My Gay Toronto - 416 Scene

Caminos: a new festival of many spices


Caminos is billed as "a week of new propuestas (performance proposals) from some of the most exciting panamerican voices working in theatre and dance . . . performance experiments and a lively exchange of ideas and new works." Intrigued and curious, I contacted two of the participants: playwright Bruce Gibbons Fell (Paradise Road) and Martha Chaves, comedian extraordinaire.

Your play In Times of Trouble is described as "A tale about love, loss, death and survival." What was the inspiration?

Martha Chaves: My mother. Incidentally, that’s what I answer to my shrink 95 percent of the time. It's a great one-oman show. I've been working on it for the last five years. This latest incarnation of the work, is tender, poignant, and funny

We’re used to your work as a comedian, is In Times of Trouble a departure, a new direction or a variation?

Chaves: In Times Of Trouble, is not stand-up comedy per se, but it’s still plagued by my vocation. I have been a professional comedian for 20 years. Although, more than a job - I call it a “calling,” some call it a "prison” - I can’t escape comedy to save my life! But comedy has saved my life. So everything I do is influenced by comedy.

The cabaret portion of Caminos is described as being “a dynamic showcase of music, dance, burlesque and performance work.” Where does your performance fit in?

Bruce Gibbons Fell: We will be presenting a brief taste of my new play, Prince Shame, framed somewhere between theatre and performance, like a blood sample. The piece is a melodrama, and though not burlesque or dance, there’s some playful movement and heat to it. Hopefully we’ll also convey the mindfuck the whole play will eventually become.
Paradise Red was always intended to be the first part of a trilogy. Prince Shame is actually part three, and is inspired by lies I encountered in my late teens and early twenties. Lies about my country, my life, about love, about sex, and lies I told myself. The play follows the protagonist of Paradise Red 30 years later who stumbles into love with a rebellious 19-year-old in the months prior to Augusto Pinochet’s death in 2006, an affair that has dangerous repercussions in the present. It’ll definitely be Paradise Red’s cool sexy weird cousin.

What propuesta in the festival, other than your own, are you most intrigued by?

Chaves: The Stones Project by Anita La Selva. I hear that is not about the Rolling Stones, but still, I love Anita La Selva.

Fell: The festival has works by two of the actresses I was lucky to work with for Paradise Red. First there’s Carmen Aguirre and her new work Broken Tailbone, part dance lesson part hilarious one-woman show. I’m sure I’ll need diapers so I can pee from laughter without having to go to the washroom. Also Marine Life, by Rosa Laborde, which – as her plays go – will be beautiful and flawless and an invitation to make our brains and hearts grow. I’m also dramaturge for a cabaret piece called Soul’s Retrograde, by Jessica Zepeda, a super original and fresh autobiographical ghost story.

How do you think cultural differences and similarities influence the creation of art?

Fell: There’s nothing more hilarious than not being able to communicate with another or explain oneself to the world, and at the same time there is nothing more tragic. This friction and double edged sword is very rich and contains practically every aspect of the human experience: love, sex, war, family, politics, or telling jokes or baking! I think that’s where the influence is, and where the flavor varies according to where one comes from.

Chaves: Well, although they may have painted themes that appeal to people universally, Van Gogh couldn’t have been Diego Rivera and vice-versa.

Is there a particular spice that a “Pan-American” voice adds? Just what is “Pan-American?”

Chaves: The term “Pan-American” represents the people of North and South America. Now, although people from Central and South America may think that North America means just “gringos” you know it’s not like that. Take Canada. The people from North Bay is very different than the people from Montreal, especially the women . . . Although people in North America believe that Central and South America are “Mexican” you know it’s not like that. The people from Costa Rica are very different than the people from Nicaragua and we are only one hour away, by plane but centuries of hours, by democracy. Costa Rica has no army.

Fell: Pan-American refers to “The Americas;" Caminos means “Roads.” So I guess it’s all “ours to discover.”

Chaves: Variety is the spice of the Pan-American voice.

How does a gay voice fit into Caminos?

Fells: Coming from a homophobic country - and homophobic situations - it is amazing to freely speak and explore my sexuality in my work in Toronto. This definitely helps us re-imagine and consider how stories like mine and other queer artists will shape the artistic landscape of Canada’s future.

Chaves: It’s a necessary voice. Ethnic people, as you saw with the anger that the Ontario sex education curriculum caused, are still put-off by the LGBTQ. And when I say put off, I mean disgusted, nauseated, repulsed and all the synonyms. It’s 2015 and time that they hear our voices. It’s a risk I’m taking but you know me. I love to walk the tightrope in my comfortable shoes.

 Caminos runs Tues, Nov 3 to Sun, Nov 8 at Daniel's Spectrum, 585 Dundas St E.