The Comprehensive Rehabilitation of the Tilingo Theater, heritage of the children of Caracas.
The “Tilingo Theater” was, par excellence, the space for children from Caracas, the theater that was not only enjoyed by several generations; also, my children, whom my husband and I took regularly, so that they could meet the stories and fables that accompanied their childhood. His works were magical, diverse, different, intelligent, very creative, of traditions; and very well “mise en scène”. More than once we had the opportunity to enjoy Sergéi Prokófiev’s symphonic show with his “Peter and the Wolf”!
And it is that, many of us who had the fortune to grow up in the Caracas of the second half of the last century; and in which insecurity and consumerism had not replaced weekend walks with our parents, we went; many times, to enjoy the works of the theater “The head bump” in the Concert Hall of the University City; and, of “Tilingo”, in its large and imposing headquarters of “Arístides Rojas Park”, located on “Andrés Bello” Avenue, between “Venezuela Square” and the ascent to “Cota Mil” highway, on the border between the east and the center of the capital, very close to the emblematic Caracas neighborhood “Pinto Salinas”. Both, children’s cultural props of Caracas.
“Arístides Rojas Park” where the “Tilingo Theater” is located.
Now, there is knowledge of the presence of puppets in Venezuela, from the eighteenth century, through Nativity scenes and Jerusalems (“Cribs” and “Christ passions”, respectively), between Christmas and Carnival. Such representations were carried out in the public space, which would inspire “street” theater; which, due to this character, according to the investigators, aroused then distrust in the authorities.
For the 19th century, as historian David Belloso wrote in 1968, in his work “The Puppets of Francisco López” (carpenter, puppeteer and ventriloquist), the same: “With wood, in addition of fine furniture, made marvellous figures which he painted … and manipulated with string, and presented them to an audience willing to pay a real half every Thursday, Saturday and Sunday to attend these increasingly fashionable shows”.
At the disposition of the then President of the Republic of Venezuela, Antonio Guzmán Blanco, whose management was characterised by the (frenchified) development of large-format public and cultural works, the old “Theater of Caracas” was built, in which presentations were made of comedies, operas, “zarzuelas”, sleight of hand and puppets. At the same time, the manufacture of puppets and small theaters in schools was promoted.
Later, starting in 1940, with the visit to Venezuela of the “Dei Piccoli Theater” from Italy and the “El Nahual Theater” from Mexico, there was great interest in such a cultural manifestation, as well as in its learning. To this effect, the constitution of theater companies in the High Schools begins, such as in the “Andrés Bello” High School in Caracas, where Federico (Fredy) Reyna, whose name today identifies one of the two Auditoriums of the most important Theater Complex in Caracas, the “ Teresa Carreño”), and his wife Lolita, founded in 1946, the “The Tambourine Theater”, as well as the Directorate of the Puppet School of the Ministry of Education, from where they transmitted their acquired experiences; especially, in France, for many years.
The “Reyna School” and other theater actors promoted the opening of the Theater Workshop of the Universidad de Los Andes in 1967; and, of the object of our article, the “Tilingo Theater”, in 1968.
The “Foundation of Puppet Theaters” and the “Tilingo Theater”, whose name is related to someone who entertains others, identifies it; and, from there, their logo with the figure of a jester, were created and directed for 5 years, by the educator Clara Rosa Otero, upon returning from her management as Cultural Representative for Venezuela in Chile, where she led and carried out the “ First Amateur Theater Festival in the Experimental Theater of the University” of that country. The “Tilingo Theater” was, consequently, one of the first to have a permanent venue in Caracas.
The “Tilingo Theater”, immediately became a reference of good children’s theater. Actors of great stature, nationally and internationally; among others, Julio Riera, who was said to “make poetry with puppets” and Eddy Díaz Sousa, took their first steps there; or, most of his career, through the execution of works by authors of the importance of Gabriel García Márquez, Andersen, Maurice Maeterlinck, S. Prokofiev, among others.
Also, the Classical Theater School, and of comedy and puppets (of string and fabric) Italian, with its characters, “Pulcinella”, “Arlecchino”, and “Pinocchio”(representative precisely of the wooden puppet (“burattino”) that comes to life, among others, adorned the stages of said venue, with their voices, expressions and laughter.
Likewise, the “Tilingo Theater” has insisted since its inception on transmitting the country’s history to Venezuelan children and promoting in them a sense of identity. Thus, Francisco de Miranda, Simón Bolívar and Antonio José de Sucre, for example, have starred with their deeds, the animated stories of the libertarian past of our country.
Like all authentically cultural, non-commercial activities, the “Tilingo Theater” was an institution that had trouble staying afloat and needed to sustain intense activity and an infrastructure that was heritage of Caracas, designed by the Spanish-Venezuelan architect Carlos Gómez de Llarena, winner of the 1976 National Architecture Prize; author, among others, of iconic works of the city, such as the Europa Tower, the National Art Gallery and the San Ignacio Center.
