“Injustice knows no borders or nationalities,” Herminia Jensezian tells me, fresh from rehearsal. Jensezian is an actress, student of the late, great set designer Gastón Breyer, and Founder and Artistic Director of Tadron Teatro, now celebrating its 20th anniversary.
The daughter of an Armenian genocide survivor, Jensezian‘s childhood was one in which the sense of injustice was never too far from sight; “it was a disaster.” This has inevitably come to be “translated” into her artistic expression. While living through trauma often leads to repression and silence, Jensezian is intent on creating a space for reflection, and giving a voice where one may have be lost or taken away.
As such, among a varied program of productions throughout the year, and a charming, eclectic in-house Armenian café (ask about their tea-leaf readings!) Tadron Teatro hosts an annual Teatro por Justicia (Theatre for Justice) cycle, now in its 11th year. The cycle is comprised of a two month run of a panel-selected piece of theater built around tackling injustice and human rights, and an ongoing permanent forum of events, which can be found on the theater‘s Facebook page or by signing up to their newsletter.
In the absence of any official, international demonstration holding the Turkish government accountable, the theater holds an annual vigil to commemorate the start of the genocide, on April 24. Artistic demonstrations and street performances take center stage, to bring this reality to passers by. In this way, any obstacles or apathy are broken down: it‘s no longer something distant, or something that‘s “not in my barrio” but right under our noses. In this spirit of breaking down the barriers that facilitate turning a blind eye, the cycle is completely free; to spread the subject matter and to achieve a synergy between the public and the artists, so we speak openly, share and become one, hence harnessing the force of the individual and society.
It is these small refusals to stay silent, and the constant individual efforts to condemn atrocities that Jensezian, a non-believer in big powers, thinks holds most weight. In some ways, the message of the cycle is simple: unless we condemn, unless we talk, it remains unnoticed and unpunished.
We spoke about the importance of having a space of one‘s own, rather than as a traveling theater group, such as the one from which Tadron Teatro was born. The space they settled on, perched on the corner of Armenia (street) and Niceto Vega is a nice, but perhaps not incidental touch. Synthesis and transcendence of culture is key (the theater‘s name translates literally as theater, first in Armenian, then in Spanish). Human rights are human rights after all, no matter which side of a line you stand on.
Accordingly, while this year‘s cycle opened with a piece named NomeolvidO: Interpretative Montage About A Genocide, which was clearly based around the Armenian tragedy, the selected play for each Teatro por Justicia touches upon any number of different injustices. 2017‘s offering, though rendered relatively indistinct in terms of space and time thanks to a sparse set and one lone character’s lack of external communication, could well be inspired by the human rights atrocities during Arentina’s military dictatorship. NomeolvidO tells us we have a “responsibility, yesterday, today and tomorrow” which rings true no matter what the case in point is.
To focus on the present, the selected piece for this year’s cycle is Andrea Juliá’s ‘La Nana’, or ‘The Lullaby’, a performance carried by a sole actor, Elena Petraglia. For Director Horacio Medrano, Juliás work presents “a woman imprisoned by a silence which explodes in her empty, childless womb…. A woman searching. A mother waiting.” The repetition of this lullaby is not a pleasantly comforting and soporific device to send children to sleep however, but a constant and haunting reminder of loss, of performing the same role even when no one is now depending on you for it.
I asked about the importance of choosing theater as the medium through which to discuss injustice and human rights. As well as starting with what they knew best, there is a certain power that drama brings with it: “the freedom that a stage or a theater gives is unique,” says Jensezian. “Theater is the here, now, in this moment, in this place. It is live, exposed and immediate…When you perform something, be it something that happened 70 years ago, performing it makes it real, it goes in real time, you bring it to today.” I ask if that is enough to get the ball rolling, to start the conversation which prevents these injustices from being filed away on history’s bookshelf, and she was very confident that it is.
In Argentina, it is a common enough occurrence for people to spring to their feet and march for human rights. Indeed just last week a protest was held to present a united front against the Supreme Court’s controversial ‘Two for One’ ruling. But let’s not forget, in the words of Enrique Dacal, one of the judges on the panel responsible for selecting the cycle’s play each year, that “ideology can [also] be put on its feet through art.”
‘La Nana’ will be showing at Tadron Teatro as part of its Teatro por Justicia cycle, every Thursday at 9.30pm during May and June. Entrance is free and tickets are handed out an hour before the start of the performance.