"Don't come here..."
One of the central themes in our work is “protagonismo social” or social activism (based on critical reflection), or in other words, active participation in the social world, the public sphere. As early as 2005, the men of Fénix & Ilusiones formulated the idea of working directly with young men and boys in detention. Since 2013 this has become a reality, in collaboration with the Chilean National Youth Service (SENAME), and we have developed two ways of playing an active role in short-circuiting the so-called “school to prison pipeline”: Touring and Workshops.
TOURING / The power of theatre combined with the voice of experience
In September 2013, Colectivo Sustento together with Fénix & Ilusiones, presented Modecate to young people from a Special Youth Intervention Program (Joven en Red, Maipú) in the Recoleta Cultural Centre, as a pilot event; the impact on all of us was so powerful that the idea came of age. Modecate went on tour.
“Modecate Tour: Creating social awareness“, 7 ‘theatre and reflection’ days in 3 SENAME detention centres (San Joaquín, San Bernardo, Santiago Centro) ran from June to August 2014. In each centre, as well as performing the play, the Fénix & Ilusiones actors directed theatre games with the boys, informal conversation and a final open debate with the boys and centre staff. These events became moments of deep reflection, demonstrating once more the powerful impact that adult prisoners and ex-prisoners can have on boys in detention, perhaps even provoking a demystification of these “heroes”.
In 2016, we went on tour again to juvenile justice programs with Fénix & Ilusiones, the “Lysistrata: No to Gender Violence Tour”. The tour’s program was again designed and directed by the Colina 1 actors and Colectivo Sustento. The 4 Theatre and Reflection Days in the SENAME centre in San Bernardo included performances by “Hijos del Rigor” (Sons of Severity), the theatre group formed through our workshops in the centre’s House 3. After that we ran a Day for young people from various sectors of Santiago who are in YMCA youth offender community programs.
WORKSHOPS / Creating and reflecting together
From October 2015 to October 2016, we ran theatre workshops in House 3 of the SENAME Centre in San Bernardo. The young men in the theatre workshop, called “Hijos del Rigor”, created a group-devised performance: high energy physical theatre to the beat of techno music chosen by them. This workshop was initially funded by a Regional Government Development Program and we extended for a year because of the commitment to the young men, until conditions at the centre impeded the work’s continuity.
Since 2016, at the SENAME centre in Calera de Tango, we are working with another way of using theatre to make direct contact with young offenders. We were invited to add theatre to the prosocial workshops run by the centre staff. Through improvisations, games and role play, a duo of facilitators (Sustento theatre worker with an ex-Fénix e Ilusiones) work with the boys to identify and practice different social skills. In 2017, we will run a theatre workshop in this centre, aimed at creating theatre actions that we can take to community contexts (aged homes, child care centres, etc).
From January to April 2015, thanks to a crowdfunding campaign, we were able to run the “Sowing the future” project: gardening workshops in two SENAME centres (San Bernardo and Calera de Tango), directed by two Colectivo Sustento members: Gabriel Jiménez, technically trained in organic agriculture, and Mo Stenger, school garden teacher. The garden, like theatre, is a pretext; a way to work towards social change. The project was filmed by two collective members – Bárbara Fuenzalida and Carolina Vera – you can watch their documentary in our Youtube channel here.
We are constantly seeking ways to give this work economic continuity. Lack of funds does not drive our decisions in this work; our strategies are multiple and ongoing.