Arts & Entertainment

Mexican artists entertaining from rooftops to help neighbors forget virus

By Mariana Gonzalez-Marquez

Guadalajara, Mexico, Aug 18 (efe-epa).- A big old house in the Mexican city of Guadalajara is the site of a puppet theater that a group of artists runs, giving free shows from the rooftops for local families amid the social distancing requirements during the coronavirus pandemic.

The “Rooftops: What If We Look Up?” group came up with the idea to seek out venues where they could let their creativity come forth and help local residents forget the isolation in which many of them have lived for the past four months, producer Luisa Guzman told EFE.

“It was almost impossible to keep still and create only online despite the fact that it’s also been a learning experience. We live from contact with people, from the live experience and it occurred to us to collect a group of friends and start the creative process from here,” she said.

The coronavirus – and the sometimes deadly Covid-19 pneumonia it causes – has infected more than 525,000 Mexicans and killed about 57,000 in the five-and-a-half months since it hit Mexico.

So, since March the country’s theaters, concert halls and other performance venues have been closed any those who make their living within that sector have been facing an uphill battle, thus motivating many of them to find alternatives to get by during the so-called “economic pandemic.”

“The thing that was most complicated was the economic situation of our colleagues. There wasn’t any work and most of them earn their living from the shows or are awaiting for resources from some kind of (government) grant, and we’re thinking along those lines too … about how it could impact on their (personal) economic situations,” Guzman said.

A few minutes before the start of the show, several men wearing makeup and dressed in black and white move through the streets in a little parade to invite local families to come see the performance.

The people observe them in amazement and many boys and girls dance excitedly to the rhythm of the drums the men beat.

The families come, set up their benches and folding chairs or sit on the ground, some of them viewing the show from their own rooftops and others from the park in front of the big house, which has now been transformed into a theater with black curtains and lights.

Seated on benches, dozens of children look with curiosity at the storybook characters who speak to them via a set of loudspeakers.

Some wear facemasks, although others remove their face coverings as if it would help them to see better.

Up on the rooftop, the puppets sing, talk and move around with the blue sky as the background, with a few clouds visible from time to time, promising the approach of a storm.

The sun shines down and the puppets joke and interact with the children.

Holding rooftop shows of this kind is one way of rediscovering other uses for local spaces and giving new significance to gatherings, albeit all the while maintaining social distancing, Karina Hurtado, one of the members of the artists’ troupe, told EFE.

“It’s being in a space that lets you connect with many things, with the world, with nature, the sky, the light. It’s an open space that allows a flow and less risk for people,” she said.

One of the objectives of the troupe is for everyone to be part of the show and to help make it possible, according to Hurtado.

After the first show put on in the Capilla de Jesus neighborhood in central Guadalajara, the group received multiple invitations from people eager to make their own rooftops available for future shows – not only puppet shows but also musical and theatrical performances.

The artists hope that more and more neighborhoods will join their initiative as a way of bringing cultural events closer to the public, especially to people who have fewer opportunities to experience such performances.

“The fact of returning to gathering ourselves together is important and sharing art also invites us to reflect on certain things and understand that we’re part of this world, that we have to take care of it and that we have to take care of ourselves,” Hurtado said.

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