San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Granada Prepares for International Street Theater Festival

Anyone who has ever had dinner or a cocktail while seated at the outdoor tables on Granada’s pedestrian boulevard Calle La Calzada knows that street theater is a big part of the local culture and entertainment here.

From acrobatic and talented breakdance troupes who twist and flip to beats played from a boom box, to noisy “gigantonas” who spin and dance up the street to thunderous snare drums, buskers are a lively part of Granada’s street scene. But next week, the show is going to be taken to a whole new level.

From Jan. 28- 30, some 100 of the best street performers from all across Central America will descend on Granada for the first International Festival of Street Theater.

The festival is being held in honor of famed and ailing Nicaraguan folk singer and environmentalist Salvador Cardinal, who for three decades has formed half of the beloved brother-sister folk duo Guardabarranco. The duo will perform a pre-event concert Jan. 16 at Casa de los Tres Mundos, then again as part of the street theater festival Jan. 29, around 7 p.m. in Granada’s Plaza de los Leones (in front of Casa de Los Tres Mundos).

The street-theater festival promises to be a lively and spontaneous celebration of expression, music and art, according to event producer Ben Wheatley, of Granada.

The festival will combine elements of entertainment, education and environmental activism, with the goals of getting people interested in theater and also invested in keeping their city clean.

Wheatley said the festival will include several acts with environmental themes, and a special panel session with environmental experts. The goal, he said, is to develop a concrete action plan to stop polluting LakeCocibolca and convert the lake-shore swamp area into a bio garden.

Nicaragua’s leading street theater troupe, Granada’s award-winning School of Comedy and Mime (, already has experience combining environmentalism and the arts. The group, founded nine years ago by Venezuelan thespian Diego Gené, was created to help at-risk youth in Granada by teaching them creative expression, discipline and an appreciation for art.

The group has since become internationally known, winning national awards and traveling to Europe to perform. When they’re not on the road, the 12 students of the comedy and mime school work on conservation projects in their eco-commune outside of Granada, where they have built a home out of recycled plastic bottles and created a biological water treatment system.

Wheatley said the young performers of the comedy school are already working to train the next generation of 40 new students from Granada. They will bring their passion for street theater and the environment to the festival to work with other street performers coming from Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

The first three days of the event will be spent working in several rural communities around Granada to demonstrate street theater and get people interested in art and the environment.

Then, on Jan. 28, the whole group will come together and let loose on downtown Granada.

The festival will kick off with a pre-event fund-raiser Jan. 16 in Casa de los Tres Mundos, starting at 6 p.m. The event will feature live music, acrobatics, raffles and auctions for paintings by acclaimed local resident artists Jean-Marc Calvet, of France, Ricardo Maya, of Cuba, and Nicaragua’s Roberto Barbarena, Carlos Barbarena and Juan Elí Rodríguez.

But the main events of the festival will not be held until Jan. 28, 29 and 30 in the early evenings at Casa de los Tres Mundos, the Plaza de los Leones and Central Park.

The evening of Thursday Jan. 28 will start off with the environmental forum and various street acts in Casa de los Tres Mundos, starting at 6 p.m.

Friday, Jan. 29 will feature concerts by Guardabarranco y Costa Rican singer Guadalupe Urbina, as well as a performance by Costa Rican group Circo Fantástico.

Saturday, Jan. 30 will culminate with a street performance carnival that will start in various points of the city and converge on the Central Park around 5 p.m., with a final performance to commemorate the four elements of the environment. The performance will be followed by free concert by Nicaraguan artist Clara Grun and DJ Israel Lewites.

For more info, contact Diego Gené, (505) 2552-8310.

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