. I consider the Teatro Ciego to be more of a sound work than a theatrical piece. There's a lot of cinema in our business . And that is especially noticeable in the scene courts. When you do independent theatre, with few resources, you have little set design and costumes. And you record the weather changes in the story. We, on the other hand, have to think from the virtuality of the non-image, of creating a sensory landscape similar to the sound of cinema that cuts the scene, and that has fluency.
Q: That's what they have a specially designed technology, right?
MB: I don't know if we're the only ones, but sure of the few in Argentina. Even now that we're working for a presentation in New York, we see that there is nothing like that. We are talking about one of the world theatre capitals and do not have the tools for a proposal in the style of Teatro Ciego. We're training them. And sharing a technological development of their own that they didn't have in the United States.
Q: Martín, you started at Teatro Ciego from its beginning of Buenos Aires, first as an actor, then as a producer and playwright, why?
MB: I had come to Buenos Aires to study economics. And it was crazy because at one point he was working as an actor and doing free consultancies for NGOs. The opposite of what usually happens! On the other hand, with acting, which I like a lot, it happens to me that it's kind of a damn thing about working on what you like. If you like something very much, you have to take care that it does not transform into a job because it means that you do it, even if you don't feel like it. Added to the profession of the actor that has something linked to repetition and, in addition, you are imprisoned to the project, with schedules that collide with any social life. Too much for me. That load of the actor I lived hard, besides as it was a theater of my own, he gave six or seven performances a week. There I understood that I like creating and assembling several projects better. Today I am dedicated to writing, and production, and I am not imprisoned in a single way of expression.
Q: You said that the Mayan horoscope defines it as a “linker of worlds”, which seems almost an ideal semblance for a producer who brings the resource together with the need...
MB: That's me! Besides, you have to know what it's good at. It took me time. When I started with Teatro Ciego I was in the box office, cleaning the bathrooms, testing sound, administration and accounting. You have to delegate what you do wrong, and focus on what you do right. What I like is connecting a resource with a person's need, and generating a work team that works autonomously. There are millions of ideas but you need to work in the business conditions to realize the viable ones.
Q: In an environment that usually liquidates cultural projects within a few months, do you think that this management view is one of the keys of the artistic company?
MB: It is one of the great shortcomings that self-managing artists have. There is a divorce between the producer and the artist. They usually present competing interests when it should be quite the opposite. There are few producers that combine both sides. Carlos Rottemberg thinks about the artist and what he wants to produce would be the good example. It's complex to produce theatre because you're working with particularly sensitive humans. It's not that you make nuts, but sensitive matter with sensitive protagonists. You work with people who have a lot of things inside to express, sometimes they're not quite right, and on top of them they're a separate race. Not anyone climbs up a stage and acts. It is quite special the case of actors if we think they should incorporate teamwork and cooperative work, perhaps alien to the artistic ego.
We also think about sustainability as essential in self-management projects. I'm not talking about a state or private project, which varies in its production and financing methods. Therefore, in self-management theatre it is essential to assemble teams among all participants and, in parallel, think about the sustainability of the project. That does not mean selling the soul to the devil but pondering who will pay, how it is sold, what markets. Many times there are spectacular ideas but without market, obviously, fail.
Blind Theater that opens your eyes
Q: Do you think that the Ciego Theater had an impact on society?
MB: Definitely. I see it all the time. Of course we encompass a few people in society and those who enjoy Teatro Ciego already have some openness of mind. I think there are two direct beneficiaries, first those who are part of the theater, who have been in these more than ten years about a thousand people; and the spectators who were almost a quarter of a million. And let's add to the hundreds of workshops, and workshops , that we have given to groups and companies. And all the other leg we developed with the educational proposals: in 2019 we did more than 200 functions for 200 schools, about 50,000 people. And we perform it on a lung with the average state support that any independent theater has and, which in our experience, does not reach 15% of the budget. So the 85% we need to survive is generated with tickets, and sales of products and services. Of course, last year these numbers were changed with government credits but already on March 31 the extensions of the quotas were expired. We have to pay. And, as I read, more than 80% of Argentine SMEs cannot afford them.
Q: In all these years, what was the experience with non-psychic actors that moved Martín?
MB: Many... these days it happened to me with the actor we're working for the New York project, who was born blind with a congenital disease, and who's going through ugly boarding school right now. He always loved acting, and we called him to meet him for his commendable radio show. Lazarus is a very special person, with an incredible energy (pause), I learned a lot from him as a human being. Then we sent the box to therapy with fragments of his program, the box that will go to America with “Toad from another well, a blind flight,” and it was exciting that he can enjoy his work, next to the mother, and knowing that he will go to a world audience (touched). They're one of the strongest things that happened to me in my life.
Solidarity Week of Teatro Ciego
A classic comes back! Teatro Ciego offers free tickets, and 50%, for performances in Palermo from 15 to 18 April, in exchange for donations that will be given to the organization Artistas Solidarios. This is how we help cultural workers who are vulnerable by the pandemic. You have the opportunity to experience the Teatro Ciego expetience and you are also helping many people who need it!
+ info updated after announcements of new restrictions starting April 9:
Periodista y productor especializado en cultura y espectáculos. Colabora desde hace más de 25 años con medios nacionales en gráfica, audiovisuales e internet. Además trabaja produciendo Contenidos en áreas de cultura nacionales y municipales. Ha dictado talleres y cursos de periodismo cultural en instituciones públicas y privadas.