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Chiflón, El Silencio del Carbón: The Silence is Devastating

Chiflón, El Silencio del Carbón: The Silence is Devastating

Silencio Blanco

A fifty-minute show from Silencio Blanco, a Chilean troop of skilled mixed media artists about a mining accident is both intriguing and a bit off-putting. Presented by the HERE Dream Music Puppetry Program, this is a tribute to the people of Lota in Chile,  one of the poorest cities in that country.  With no spoken dialogue throughout, I wondered if I would we be pulled into the quiet beauty of this created imagery or would we be engaged enough to stay with it. I’d say it was a mixed bag of beautiful simplicity. Sometimes the craftsmanship of these talented Chileans was just plain hypnotic and highly emotional, while other times it shifted to the repetitive and slightly banal. But in general, this is  an aesthetic and symbolic endeavor that explores the single story of the families affected by the work done in the dangerous mining communities of Chiflón del Diablo.

Silencio Blanco

This and the cover photo by Lorenzo Mella

The creations are magical. Each puppet cares such weight of character and emotionality. We quickly stopped noticing the band of black clad performers that handled these personality infused objects (Rodolfo Armijo, Felipe Concha, Dominga Gutierrez, Consuelo Miranda, Astrid Roldan). We started to engage with them as the hard workingmen and women whose life and work revolve around the coalmines of Chile. Their solitude and their never ending anxiety as they work and wait is etched in every detail of moment and form. From the quintessential over-weight boss man behind a desk, to the coughing laborer, and his loving hard working wife, we are quickly coaxed into their world. We see them struggling and taking care of each other, giving love, care, and joy to one another. As conceived and directed with care and humanity by Santiago Tobar (Co-created by Gutierrez) the experience was formed with a great deal of heart from a two-year investigation with the townspeople of Lota, the once center of the coal mining industry in Chile.  The creators wanted to invite us into the dark and difficult daily world of those involved in this dangerous industry. At times the repetitive nature of the puppetry actions caused some disengagement, but in general, the artists with only the assistance of mesmerizing music and sound effects, both recorded (sound design: Ricardo Pacheco; technical production: Tobar) and created by the team, kept us fully attuned and connected.

Silencio Blanco

Photo by Steven Ross taken with permission at the post-performance demonstration.”

The story doesn’t end well, no surprise. We join them in that mine and feel their sadness and loss in the dark silence of those tunnels. I only wish in those pivotal moments at the end the visual creation was aligned in a way that we all could see the drama unfold a bit better. It was the only moment that the arrangement worked against itself, and made it difficult to be as engaged as I wanted to be. Overall, this Silencio is loud with emotion and thoroughly engaging.  A beautiful piece of creation that I’m happy to have witnessed.

Silencio Blanco

Photo by Steven Ross taken with permission at the post-performance demonstration.”

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to

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