Multicultural Popular Theatre society, based in Victoria British Columbia, founded in 1988 by Chilean-born director Lina de Guevara who was Artistic Director for 23 years. “Puente” is Spanish for “bridge”: Puente Theatre's mandate is to use theatrical experience as a bridge between cultures.
As of 2011, the Artistic Director is Mercedes Bátiz-Benét, a multi-disciplinary artist and writer. She was born and raised in Mexico, and moved to Canada in 1997. She has a BFA in Creative Writing in poetry and drama, from the University of Victoria.
Puente’s goals are to offer work and creative development opportunities to immigrant artists; to educate Canadian audiences about aspects of the immigrant experience, and about works from other cultures; to explore social issues relating to race and culture; to build community through collaborative projects.
Puente Theatre collectively creates and produces new Canadian works, which it may tour nationally and internationally. It also uses workshop productions and staged readings to explore community issues and to present plays from around the world. It works with theatre artists from other countries to facilitate workshops and training.
Productions of new works of applied theatre included: I Wasn’t Born Here, by and about immigrant women (1988); Crossing Borders, a musical by and about Latin American men (1990); Canadian Tango, about immigrant couples (1990); FamilyA, about family relations (1993). Issues of family violence and racism were addressed in Of Roots and Racism (1995); Act Now Against Racism (1997); and Story Mosaic (1998), each production followed by workshops to discuss problems and solutions.
Puente then opened up its mandate to include all immigrants to Canada, through collaborative community theatre productions: Sisters/Strangers (1996); and Storytelling Our Lives 1, with a core group of trained actors, and a chorus of immigrant women from communities visited by Puente in British Columbia. From 2007, Puente has included stories by and about First Nations. To promote Latin American theatre, Puente featured Letters for Tomas (2006) The Woman Who Fell from the Sky (2008), and The Pilgrimage of the Nuns of Concepcion (2010), all directed by de Guevara.
Puente has collaborated with other organizations such as the Full Spectrum Arts Society, the Inter-Cultural Association, Media-Net, Open Space Cultural Centre, Cinevic,-- in the production of plays from other cultures. Collaborative plays include: The House of Bernarda Alba by Frederico Garcia Lorca, Evita and Victoria by Monica Ottino, and Pastorela de Juan Tierra el Inmigrante by Jaime Silva.
In 2014, Mercedes Bátiz-Benét adapted Cruel Tears by Ken Mitchell and Humphrey and the Dumptrucks as Lagrimas Crueles, a Tex/Mex opera in which Othello is a Mexican truck driver in love with his boss's daughter.
Puente productions have been produced at the Victoria Fringe, Vancouver Fringe, Women In View, and MT Space’s Impact II in Guelph (Emergence, performed and written by Metis playwright Krystal Cook). It has also participated in international festivals such as the Theatre of the Oppressed (Rio de Janeiro and Toronto) and Hispano American Festival of Pastorelas (Mexico City).
The Puente Theatre Society also works with the schools, and community organizations to focus on social issues, such as racism and family violence. The collaborative project, Storytelling Our Lives, involving local immigrant women, has played in seven communities across British Columbia.
Reading: Lina de Guevara. "Evolving with the Times: Applied Theatre and Performances of Immigration and Settlement," Canadian Theatre Review 181 (winter 2020): 46-50.
Last updated 2020-02-22