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Theater in Costa Rica

Nowadays, Costa Rica has an avid nation of theater lovers. The government and minister of Culture in Costa Rica strongly supports their thriving acting community. Supposedly, Costa Rica has more theater companies per capita than any other country in the world. Drama  is now an established  part of the standard school curriculum.

Playwriting in Costa Rica is a relatively new phenomenon starting around the colonial times during the nineteenth century.  At first, mainly cultural, religious, historical events, and folklore where the central themes used during the period to represent what was actually happening in society in those days. It was not uncommon to see stereotypical representations of urban and rural characters combined with humor.

As theater advanced, authors began touching more complex themes and deeper subject matter. Writers were even as daring to make criticisms of the corruption seen in the Costa Rican system; a theme that is very common throughout Latin America. Much of this influence and inspiration came from Argentinean and Chilean playwrights.

In the 1920’s the plays took a major shift. Presentations began to discuss Latino machismo and the limitations women’s rights. The focus of plays during this period was mainly on family problems and social issues. In fact, some of the plays even draw attention to the dehumanization of the industrial era and its affect on society.

It was only until the 1950’s that play production made leaps and bounds. This is a period in which the Teatro Universitario was established. This outlet helped promote the formation of many young actors. Soon after in the 1960’s several theater houses were also opened over the course of the decade due to the public’s demand and interest. Some of the theaters opened include:  Teatro Arlequin and Teatro Las Mascaras. Then The Catania Brothers arrived to the country to revolutionize the theater business. They brought an explosion of energetic actors, dynamic directors, and other types of theater specialists. In 1969, the Department of Drama was opened as a part of the University of Costa Rica

During this era the themes that were presented were much more serious than they had been in the past. Many of the topics had to do with public conscience, covering such areas as adultery, abortion, existentialism and the manipulation and the exercise of power over others. Although this was a brave and daring step to take, the general public received it well and was ready for a darker side of theater.

Currently, commercial theater is more popular in the country, and this includes plays written by Costa Ricans and other Latin American authors. The streets of San José are decorated with tiny theaters. The types of plays have branched out dramatically and now you can see everything from comedy to drama, avant-garde, theater-in-the-round, mime, and even puppet theater. In general, most plays are considered to be comical and enjoyable. The plays of today target to entertain audience and not to educate them as many people need an escape from the day to day. Even if they aren't as serious as other performances, they are valuable in that they present fragments of contemporary Costa Rican reality.

The majority of presentation are  every night Tuesday through Sunday. Performances are predominantly in Spanish or in English. The prices to enjoy a night at the theater are very reasonable. In fact, you could go once a week for a year for the same cost as a single Broadway production. To find out about shows you can check out The Tico Times, Costa Rica Today or the"Viva" section in La Nación for complete listings on current productions.

Costa Rican theaters play host to a variety different exhibitions, plays and cultural events.  Listed below are some of the famous sites.

Teatro Variedades - located in San Jose centro.  For a more detailed description click here.

Teatro Nacional - located in San Jose centro.  For a more detailed description click here.

Teatro Popular Melico Salazar - located in San Jose centro.  For a more detailed description click here.

Teatro Eugene O'Neill - located in San Jose centro.  For a more detailed description click here.

Costa Rican Playwrights

Information on famous Costa Rican authors and playwrights.

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