Look Inside: Valparaiso's Container Theater Festival Offers a Fresh Perspective

There are two things that Valparaiso is not short on: art and shipping containers.

The coastal city plays host to both a thriving arts scene and a bustling commercial port, where giant cranes can be seen loading or unloading the dully colored and often branded metal boxes from ships. They carry inside them all manner of tradeable commodities. They’re an essential part of the lifeblood of the city; they transport proteins of Valparaiso’s economic microorganism. But what to do with those containers when they’re no longer in use?

One artistic collective decided to incorporate them into the city... and into their performances.

Image courtesy Festival Teatro Container
Image courtesy Festival Teatro Container

Now in its fifth year, the Container Theater Festival (Festival Teatro Container) aims to involve the community with art through that most commercial of entities – the shipping container, “an object that is externally cold…and lacking identity.”

True enough, when the behemoth boxes of steel are sometimes found throughout the city, they are hardly thought of as performance spaces. But enter one that is being used by the festival and audiences are immersed in an intimate space for artistic creation and experience.

 A performer gazes intensely into the crowd at the Teatro Container opening showcase.
A performer gazes intensely into the crowd at the Teatro Container opening showcase.

Benches along the side walls allow for seating, while at the front and back of the container, props, set pieces, lighting and sound equipment can be found. The close quarters require that the audience be fully engaged and present for the performances, which in an era of grandiose theatrical productions is a refreshing change of pace.

The organization’s mission statement announces that through the festival, they seek to promote “research, experimentation and artistic creation by establishing a dialogue with the city and its inhabitants.”

Containers used for the festival – which will last until Sunday, March 28 – can be found throughout the city. Performers mostly hail from Valparaiso and around Chile, but countries like France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and the United States are also represented.

Divided into the three genres of community (comunidad), intimate (intimidad), and city (cuidad), each area of performances hopes to communicate a different value or objective to Valparaiso citizens. For example, the “Cuidad” portion focuses on the desire to reevaluate the overall city’s relationship to the sequestered port.

The festival commenced with an opening ceremony on the night of March 18 at Plaza Sotomayor, featuring a lively set by the local jazz funk band Poca Sangre, while actors and dancers from the various festival shows put on a tantalizing performance of dance, interpretative movement, smoky lights, and (as this is Chile,) a stray dog or two that decided to join in the festivities.

 Set for the production of "Salome." Photo by Christopher Benavides Martinez
Set for the production of "Salome." Photo by Christopher Benavides Martinez

The evening concluded with an unfurled banner stretching above the plaza proclaiming "V Festival Teatro Container," at which point festival director Nicolas Eyzaguirre came out to announce the festival’s opening, welcome the assembled crowd, and urge citizens and artists to fight for political representation in the Congress and in city affairs.

"Necesitamos participacion a todos, (we need everyone's participation)" he declared to the cheering crowd, also urging for a more metaphorical “opening of doors... and spaces."

Below can be found a list of Teatro Container's offerings for the remainder of the festival:


La Voz: The gravity of a phone call from a past lover – who left with no explanation – can be a soul-searching encounter. Consuelo Hozapifel takes the audience along on an emotional journey into the life and soul of a women waiting alone in her room for just such a call. The La Voz container is located on Plaza Waddington in Playa Ancha, with performances from March 24 to 26 at 7 and 9 p.m., and March 27 at 7 p.m. CP$2,000 per ticket.

Salome: Based on Oscar Wilde’s legendary play of Biblical lust and temptation, this interpretation of Salome offers commanding performances from all the actors. Salome can be found on Cerro Florida on Plaza Mena, with performances March 22 and 23 at 9 p.m., March 25 and 26 at 7 and 9 p.m., and March 27 at 7 p.m. CP$2,000 per ticket.

Ticket: One of art’s greatest uses is as a method of coming to terms with the past, and the documentary theater play Ticket tackles just that. History, fear, darkness, light, and hope all come together under a metal roof. Experience this heady play at Playa San Mateo from March 24 to March 26. Shows start at 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. CP$2,000 per ticket.

C. Lambe Lambe: Try this one on for size. Enjoy charming miniature plays created with the use of puppets and boxes by El Teatro Lambe. A workshop will also be held to involve kids in the creation of a show. March 25 to 27, at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., Cerro Cordillera. Free.

La Caverna: Part of what makes a city unique is the people that live there and their stories. Since their creation in 2012, the Teatro del Fuego has been collecting stories from Valparaiso’s inhabitants and visitors, and they present the story of the creation of this “library” for the festival. Held at Plaza O’Higgins at 8 p.m. from March 23 to 27. Free.


Photo courtesy https://www.instagram.com/festivalteatrocontainer/
Photo courtesy https://www.instagram.com/festivalteatrocontainer/

Origami: Created by a French-Japanese company, Origami explores the transformative powers of dance and its relationship to the spaces surrounding it. Remaining performances: March 25 at 6:30 p.m. at Cancha Los Patos, and March 26 at 6:30 p.m. at Playa San Mateo. Free.


Photo courtesy Festival Teatro Container
Photo courtesy Festival Teatro Container

La Cocina Publica: One of the greatest conveyors of tradition, family, and history is food. La Cocina Publica cooks up a delicious communal experience about how smells, recipes, and the act of cooking connect people to their roots. Saturday, March 26 at 8 p.m. at Plaza Balzac. Free.

All Pacific: Chilean-German artist Joaquin Luzoro uses his art to take viewers back to a time of intense war and soccer rivalry between Chile and Peru, examining the themes of nationality, patriotism, and borders. Housed inside a container outfitted with colored strip-lighting of the Chilean and Peruvian flags, this visual exhibition promises to be a real “score.” All Pacific is housed at Carpa Azul, March 22 to 26, opens at 7 p.m. Free.

Marin Machado: Many shipping containers don’t reach their final destination; while there is no official number available, it is estimated that thousands wash overboard and are lost at sea every year. Painter Martin Machado explores this intriguing theme of “metal overboard” in his festival exhibition. Plaza Sotomayor, March 22 to 26, 10 am to 9 p.m. Free.

Polvo: Getting a bit tired of sitting inside a metal container? Wander the city to find visual artist Paul Bloas’ contribution to the festival, which focuses on the mining communities of the Atacama Desert. Free. See festival website for map.

The festival will also feature workshops and performances based on volunteer participation. Information about the various workshops offered during the festival and more can be found on the Festival Teatro Container website, festivalteatrocontainer.cl. Tickets for La Voz, Salome, and Ticket can be purchased at the boleteria located on Plaza Sotomayor or on the website. Follow the festival on Twitter at @teatrocontainer for instant updates.

Festival Teatro Container
March 18 - 27, 2016
Valparaíso, Chile

Average: 5 (2 votes)

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