San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

National Theater to Serve Lunchtime Dose of Culture

In an effort to combat the misperception of the arts as an expensive luxury for the elite, the National Theater and the Culture Ministry last week announced a new program titled “Theater at Noon.” The program, which will offer 30- to 40-minute dance, theater or music performances Tuesdays at midday, aims to open access to the arts for San José workers on their lunch break.

“People have the impression that the theater isn’t for them, that it’s expensive, that you have to wear elegant clothes,” National Theater Director Jody Steiger said.

“They get home from work tired and want to spend time with their family. We created this so people can come in the middle of their workday.”

The performances, which will start at approximately 12:10 p.m., will cost only ¢500 ($0.90) for Costa Ricans and residents and ¢5,000 ($9) for tourists.

“At that price, no one can say they can’t come,” Steiger said.

Theater at Noon perfectly embodies the Culture Ministry’s emphasis on creating more opportunities for Ticos to experience the arts, Culture Minister María Elena Carballo said, adding that the program is a “unique opportunity” to enhance city life in San José.

“We want everyone to have the chance to express themselves creatively,” she said. “This short format is precisely a format for young people, people who are busy.”

The program opens Feb. 17 with a Spanish-language performance of Tennessee Williams’ play “The Frosted Glass Coffin,” which will repeat March 3 and April 7 and 28.

Other highlights include three performances by the National Theater Company of Spain, as well as an April 21 concert by several firstchair musicians of the Berlin Philharmonic, who have been working with the Central American Youth Orchestra.

“We will have some of the best musicians in the world, and for only ¢500,” Steiger said.

In the works for more than a year, the project has a budget of approximately ¢90 million (about $164,000), according to Steiger. The artists, however, have donated all the performances, with the exception of the play, which has required three months of rehearsals and will also tour other theaters around the city.

“It’s not important to us that we are not paid,” said María Amalia Pendones, a dancer with the Danzay dance group. “We work and train a lot, but the opportunity to perform is rare. This is an opportunity for the artists, not just for the public.”

Steiger expressed hope that artists will be paid in the future but said, “This year we focused on establishing the program.”

The schedule for the program is set through April, with final confirmations pending for the rest of the year. Steiger said the theater will be flexible, and if there is greater demand, performances could expand to twice a week.

“We are trying to open doors to artistic expression,” Carballo said. “And once we do, we are not going to close them.”


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