By: Winnie T. Sittón
Photos: Courtesy FAE
From March 17 to 23, Panama will host a very special celebration: the tenth International Festival of Performing Arts (FAE, for its Spanish acronym), the country’s most important theater and dance event. To celebrate its ten year anniversary, festival organizers have invited companies and groups with exciting artistic proposals from Spain, France, Portugal, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, and Panama.
Roberto Enrique King, founder and executive producer of the FAE, has promoted the event for more than 16 years and is happy to announce the tenth festival. “I am very pleased with what has been achieved so far and our enthusiasm will continue to ensure it gets better and better. The festival has become one of the pillars of Panamanian cultural expression and it is recognized abroad as a serious and transcendental project and a representation of the country in the field of performing arts.”
The event debuted in July 2004, but King conceived of an international performing arts festival for Panama long before then. He began working in the 1980s as a coordinator and producer of plays and artistic events. In the late 1990s, he joined the Network of Cultural Promoters of Latin America and the Caribbean and participated in international festivals and bringing prestigious groups to Panama, which served as training for the production of his own performing arts festival. “I worked on the idea for several years, hoping to secure the conditions needed to make it happen, but those conditions are not easy to achieve in our contexts. Finally, in 2003, I began organizing the festival with help from a group of theaters, dancers, and potential cultural managers.”
The producer recalls the first festival, which was somewhat bumpy due to last-minute unforeseen events, but it still had an honorable debut and King’s dream became a reality. Since then, the festival’s structure and scope have continuously grown and audiences have proven increasingly enthusiastic. New additions include academic activities, a greater percentage of Panamanian works, and outdoor circus shows. In 2018, the heretofore biannual event became a yearly event. As a result of this evolution, the FAE now has a solid international reputation.
Although the ten-year journey has been very satisfying, King says the road has often been uphill and never without major challenges. The most complex part is securing the necessary financing and managing sponsorship to make the festival self-sustaining, “which seems like a utopian dream in societies like ours.”
The festival’s many achievements over the past 16 years have inspired organizers to work on a proposal asking the Legislative Assembly to pass a law to formalize the festival, designate it a National Event, and grant it a permanent financial endowment. “We want to contribute to making our city not only the ideal place for large infrastructure projects, but also for the ongoing enjoyment of national and international art and culture.”
What will FAE 2020 offer?
This year’s FAE opens with the play, Bendita Gloria (Blessed Glory), by Spain’s Grupo Albanta, and closes with the dance production, La Wagner, by Argentina’s Mika Project, under the direction of artist Pablo Rotemberg. Both performances are scheduled to take place at the National Theater of Panama, the nation’s most important theater, which reopens its doors after a long restoration process to once again serve among the festival’s many venues.
International guests include theater productions such as Yo no estoy loca/I’m Not Crazy (Colombia), Tijuana (Mexico), and Electra (Portugal), as well as the dance piece Anna (France). Panamanian productions include Los inocentes (The Innocents), written and directed by Isabel Burgos; La brújula del invierno (The Winter Compass), by Jhavier Romero, and an all-male version of Federico García Lorca’s La casa de Bernarda Alba (The House of Bernarda Alba), directed by Renán Fernández. There will also be open-air performances in the Casco Viejo’s Cathedral Square by the La Tribu circus group, Mago Marko, and other artists.
In addition to the National Theater, FAE events will take place at Teatro en Círculo, Anita Villalaz, La Plaza, Inida, La Estación, and Gladys Vidal, among others. The festival’s academic activities include workshops in dramaturgy, theater appreciation, and dance at the Centro Cultural de España, the Academia Steps, and Cine Universitario.