Verdecruz, a work that exposes the inhumane isolation of leprosy patients

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It will have a short season, from March 16 to April 10, at the Santa Catarina Theater, in Coyoacán

Can you imagine acquiring an incurable disease, entering a treatment center and never leaving? It may not seem strange in the current context, however, decades ago, people who fell ill with leprosy were confined in a leprosy where they spent years completely isolated… until their life was extinguished!

Some testimonies of the last survivors of those isolation centers in Ecuador were collected by Beatriz Miranda Galarza, who captured them in the book Our history is not a lie. Living with leprosy in Ecuador, which was taken up by the director of the UNAM University Theater Center, Mario Espinosa, with the dramaturgy of Ingrid Bravo, to take it to the stage in Verdecruz or the last pesthouses, which will premiere on the 16th March at the Santa Catarina Theater.

Although leprosy has not been completely massive and its cure was found 40 years ago, from the 19th century until after the middle of the 20th century it was practiced, as a form of medical treatment, to confine people in “specialized places in which men and women were divided, outside of all human rights because they lost their possessions, they did not see their relatives, and they were prohibited from falling in love, having a partner or children, which was changing”.

Mario Espinosa indicated that the practice of treating this disease always separated people, but starting in the 19th century it was done very systematically and clinical spaces were created where it was treated “scientifically”, in which people were confined for the rest of the treatment. her life: “Now in times of Covid-19 people have to isolate themselves for 14 days, or seven days now, but those people were captured as children and locked up in leper colonies or leprosariums for the rest of their lives… A tremendous thing! !”.

When the cure was discovered all these places began to close; however, the vestige remained, it was then that the Ecuadorian researcher Beatriz Miranda conducted interviews with survivors of the leprosariums in Quito, Ecuador, and made a book, which the director confessed that at first he was not very interested in the subject of leprosy, but it turned out to be an example of how sometimes human beings, in the name of public health, commit acts of confinement and punishment to entire populations, which he found interesting and moving, and which is now related to our contemporary life and way , because even migrants or specific populations are treated with that form of apartheid.

Later, Mario Espinosa decided to contact the writer Beatriz Miranda, who shared with him the recordings of the last vestiges of what the leper colonies were in Ecuador; In addition, Mario Espinosa carried out other interviews of the same nature in the Agua de Dios community in Brazil, which was a huge leper colony that was closed over time and from which a now very populated city arose.

“In Mexico we were not held with police outside, but in Colombia leprosy patients were watched by guards outside. People had to cross a river and go through ‘The bridge of sighs’, which was called that because it was where they left their sick and never saw them again. We have had a little taste during these years, so we can connect with that experience and value it”, he highlighted.

The Verbatim Technique

To the discovery of said material to take it to the stage, Mario Espinosa wanted to add the Verbatim Technique that two years before had been shared in the classrooms of the UNAM University Theater Center: “a documentary theater technique that consists of using the exact words to which one interviews. The documentary is faithful to what people say and the actor works as a kind of medium”.

Mario Espinosa explained that through the recorded sound which the public does not normally hear, the actor lets it enter his ears and speaks with the exact words, even with fillers and repetitions, as is commonly spoken; taking into account the rhythm and intonation of the recorded words. This interesting technique has been widely used for several years in the United States and Great Britain.

This technique, which is little known in Mexico, was brought to the CUT through a Verbatim Theater Workshop given by the specialist Alecky Blythe, from November 25 to 29, 2019; as well as the Saying the Real conference, on November 26, activities that were organized by the Ingmar Bergman Chair in Cinema and Theater, the CUT and UNAM Theater, in collaboration with Anglo Arts.

The testimonies of leprosy patients are of older people who are over 80 years old, some even died during this period, and on the contrary, the actors who play them are very young, “I found that contrast very interesting because finally we are all human beings. human beings who can embody these problems and this way of life”.

Just like leprosy patients, the citizens of today have been forced, although for very different reasons, to confine themselves at home, which is why the first version of this work had to be made on video, from the house of each actor and was presented at the University Festival of Art and Science, El Aleph 2020.

Now that it will be taken to the stage of the Santa Catarina Theater, in order to do justice to those who lived through it and shared their testimonies, the work does not have a great set design or fiction, in order to give prominence to the voices and the scenic game, in addition to generating a space where the public can get to know them in the most approximate way.

The cast is made up of graduates from the University Theater Center: Sandra Cecilia, Sebastián Cobos, José Juan Sánchez, Andrés Tirado, María Kemp, who alternates with Ingrid Bravo; and Sabrina Tenopala.

The production is carried out by the UNAM University Theater Center, Cornamusa, 17 Institute of Critical Studies and UNAM Theater. The space, lighting and wardrobe design is by Natalia Sedano; Marcela Aguilar’s movement design; the original music of Cristóbal Maryan; the edition for Verbatim by Andrés Tirado; and photography and multimedia, by Ernesto Madrigal. Ale Quezada is assistant set design, lighting and costumes; José Juan Sánchez is assistant director; and the advisers were Beatriz Miranda Galarzas and Gloria Carrasco.

Space is limited to 40 spectators and the general cost of tickets is $150.00 pesos, which can be purchased directly at the box office open two hours before each performance. There is a 50% discount for students, teachers with updated credentials, UNAM and INAPAM alumni; while on UNAM Theater Thursdays the ticket is $30.00 pesos.

The season will be held from March 16 to April 10 with performances on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 7:00 p.m. and Sundays at 6:00 p.m. at the Santa Catarina Theater located in Jardín Santa Catarina 10, Plaza de Santa Catarina in Coyoacan. For more information consult www.teatrounam.com.mx and through social networks @TeatroUNAM

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