With its 2014 edition coming up this week, CASA Latin American Theatre Festival’s Artistic Director Daniel Goldman talks about the challenges – and joys – of putting together a major international programme.

As the seventh edition of CASA Latin American Theatre Festival draws near, I’ve been thinking about the nature of programming an international festival and by extension progamming in general. Some of the questions I’ve been thinking about are: How do you programme theatre without seeing it live? What are the best ways to programme international work? How do you ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to be programmed?

We programme CASA in two ways. First, by going to festivals in Europe and Latin America and seeing shows. Second, by putting out an open call for applications across Latin America. To give you an idea of the response an open call can generate, for CASA 2015 I’ve been going through applications from almost 300 companies with over 370 shows.

But now comes the sobering part. Out of the 60 or so companies we see live and the 300 we see on video, we will probably programme only four of each. If you do the maths, it’s clear that the odds of being programmed from the open call are pretty low.  So why do we still do it? Especially as we then have to go through 300 applications and watch 400 shows on video, which is not the way to engage with live theatre at the best of times.

The simple answer is that the open call allows us to discover companies we otherwise can’t see. As an organisation, we’re committed to bringing brilliant Latin American theatre to the UK. Some of that brilliant theatre is already on the festival circuit. Some of it isn’t. Plus, everything we programme is new to the UK. Few of the artists we bring over are recognisable here, let alone famous, so all we have to worry about is the quality of the work – which is a great luxury.

And so, this year, I’m delighted that our programme is full of emerging artists. Obviously, I’d love to tell you about everyone but there isn’t space or time. Instead I want to share with you the story of how we selected one of them: Jorge Costa, a uniquely talented mime artist, clown and director from Argentina, who is presenting two wonderful shows called Mi.Me (Inside out. Outside in.) and Visite Argentina (Come visit Argentina).

Even though it was nearly a year ago, I still remember sitting down to watch the first of Jorge’s two videos, Visite Argentina. I had no expectations, but about three minutes in my cheeks were already hurting from laughter. Five minutes later, I called my colleague Gael: she was loving it just as much. An hour and 45 minutes later, having watched both videos, and seen him magically create an hour of brilliantly absolutely improvised mime in Mi.Me, I emailed Jorge asking him to be a part of the festival.

In less than ten days time, he’ll be on stage at Rich Mix in London, performing both shows at CASA 2014. Come and see a young master at work.

 

The CASA Latin American Theatre Festival runs from 10-19 October at Rich Mix and the Barbican. Jorge Costa’s Visite Agentina plays on Sat 11 & Sun 12 October, and Mi.Mi. is on Sat 18 and Sun 19 October, both at Rich Mix. For more information and tickets on CASA’s website.