Month-long festival brings performance art to Chilean streets

What to see in the last week of Santiago a Mil, the festival that brings renowned international and local acts to the capital for the month of January.

Every year, the Santiago a Mil Festival brings hundreds of contemporary art and theater shows from Chile and around the world into the streets of the capital. It’s a cultural celebration that goes some way toward explaining why everyone is suddenly calling Santiago one of the world’s hippest cities.
This year has seen the festival extend to various other cities and towns across the country, and with renowned performances like director Peter Greenaway’s live VJ (video jockey) street shows, 2012 has been one of the most successful years in the festival’s 19 year history.
If you’re kicking yourself for what you’ve missed so far, don’t worry: you’ve still got until Sunday, January 22 to make the most of this one-of-a-kind festival. But with so many performances, choosing one can be a daunting task. So here at This is Chile we’ve complied a list to get you started:
Los Náufragos de la Loca Esperanza (The Castaways of the Fol Espoir)
The most recent creation by the famed Théâtre du Soleil of Paris, and the headline production of this year’s festival, this epic 4-and-a-half hour play converts the historic Estación Mapocho into a giant ship that will take the audience on a trip back in time to Patagonia.
The play begins at a barge restaurant docked on the Marne River, where an idealistic director attempts a silent movie based on Jules Verne’s little-known novel “The Survivors of the Jonathan,»  in which a group of castaways tries to create a new and better society on a remote island off Cape Horn.
The show includes food and drink, to be enjoyed in a period-style bar, as well as live music and “snowstorms.” Tickets range from US$16 (CLP8,000) to  US$70 (CLP36,000).
Performances: Daily until January 22. Tuesday through Saturday at 7:00 pm; Sunday at 5 pm (no performances Monday) at Centro Cultural Estación Mapocho.
Dragones (Dragons)
Enormous mechanical beasts invade the streets, shooting fire and interacting with passers-by in this free show which brings an explosion of street theatre and live music to towns and cities across the country.
The show’s creator, Pakito Gutiérrez, uses his background in mechanical and motor engineering to create machines capable of performing movements identical to the “real thing.”
Aiming to transform public spaces into fantastical worlds, the Spanish show has met huge success across Europe. See the website for details on locations.
Emma Darwin
This play tells the story of Charles Darwin’s expedition through Patagonia aboard his ship, The Beagle, as seen through the eyes of his faithful companion, Emma. It contrasts and parallels Darwin’s encounters with indigenous people with the solitary life of Emma back in England.
The work is written by Chilean playwright Mauricio Celedón for his France-based company, Teatro del Silencio (“Silent Theatre”). It is completely free.
Performances: January 12 through January 16 at 9:30 pm, Museo de la Memoria. January 17 and 18 at 9:30 pm, Plaza de la Constitución, Central Santiago. January 20 and 21 at 9:30 pm, Parque Peñalolén, Avenida José Arrieta 7659, Peñalolén. January 24, Concepción, time and date yet to be confirmed.
Juanche, el Camino de la Serpiente (“Juanche, the Path of the Snake”)
This free street performance aims to evoke the color, atmosphere and magic of Latin American carnivals. The story’s hero, Juanche, symbolizes the clash and eventual hybridization of Spanish conquistador cultures with those of the indigenous pre-Columbian peoples. The work is produced by local street theater and physical drama outfit, Teatro Mendicantes.
Performances: January 14 at 9:00 pm, Plaza Lo Besa, corner of Hostos and Vicuña Rosas, Quinta Normal, Santiago. January 15 at 9:00 pm, corner of Alejandro Guzmán and Gran Avenida José Miguel Carrera, El Bosque, Santiago. January 20 at 9:00 pm, Plaza de Armas, corner of Prat and Ortuzar, Melipilla.

For a full list of events, including some descriptions in English, see the Santiago a Mil website.