Lambe Lambe Miniature Theater Festival opens in Valparaiso

The best things come in small packages, as the OANI Theater Foundation proves with their annual miniature theater festival.

Now in its third year, the Festival Internacional de Teatro Lambe Lambe de Valparaiso specializes in creating theater and plays on a smaller scale, utilizing dolls, puppets, shadows, and other objects to tell stories in public spaces.

 Image courtesy of Teatro OANI.
Image courtesy of Teatro OANI.

“It creates a more intimate experience,” says OANI Theater general producer Valerie Correa Rojas.

Controllers act as both puppeteers and actors by manipulating the objects used for each play, performing the plays inside a painted and decorated “scenic box.” The drama is witnessed through a viewing window, with added musical and vocal effects that viewers can hear through headphones. Run time for the plays can be anywhere from one to five minutes, and due to the small scale of the operation, plays can only be viewed by one to three people at a time. Plays are performed continuously for two hours to allow time for as many people as possible to view them.

 Image courtesy of Teatro OANI.
Image courtesy of Teatro OANI.

“It makes the audience feel special and unique,” Rojas explains, adding that theater today is often “big and the audience feels like another number,” pressured into perceiving the material like those around them. Thanks to the intimate setting of Lambe Lambe plays, a special connection is created between the viewer and the controller. The audience can react however they please.

“It’s a secret they share,” says Rojas.

The festival, whose theme this year is “spreading humanity,” is dedicated to providing family-friendly entertainment, with performances taking place in public plazas and locations around Valparaiso such as Plaza Anibal Pinto, Muelle Prat, and Parque Cultural de Valparaiso.

“We go where the people are,” says Rojas.

The festival consists of 35 plays, featuring performers from Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Peru, and Uruguay. The plays range in subject matter from a story of a cat looking for company, to the voyages of sea-going messages in bottles, to retellings of Mapuche and Chilote myths. Rojas also added that the OANI Theater Company has a side project where they take the boxes to schools and perform for classes, aiming to expose new generations to theater and its benefits, such as aiding in emotional intelligence growth.

 Crowds gather to watch "Bear Story at Plaza Anibal Pinto. Image courtesy of Teatro OANI.
Crowds gather to watch "Bear Story at Plaza Anibal Pinto. Image courtesy of Teatro OANI.

“Theater must be a part of life,” says Rojas, adding that by viewing the plays, children not only have a good time, but “face fictional situations they can learn from.”

OANI also hosts workshops related to puppetry, marionettes, and miniature-theater, and will be holding complimentary activities and talks throughout the week of the festival, including screenings of the recent Oscar winning animated short Bear Story, and lectures on the origins and history of Lambe Lambe plays.

Lambe, a Portuguese word that translates to ‘lick’ in English, offers a hint as to Lambe Lambe’s Brazilian roots. The modern theater companies of ‘Lambe Lambe’ – also known as ‘thumbnail theater’ – originated in Brazil in the 1980s, when Denise Santos and Ismine Lima became inspired by street photographers who took pictures using tiny box-sized cameras and developed the film more rapidly by licking it. Rojas and her business partner Camila Landon Vio learned about the shows while living in Brazil, and worked with Santos and Lima to bring “lambe lambe” to Chile and other countries in South America.

So far, Rojas says the Chilean people have reacted well to the shows and look forward to the festivals.

“This tradition, it’s growing and travelling and people are following!” says Rojas.

For more information on times and locations, visit

Festival de Teatro Lambe Lambe
April 1 – 9
Times and Places:

Price: Free
Valparaiso, Chile

Average: 5 (1 vote)

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