Claire Shrader is an official CAPA blogger for spring 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Pre-Occupational Therapy major at Mississippi College, she is studying abroad in Buenos Aires this semester.
\In this week's post, Claire attends a one-of-a-kind, comedic drama experience in complete darkness to celebrate her 21st birthday in Buenos Aires.
This past week was my birthday. I could write a whole post about the experience of celebrating a birthday abroad, but in summary: it’s sad because you miss your family and weird because all of your normal birthday things like the vanilla sheet cake from the grocery store or normal sized birthday cards don’t exist here, and also wonderful because people still gather around you and sing “Feliz Cumple” over you and pull your ears 21 times for the 21 years you’ve been on this earth and dulce de leche covered cake is possibly an equal rival for the grocery store kind I love.
Fun night with these friends at Teatro Ciegro.
Basically, it was different, as most things are when you spend a semester in another continent, but it was beautiful nonetheless. My U.S. friends Sophie and Ali decided to celebrate with me on Thursday night, and we went to see El Infinito Silencio, a comedic drama that tells the story of an Argentine family through the lens of one of the daughters, who is now an author and is writing out her family’s story. The plot was hilarious and moving, but what made this show really stand out wasn’t the family’s story or the fact that it was my first ever all-Spanish play.
As we entered the theater, the actors made jokes and told us if we get scared in the theater, we should call for Jesus, and if He doesn’t come, then call for our mom and dad, and then someone would help us exit. They told us to line up and hold onto each other’s shoulders, warning that we would all react differently to the show: some would laugh uncontrollably, others would feel scared. As we entered and a stranger’s hand guided our own to a chair, I found myself reacting with a combo: ridiculously scared, slightly crouched down and holding onto my friend beside me, and also unable to stop laughing. Within minutes, the room burst into music and synchronized clapping, and we all joined in, the strong, firm beats of our hands in time with the others slowly giving me the confidence to sit up and look around.
Only there was nothing to see. Because this show was completely in darkness.
Teatro Ciego is simply incredible. The show was captivating, as they sprayed different smells for different scenes, and used sound effects like loud doors slamming, music, footsteps right in front of us that told us if the feet’s owner was angry or content. There was a dog who brushed against our legs as he panted and made me gasp and reach out to touch him. Someone “swam” past us once and it sounded so real that when water splashed against my leg I wasn’t surprised. It was so much more than a typical show, and I started thinking it’s a bummer all we ever do is WATCH shows, because last Thursday we were actually experiencing it. Truly amazing.
This play was a one-of-a-kind experience.
I can’t recommend Teatro Ciego enough. It’s such a one-of-a-kind experience, and if Spanish isn’t your first language it just adds another level of intrigue. I promise you’ll understand more than you think. It’s an incredible opportunity to place you in the shoes of someone who’s blind for just an hour, because for that hour I felt fear and alone and unsure where to put my eyes, my feet, my arms. The complete and total darkness made me feel like I was swimming in an ocean. More than that, though, it lets you experience an incredible work of art and realize that maybe the ways people who are blind see the world are actually more beautiful than the way those with sight see it.
Afterward, we had the privilege of meeting the actors. I didn’t just want to assume that they were all blind, so I asked how they knew where they were going in the total and complete darkness that is the theater (night goggles maybe?). They laughed and explained that they were just like us in the theater, and actually every day of their lives. They explained that they knew the theater so well they were able to navigate all of it effortlessly. I told them about my brother and his love for theater and how much he would love their company, as adaptive theater is his specialty, since he uses a wheelchair.
My lovely 21st birthday party. Love these people!
“Ah, so that’s why you were asking about wheelchair accessibility when you came in?” Asked the gray-bearded man who had to bear the brunt of my anger when I saw that the Teatro Ciego had two large steps leading into it. I laughed and said yes, thankful he had already told me they had a portable ramps, as he said, “We take care of all people here.” They asked us where we were from, since they could hear our whispers in English during the show, and we talked with them for about 10 minutes before they gave us directions to get back to the subte and wished us a good night.
Simply incredible people, an amazing production, and so beautiful to see them proving to the world that blindness doesn’t stop them from anything, and actually, is the reason they’re able to do what they do so dang well. One performance at a time, they’re shutting down stereotypes, teaching empathy, and educating the masses. All within the most amazing performance you’ll ever not see. What a night.
Claire's journey continues every Monday so stay tuned.