By Winnie T. Sittón
Photos: Teatro Nacional de Panamá
Starting this month, the National Theater of Panama will host a virtual exhibit of the photography series, “A Place for Everyone,” which conceptually portrays twelve different artistic disciplines in photos taken in various spaces throughout the theater. The project was a collaboration with the PhotoLab Panama organization and will include in-person exhibition as well as a book.
According to César Robles, actor and director of the cultural and theater center, the National Theater is open to a wide variety of artists, disciplines, and audiences, and does not limit itself to classical genres. “So we began looking for ways to incorporate different artistic disciplines and thought that photography, as one of the modern arts, was logical place to start.”
This led to choosing twelve artistic disciplines to portray in photos staged in twelve spaces inside the National Theater, from better known spaces such as the hall, the foyer, and the stage, to other spaces usually off-limits to the public, such as the basement, the dressing rooms, and the stage. “In the end, we sought to establish a clear relationship between the disciplines, the places, and the artists,” adds Robles.
Ileana Forero, artistic director of PhotoLab Panama and one of the photographers who participated in the project, told us that they began by defining the twelve concepts and then decided which artists to invite. “We selected them based on the photographic languages for which they are known and then assigned each photographer one of the concepts. The idea was to make sure that each of their styles fit with the discipline they were assigned, but we encouraged them to challenge themselves creatively and move outside of their comfort zone.”
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The union of music and dance is one of the oldest artistic collaborations. Ileana Forero photographed Joshue Ashby and dancers from Youth Ballet Company Panama in the Green Room as they prepared to go on stage.
A fine artistic performance is like pure magic that lifts us up. Art heals the soul and makes us more human. Diana Durán, known as “The Flying Soprano,” is photographed by Eduard Serra on the main stage of the National Theater.
Like art itself, aerial dance is dizzying and mesmerizing. Pure energy, both ephemeral and immortal. Irene Chamorro photographs Andrea Álvarez, a member of the Gramo Danse dance company.
Panamanian playwrights Arturo Wong Sagel, Manuel Paz Batista, Isabel Burgos, and Javier Romero Hernández (awarded the Ricardo Miró National Prize for Literature in Theater in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019, respectively) are photographed by David Sauceda in the basement of the theater.
As a dance style, jazz is indisputably synonymous with musical theater. Choreographer, dancer, teacher, and mentor of countless dance talents, Ana Melissa Pino de La Guardia is photographed by Fernando Bocanegra as she steps into the theater stalls.
The Diablicos Sucios (Dirty Devils) from Culturas y Tradiciones Son de Panamá are photographed by Grey Díaz as they come down the backstage stairs, where the artists prepare to go on stage and enchant their audiences.
Circus performers defy heights and challenge the capabilities of the human body to entertain their audiences. Gerardo Pesantez catches the contemporary circus artists of La Tribu Performance four floors above the stage as they take to the rigging.
The royal box is historically reserved for royalty. Here, José Cho photographs the Congo Queen, Eneida Reyes, and members of her Palenque de San Sebastián from Pueblo Nuevo in Cativá, Colón province.
Music has always had a special relationship with the National Theater. The building comes alive when the notes of musical instruments flood the theater. Cellist Karina Núñez and violinist Melanie Taylor are photographed by Janin Gastón.
Oral storytelling has traditionally been used by our people to pass our history from one generation to another. Agustín Goncalves, in collaboration with the Dule Art Festival, captures three generations in a family portrait taken in the foyer of the National Theater.
Choreographers, dancers, and teachers, Michelle González, Odette Cortez, Ángel Jiménez, and José Sosa Roner are part of the next generation carrying on the nation’s diverse folkloric traditions. Rafael Chong captures a moment of camaraderie in the dressing room before the start of the show.
Three of the main characters in William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” come to life in front of the lens in this digital composition by Javier Alejandro Solís. Titania (Juliette Roy), Oberón (Gabriel Pérez Matteo), and Puck (Monalisa Arias) take things into their own hands and decide to make some changes in the room.