There’s something special about the way live theatre brings people together. You can almost feel the excitement and inspiration wash over you as you sit and quietly watch the performance unfold in the darkened theatre, alongside a group of fellow art lovers. A real sense of community is created as you share a common experience.
With his one-man show “ALTAR,” Santiago Guzmán is helping build that sense of community (and sharing part of his culture) while helping a number of local organizations at the same time.
Directed by Meghan Greeley, “ALTAR” is a moving story that follows Eugenio as he tries to mend his broken heart after being “ghosted” by his ex-boyfriend. Taking a cue from the traditional Mexican holiday Día de Muertos (The Day of The Dead), Eugenio sets up an altar, a central part of the Día de Muertos ritual, to summon his boyfriend’s “ghost” to sort out the break-up. The show takes place at the LSPU Hall in downtown St. John’s from November 4-7, with a live stream on November 6 (click here for showtimes and to purchase tickets), and also at the Rotary Arts Centre in Corner Brook from November 12-14 (click here).
Originally from Metepec, Mexico and now based in St. John’s, Guzmán is the Artistic Director of TODOS Productions. Through his work, he aims to put local, under-represented stories and characters in the spotlight, while inviting audiences to appreciate and celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of Newfoundland and Labrador. In keeping with that mandate, RCA Theatre (RCAT) and TODOS Productions have curated local BIPOC artists to open each show.
“My work as an artist is rooted in community: I care to foster, celebrate and advance our community through my work. It is always in my mind how to offer the community I belong to a show where I share resources, knowledge, (and) space along the way with those that historically have not been seen or heard,” Guzmán says.
“The 2021 production of ALTAR centres its focus on advancing our community in different ways. The creative team is led by emerging theatre-makers; RCAT and TODOS Productions are partnering to present eight curtain-raisers featuring acts from racialized artists in our community; aspiring artists have been invited to witness the rehearsal room and tech week,” he adds.
But this isn’t the only way in which “ALTAR” strives to give back to the community. The team has also set up a community altar in the Cox & Palmer Second Space to receive donations (everything from clothing and small household items to shampoo and non-perishable food items) for local organizations including the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB), The Gathering Place, the St. John’s Women’s Centre, and Bridges to Hope. (Click here to see a list of requested items.) The community altar also invites theatre goers to participate in Día de Muertos by bringing along a photo of a departed loved to place on the pin board to remember and celebrate them.
“The community altar is an opportunity for me to share with audiences the Mexican tradition of Día de Muertos, and celebrate the life of those who are no longer with us while collecting donations for other organizations in our community that needs them,” Guzmán says.
“ALTAR isn’t only a one-person show, it’s a show for our community.”
Nicole Rousseau, Artistic Animateur of RCAT, says community partnerships like these are a vital part of the work they do.
“This commitment to the performing arts in Newfoundland and Labrador is reflected in our values of Live. Local. Creative, that affirm our place in the vibrant cultural community of our province as well as our support for other local organizations and the important work they do every day,” she says.
“We are proud to partner with TODOS Productions in building a community altar and invite everyone to take part.”