Finding a Common Language

Photo by Liz Lauren

Teatro Buendía Artistic Director and Pedro Páramo director Flora Lauten reflects on her company’s collaborations at the Goodman and the shared impulses of theater across cultures.

By Neena Arndt

With the 2013 production of Pedro Páramo, which is available for streaming March 29-April 11 as part of ENCORE, the Goodman welcomed Cuba’s Teatro Buendía to the Owen Theatre for the second time. Previously, the troupe had performed two plays, La visita de la vieja dama and Charentón as part of the Goodman’s Latino Theatre Festival in 2010 at the invitation of festival curator Henry Godinez. In these works—adaptations of Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Visit and Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade—the company of actors gave full-blooded and highly physical performances while Artistic Director Flora Lauten created an enticing experience filled with visual delights. 

“In spite of the group’s having traveled much throughout Europe, Asia and Latin America, we had never encountered an American audience,” Lauten says, reflecting on the company’s experiences in Chicago. “The response filled us with joy because we found an audience avid to know more about our culture—respectful, intelligent, sensitive and very open to new theatrical experiences.” 

Three years later, the Goodman deepened its relationship with the company by creating Pedro Páramo, an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Juan Rulfo. The production featured actors from both Cuba and Chicago, under the direction of Lauten and was presented entirely in Spanish. Henry Godinez, who had been so instrumental in bringing the company to the Goodman, collaborated on the project as an actor, playing the title role. Although she usually works with a set company of actors rather than hiring new ones for each project, Lauten embraced the challenge of working with actors new to her way of working. She remarks, “the result was a fascinating dialogue of language, times [and] rhythms. At the end of the experience, the conclusion was beautiful because in spite of our differences, we proved that we have, in the theatre, a seed in common: hope and faith.”  

 Read Lauten’s full statement in Spanish below:

Desde el primer encuentro con Henry Godínez la conexión artística y personal fue milagrosa por inmediata y cercana. Después nuestro grupo Buendía viajo a Chicago invitado por el Goodman Theater al Festival Latino, con dos Obras: La visita de la vieja Dama y Charenton. Porque apesar de que el grupo había viajado mucho  a Europa, Asia, y latinoamerica, nunca nos habíamos confrontado con un público americano, y la respuesta nos lleno de alegría porque encontramos  un público avido de conocer más sobre nuestra cultura, respetuoso,  inteligente, sensible, y muy abierto a nuevas experiencias teatrales. Más tarde tarde hicimos conjuntamente con el Goodman la co-production de Pedro Páramo, intercambio cultural entre músicos, actores y directores artísticos de Cuba y artistas latinoamericanos residentes en Chicago. Nos resultó un diálogo fascinante  de lenguaje, tiempos, ritmos, y al final de la experiencia  la conclusión fue hermosa, porque a pesar de nuestras diferencias comprobamos que tenemos en el teatro una semilla que nos: es común de esperanza y fe.