The building was incorporated into the “Parque Arístides Rojas” of the so-called “Paseo Vargas”, a very complex area of Caracas, due to its proximity to areas of little security, characterised by its great extension, the exuberance of its vegetation and the presence of children playful areas with a lot of originality, like the iron tubes in whose interior, as children; and, later, our children, we played crawl without getting caught. It was the site of an oasis, in which the noise of strong traffic and the scourges of the surroundings, were left behind to give way to play and children’s imagination. Going to the theater on a Sunday also meant for us and our children, enjoying the Park’s facilities, attractions and games later.
Now, in 2006, in response to a request for support for carrying out maintenance works that we received at PDVSA La Estancia, the institution I had the enormous privilege of founding and presiding for 10 years, received by the then very diligent and passionate about her work, Director of “Tilingo Theater”, Lic. María Luisa Bruniccardi, we proceeded to carry out a diagnostic visit to the site; and, after highlighting the need for cultural spaces in the adjacent communities, with which we work for this purpose, we developed a beautiful Comprehensive Rehabilitation Project.
This restorative action, begun in 2006, and delivered on November 23, 2007, included:
The remodelling of the main entrance;
The recovery of the theater hall (new carpets, reupholstering of the 180 seats, curtains and floor);
The restoration of the wood of walls, doors, frames and ceilings;
Theater prelude. Note the theater logo on the pavement. Reconstruction of the electrical system;
Rehabilitation of the white and black water system;
The supply and installation of air conditioning equipment and fire fighting system;
The reconstruction of the bathrooms and the cafe/canteen in the entrance hall;
The recovery of the rehearsal area and dressing rooms;
The dressing rooms of the “Tilingo Theater”.
The painting of the headquarters;
The drawing of murals of children’s themes;
With the delivery to the communities of the “Teatro Tilingo”, we were able to generate; on the one hand, an important approach to the most iconic of the dramatic arts, such as the theater, which, since its birth in Greece in the 5th and 6th centuries before Christ, has allowed man to develop his creativity; and, above all, share experiences, through their public expression. On the other hand, to bring the little ones closer to culture, thereby promoting the flourishing of their imagination. Because, we will not get tired of reiterating it, as we have done when telling about our other projects, culture is the true instrument that will allow our children in the city, and even more so, in the neighbourhoods and poor areas, to save themselves from the scourges of drugs, alcoholism, delinquency and unproductive leisure, which prevail today in our metropolises; and, they are encouraged, also in those with greater possibilities, through the misuse and violence of electronic devices.
In 2012, in an incomprehensible decision made by the authorities of the Government of the Capital District at the time, the “Tilingo Theater” lost its headquarters, despite the fact that it had been the first children’s theater in Caracas, and whose works represent an entire school of Venezuelan theater. We, however, continue for many years, supporting and promoting the realisation of Tilingo’s creations, in the neighbourhoods and communities.
“PDVSA La Estancia” has always established a dynamic system of alliances with social, cultural and heritage institutions, which from the beginning, in the case of “Tilingo”, involved the permanent staging of works, fables, musicals, stories, etc., on behalf of the theater company, and the promotion and maintenance of a significant number of continuous, free and high-quality activities that would be developed by the “Tilingo Theater” company (puppets, marionettes, mimes, circus, children’s theater, body art, etc. ), in the barrios (poor areas) of the city.
The group of actors of the “Tilingo Theater”, many of them with great experience in the country, always took care of it; and continued to do so with our support, to create works of deep social, historical and artistic meaning, under our motto that “every space, even more so, on stage, in which one is in contact with the public; and, in particular, , the infant, is an opportunity to educate”.
Thus, I remember with great joy and also satisfaction, the happy faces; and, above all, participation of our children, while they enjoyed the beautiful works written and staged by the artists of the “Tilingo Theater” for them, “Rosita, the girl who wanted to know Venezuela”, which, introduced in the spirit of the spectators, the movement of our waterfalls, the blues of our beaches, the height of our peaks, making them feel proud of their land; and / or, “Let’s go together to the small square of Bolívar”, in which the child is led by the hand towards our country’s history, finding in Bolívar the example of the heroic deed, liberating him; which, without a doubt and at all times, is definitely a motivation.
The originality of the work “Rosita, the girl who wanted to know Venezuela”, lies, among others, in the sample of paintings from the different regions of our country.
The encounter with the “Tilingo Theater”, was for all people from Caracas, a way of getting closer to the spirit of imagination, to the extraordinary of art, to the deliciousness of a good level show; and, above all, an opportunity to hold on to our identity. Taking our children to the theater, introducing them to “Uncle Tiger and Uncle Rabbit”, the two characters that accompanied the childhood of Venezuelans for a long time, was a beautiful way of transmitting values, principles, tradition; and, in the specific case of these, also, wisdom, which allowed them to teach us “that Uncle Rabbit, with his cunning and intelligence, was capable of overcoming Uncle Tiger’s fierceness, and that appearances are deceiving and solutions do not depend on use of force”.
The play “Uncle Tiger y Uncle Rabbit”, a traditional Venezuelan tale. The traveling “Tilingo Theater”. Presentation of the Venezuelan story “Uncle Tiger and Uncle Rabbit”. Story that transmits popular wisdom; and, in this case, the importance of using intelligence over force. Theater as an educational instrument.