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Carmen Aguirre weaves together tales of lust and revolution in Blue Box
One-woman show ‘more adult, intimate and sensual’ than playwright’s acclaimed memoir
by Cheryl Rossi
Carmen Aguirre’s award-winning memoir, Something Fierce, may have detailed her involvement in the Chilean resistance movement as a young woman, but Blue Box, her new autobiographical one-woman show is billed as an even more adult, intimate and sensual story of lust and revolution.
“I’m exploring the theme of unconditional love and the tension between revolutionary love and romantic love,” Aguirre said.
“It’s about loss, ultimately,” she added. “And it’s about desperation.”
The Commercial Drive-based theatre artist who has written and co-written 20 plays weaves together two seemingly unrelated stories with Blue Box-that of her passionate underground work in the Chilean resistance movement in the 1980s, and of her passionate love affair with a charismatic Chicano TV star when the now 44-year-old was in her 30s. The story veers from the treacherous mountain passes of Chile to Hollywood and Vancouver.
Blue Box also explores the tension between hunting and being hunted. Aguirre was the hunted when Chilean secret service agents followed her in the 1980s for resisting the regime of Augusto Pinochet and the hunter when she chased the man with whom she had become obsessed.
“Everybody can relate to that,” Aguirre said with a laugh.
Photo courtesy of The Vancouver Courier.
In Blue Box she mines some of the same material depicted in her first book, Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter, which recently won CBC’s Canada Reads competition. But Blue Box unfolds through the revelations of a mature woman as opposed to the recollections of a 20-year-old.
Pinochet’s coup forced Aguirre’s family to flee from Chile to Canada in 1973. Then in 1979 when Aguirre was 11, her mother and stepfather moved her and her younger sister back to South America to join the underground resistance. At the age of 18, Aguirre joined the resistance movement, too, running a safe house in Argentina and making border runs into Chile.
The winner of the Playwrights’ Theatre Centre’s Best New Play Award for The Refugee Hotel knew she wanted to be an actor and storyteller from the age of three. A visit to the circus in Patagonia triggered this insight.
“That’s the only way you can be an actor,” said Aguirre who attended Langara College’s Studio 58 at the age of 22 after Pinochet fell and she returned to Vancouver. “You don’t choose it; it chooses you. It’s too hard of a life for you to choose.”
Aguirre, whose resume lists more than 60 film, TV and stage acting credits, wanted to develop a show in which she’d directly address the audience when Toronto-based Nightswimming asked her to write a piece for the theatre company to produce about six years back.
“With no set, street clothing, no lighting and relying 100 per cent on the text only,” she said. “Because that time, and I still feel that way, I was noticing there was a lot of exploration being done in form, and that quite often the content gets left behind.”
If direct address and intimate admissions aren’t enough to keep viewers on their toes, Aguirre has incorporated audience participation into the 80-minute show that’s directed by Brian Quirt of Nightswimming and presented in association with Vancouver’s Neworld Theatre.
Rife with strong language, self-effacing humour and sexual content, Blue Box intertwines the personal and the political.
“I love theatre that does that so I try and do the same thing,” said Aguirre who’s also a workshop facilitator for Theatre of the Oppressed throughout B.C. “All theatre is political, whether it says so or not, because all stories are told within a political, social and historical context, whether you are aware of it or not.”
Carmen Aguirre‘s Blue Box will be available from Talonbooks as a Spring title in 2013.
This article first appeared on April 27, 2012 on The Vancouver Courier website.