The city of Alajuela, northwest of San José, may lack some of the cultural spots of its sister Costa Rican urban centers, but the spectacular Carpe Diem theater troupe, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, makes up for all the rest. An ambitious roster of serious drama and joyous musicals, combined with spellbinding costumes and stage effects, will have audiences celebrating, too.
An original production, “Cuando los pericos hablan” (When Parrots Talk), an intense drama about family relations, is scheduled for weekends throughout August. In October, Carpe Diem’s first graduating class from its two-year theater, TV and film course will present Shakespearean drama, with “Othello” and “Romeo and Juliet” as the students’ final exams. Two other programs are also in the works, “The Legend of Zarape,” based on a Costa Rican tale of the witch of Aserrí, and the popular musical “Mamma Mia,” programmed for December.
Marco Araya, the dynamic and inexhaustible director and founder of Carpe Diem, and master in keeping it going for 10 years, is a native alajuelense who majored in English literature at the University of Costa Rica and studied stage direction at CornellCollege in the U.S. state of Iowa. His first love was always theater, and after teaching literature for 10 years, he and some friends decided to “just do it” and put on the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar.” It was a smash hit.
Since then, the number and depth of Carpe Diem’s programs has expanded to include “Grease” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” as musicals, and more serious works such as Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and Federico García Lorca’s “La Casa de Bernarda Alba,” which is now available as a DVD.
Staging, costumes and scenery capture audiences as well as the acting, with bubbles, fogs, mermaids, fairies and lighting giving the productions added life.
“There is a need for art in society. Society needs an escape and theater provides that,” Araya says. A popular annual musical for children, “Atrévete a soñar” (Dare to Dream), puts those sentiments on the stage.
A two-year course in theater for students interested in overall theater, TV and film production was added. And, Araya hopes, the future will add a traveling, revolving stage, reminiscent of medieval times, to take theater to outlying populations.
Carpe Diem’s productions are at 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the MiguelObregónSchool in Alajuela, one block south of the Central Park and cathedral. For information, visit www.carpediem.co.cr.