We’re Rolling!! A Local Bus Becomes a Theater Presentation

The theater presentation “We’re rolling!” is a portrait of daily life on the Managua, Nicaragua buses. Courtesy photo

The Justo Rufino Garay Theater in Managua presents an intense hour-long piece that offers the chance to laugh and to see a reflection of our everyday lives.

By Ivan Olivares  (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – If the theater is a quick snapshot that captures a moment in time, then audiences who attend the play “We’re rolling!” will receive a wonderful picture of what it means to get on a bus in the Nicaragua of 2020.  Although, really, the experience of getting on a public bus these days differs little from what it was like in the eighties.

“We’re Rolling!” is the collective creation of a group of theater students who began their studies sixteen months ago, under the auspices of the Justo Rufino Garay Theater and two of its best representatives: Lucero Millan and Rene Medina

With support from the organization Swiss Aid for Development, the theater company was able to implement the project “Multiplying our Theater Capacity” with the participation of 20 young people, chosen after a rigorous application process at the end of 2018.

“Some 250 people came to apply, and we chose these twenty,” Millan explains. She added: “Even though the usual outcome of such programs is that up to 60% of those chosen drop out before finishing their studies – either because they find out that the theater really isn’t for them, or because they’re left unemployed, or they get married, or have children – in this case, only two people left the group.

The 18 that were left now have 16 months of work and study under their belts. To demonstrate what they’ve learned, they’ve staged this production based on “The bus sketch”, a work of director Millan from the eighties.

A collective comedy

“This is a work of collective creation, which reflects the young people’s need to ‘talk’ about their reality,” explains the director in describing this work of “a farcical nature”.

Effectively, the movement, the laughter, the exaggerated corporal expressions allow the public to enjoy this light comedy with nothing more complicated than just following the action, and to appreciate the overflowing talents of these new actors.

There are more than ten of them onstage at once, without this causing any difficulty or distraction at all, even when those that aren’t part of the action for the moment, freeze and are left almost as if they were onstage decorations.

Our daily commotion

The play takes place while a group of citizens (the young female student, the sweets vendor, the woman with her baby, the arrogant policeman, the peddler, and the old woman trying to take advantage of public sympathy for the elderly to get to the head of the line) await the first bus of the morning.

It’s a chaotic line: Do we Nicaraguans know how to form an orderly line?  The commotion intensifies when they manage to board the bus, where the growing confusion mixes with their fruitless efforts to control their bodies, as they’re thrown from one side to another according to the braking or acceleration of the bus.

Meanwhile, in the aisles or the seats, the people converse, either quietly or with shouts, trying to ignore the cries of the vendors offering every type of product to magically cure illnesses, or all kinds of trinkets “available 2 for 1 today only, take advantage!”.

Using flashbacks, the creators even included several small stories in the plot, so that the work also touches on themes of machismo, one-upmanship, exile, family conflict, underemployment, xenophobia, cross-cultures, and polarization, among others. There’s a clear didactic intention that the public can capture amid their laughter.

Portrait of life for Nicaraguans

We find out that the abusive police officer is the ex-partner of the female driver of the bus, and that he hasn’t paid child support for his kids; that “Julian” from Leon just got back from Costa Rica, where he suffered from the peoples’ xenophobia, even though he also found people there who defended him from such attacks.

Thanks to such flashbacks, we’re introduced to the elegant Dr. Judith, who upon finding herself suddenly unemployed forgets the act of kindness from the woman who has just served her a free plate of food, and decides to become a competitor of her benefactress, who was already suffering from seeing a roast chicken business installed right across the street.

Some of the students of the Justo Rufino Garay theater program during a rehearsal. Photo: Franklin Villavicencio / Niu

The scene of the “blue and white’s” dealing with their “red and black” neighbors, is a snapshot from the kaleidoscope of this 2020 Nicaragua. It portrays two groups of neighbors from the same neighborhood, each yelling slogans and challenging each other with choreographies straight out of movies like “American Pie 3” or “Donde estan las chicas?” [Where are the girls?] only to go on to feigning physical threats.

Then the rain starts, becoming a storm that floods the neighborhood and forces them to work together. After successfully confronting the disaster, they celebrate with happy hugs, until they recall that they belong to two mutually exclusive worlds and reject their moment of communal celebration.

The result of this play – which displays the talents of these young people to the public for the first time in 16 months – is a theater piece that can be enjoyed equally by those who already know full well what it means to ride a public bus through Managua’s hot streets, as well as those who only see this reality through the windshields of their luxury vehicles.

“We’re Rolling!” will be presented Friday through Sunday, through February 29th, at the Justo Rufino Garay Theater, on the outskirts of the Las Palmas Park in Managua.

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