Storyteller Connects Costa Rica with Noah’s Ark

May 13, 2005

WHO would have ever thought ofAlajuela as the Chosen City? Or thatobjects descending from above whilecrossing the Central Park were not mangoesor pigeons but divine messages?Storyteller Juan Madrigal has anexplanation he shares with audiences inhis one-man show, “Con El Perdón deDiós” (With God’s Pardon), at the JuanSantamaría Museum on weekend nightsthroughout May.Madrigal promises that the truth is soshocking, so astounding, that Dan Brown’sbook “The DaVinci Code” pales in comparison.What he reveals is nothing lessthan the link between Costa Rica andNoah’s Ark. But while the news itself maybe volatile, Madrigal’s delivery is sure toprovide a cushion while socking it to us.Madrigal, a comedian, storyteller,singer, guitar player and talented actor, isalso known as Juan Cuentacuentos, or JuanStoryteller, whose silly songs coupled withguitar strumming, fanciful animal stories,furry puppets and lots of audience interactionhave made him a popular figure onstage, radio and television. His children’sprograms attract parents and grandparentsas well as kids.Presently part of the Ministry of Culture’steam in Alajuela, where he promotescommunity cultural activities and givesworkshops in storytelling, Madrigal hasperformed in Nicaragua, Honduras, ElSalvador, Colombia, Panama, Brazil andSpain, and was awarded the UNICEFprize in 1994 for his children’s programs,and the National Theater Prize for supportingactor in “Midsummer Night’sDream” in 1999.For Madrigal, storytelling is not justentertainment. Historically, it was a meansof recording information and was a traditionin Spain. In the New World, storytellingwas part of local gatherings inparks, homes or plazas where peopleswapped tales. Usually one personemerged as a leader by adding details andgestures, he explains. Many legends, suchas “La Segua” and “El Cadejos” – twofables targeting womanizers and alcoholics,respectively – are the result of storiestold over and over.Storytelling has other benefits, accordingto Madrigal. People, especially children,listen better to a story than to a lesson.Madrigal began storytelling in 1983 asa catechism teacher, hamming up Biblestories to keep the kids’ attention.“Every week, more and more childrencame to catechism class,” he says, demonstratingthe lure of stories well told.Around the same time, Madrigal andfriends formed the Antorcha PuppetTheater. Two of their original plays, “TheGood and The Bad” and “Wolves in theStreet,” won national awards. A bit ofhumor makes stories easier to follow asaudiences hang on the words. While “ConEl Perdón de Diós” provides shock valueand humor, it leaves us with a message aswell, raising the question of whether or notGod is punishing us in subtle ways for ourtransgressions.While the program is in Spanish – ahandicap for those limited in the language– the gestures, expressions, music andMadrigal’s performance are worthy ofattention. Showtime is 7 p.m., Fridays,Saturdays and Sundays, in the JuanSantamaría Museum theater in the old jailbuilding, one block north of the CentralPark. Tickets are ¢1,500 ($3.20) for adults,¢1,000 ($2.10) for students.

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