Interview // Berith Danse about Nacer / Birth
The highlight of ICAF (International Community Arts Festival, Rotterdam) 2020, Nacer / Birth will be shown in PLEIN THEATER at the 20th and 21th of march. The performance is a co-production between corporations Humor y Vida (Ecuador) & Theatre Embassy (Berith Danse) and will be shown in the Netherlands for the first time.
Corporación Humor y Vida [‘humor and life’] consists of women artists from Ecuador and Colombia. They work on the contested borderlands between their two countries, an area frequently used for illegal crossings, also by guerrilla fighters.
Berith Danse, director of PLEIN THEATER and director of the play, tells about making the play in 2015 and running a theatre in the east of Amsterdam.
Where has the play been made?
The theatre play Nacer, which means Birth, was made in Quito and Otavalo, which is in the north of Ecuador. This is a very spiritual region where the native people have been able to survive the suppression of the Spanish colony. The Otavalo people still speak their native language and are very well known for the travels all over the world with their products and handcrafts. The secret of their strength is the strong believe in their community and in their cosmovision.
Corporacion Humor y Vida works in remote and rural areas and got inspired by their culture and visions. They wanted to make a play about the midwives and their spiritually and medical knowledge, as their lifes as modern urban women is so much different.
In the capital of Quito 60% of the delivery of babies is through the cesarian in the hospital. The indiginous midwive works at home, like the midwives in the Netherlands. But she has to operate in secret due to the discrimination of the indigionous people . Recently there is an revalution of her knowlegde and important role for giving life.
Where is Nacer/Birth about?
The play is an ode to these midwives.
In the recent years she got her position back and in the hospitals of Otavalo she was given a position too. In the play we see the two worlds of the western labour and the more spiritual labour of Otavalo. We see the struggle of modern women with the cold cesarian and the dialogue with the native midwife.
The play is made with different theatre technics to communicate in different layers about these different perspectives. Its a challenge to talk or show native people without getting into traps like rascism or exotism. Thats why the midwive is a puppet made of wood that handcraftmakers use to make the holy statues of the catolic altars in the Otavalo region. Red wood, woodcarving and to twist and turn symbols from diferent cultures that co-exist in the same region.
What was the urgency to make this play?
The momentum the play was made was when the midwifes were recognized as real medics and became part of the hospital system. We were present when they received their certificates.
We elaborated workshops and encounterd with the women before we started to create the play. When it was ready we made an elaborate tour across the villages and shared our results. We played in small community houses and schools. Its was very special to share our images with the people of the Otavalo community.
Since two years you are the artistic and business director of PLEIN THEATER. How does your international background (Theatre Embassy) influence your plans with PLEIN THEATER?
Well thats a big question. But when i started as a director at Plein Theatre, it was the first time in my life I had to run an indoor theatre. Before I worked in areas where there are no theatres at all. Or we decided to create the play in the open air at a significant site, like the Nile in Sudan or the desert in the south of Peru.
For me the Plein Theatre is a location. And it can be used in diferent ways. We are surrounded by a city district that inhabits people from all over the world. I would like to see the reflection of this world of people in the programming of the theatre and our café / restaurant Eetlokaal.
At the same time we have the limits of the space of the small, but beautiful theatre. We program different disciplines so that different likeminds will find their way to the theatre. In the programming of theatre, dance, contemporary music, visual arts and performances, artists from everywhere come to perform.
In the years to come we would like to have a lot more programming from profesional groups from different disciplines and invite theatre artists from abroad to come and play too. Because I believe that this will bring the residents to our theatre.
What more international collaborations and artists from abroad can we expect in the PLEIN THEATER in the near future?
This june we will have our third Artist in resident Tolin Alexander from the amazone in Surinam. He is a theatre director with his roots in the Maroon community. Together we will work on an Theatrical installation about Slavery History and the knowledge of them about medical plants and rituals. And where this relates to our common heritage. He will arrive in june and we will set up workshops and encounters. Please stay updated to our newsletter and website.