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Culture in Costa Rica – A History of Theater

Costa Rica News – For many of us living in Costa Rica that grew up around the arts and culture of big cities like New York, Los Angeles, or even Houston, we miss being able to experience the culture brought to us by theatrical performances on stages such as Broadway. In Costa Rica you can quench your thespian urges. 

5.1.2The first recorded plays in Costa Rica are from the 19th century. They featured themes of religion and folkloric customs as well as historical events. Some of the well known ones include Los Pretendientes by Carlos Gagini, And Un Duelo A La Moda by Rafael Carranza. In this time there was an emphasis on humor based on stereotypes of rural and urban characters.

There was a shift that occurred in Magdalena (a play in 1902) which represented the shift from folklore to cosmopolitan genre of theater. This play also symbolized the threat of Europe corrupting Costa Rica’s way of life. Other play writers mirrored this idea by defending conservative values, love, and honor. They presented the idea that capitalism will ruin families and romantic love.

This warning against European influence was followed by plays in the 20s that showed social and family problems that had developed. Serious and personal problems were acted out in the 20s that had previously been hidden such as adultery.

In the later 20’s Hector Fernandez brought a European Vanguardist style to Costa Rica’s theater scene. This included science fiction and surrealism which criticized industrialism. Other European styles where presented during the late 1920s such as Theater of the Absurd.

After a sever decrease in the popularity of theater a few new companies formed in the 1950s. In this decade theater houses like Teatro Arlequin and Teatro Las Mascaras opened and revived interest in theater.

In the 60s the University of Costa Rica began offering a department of drama. Dark themes arose such as existentialism and manipulation of power when the Catania brothers arrived and attracted actors, directors, and theater specialists soon after their arrival. It seems that by 1969 the public was ready for these heavy topics.

Today there are still classical productions like Shakespeare but there are many more contemporary pieces highlighting today’s culture in funny ways. The contemporary ones may lack the intellectual concepts that are featured in the classics however they will prove to be an important record of the reality of our time by future generations.

If you get a chance head to the National Theater and enjoy a cup of coffee while taking in the ambiance of Teatro Nattional.

By Kerry La

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