Baryshnikov Arts Center

Past Artist
Baryshnikov Arts Center Resident Artist

Compañía Bonobo

The theatrical group Compañía Bonobo (Santiago, Chile) examines how violence toward "the other" is constructed in democratic contexts. They will develop HUÉSPED, a work drawing on the personal stories of members of the company who have experienced ethical and cultural destabilization.

BAC Space Resident Artist


Artist Bio
Compañia Bonobos

Compañia Bonobos

Compañía Bonobo is a theatrical group created in 2012 around the question of Otherness. The group initiated their extensive creative research process on this social, cultural, and political phenomenon that has existed since the beginning of history: the dichotomy of the One and “The Other.”

The group's search aims to reveal if, after the welcoming and inclusive intention characteristic of the new democracies, violence is filtered out to those who, somehow, are not constituted and do not comply with the hegemonic idea of what it means to be a citizen. Amansadura and Donde Viven los Bárbaros are the company’s two staples. Both works are a sample of the themes and languages that interest the group, which have allowed the company to appear at various festivals in Chile and abroad, such as: Festival de Teatro Adelante (Germany), Teatro Fetival Of Cádiz (Spain), FITAM (Chile) and Cielos del Infinito (Chile), among others. The play Where the Barbarians Live has received a number of awards, among them, Best Playwriting 2016, given by the Municipality of Santiago, the Literary Prize Dramaturgy category of the National Council of Culture, the 2015 Playwriting Prize awarded by the Critics Circle of Chile, and Best Work Young Theater Festival of Las Condes.

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BAC Story by Teresa Casas
Compañía Bonobo

Compañía Bonobo

Dec 21, 2017

A conference room. Tables, chairs. People focused on their computers working in silence. One of them stares away from the table, the computer, the room, at an indefinite point. At the back of the stage, a projection: “What makes a human being? Dignity.”

To the spectator the answer is not only obvious, but reassuring. She recognizes herself in it. It is four hours until a group of coworkers give their presentation in the context of an international conference on human rights. While the characters struggle with nerves, personal situations, and surprising revelations, both characters and spectators become aware of practices with consequences that, inadvertently but blatantly, contradict what they think they believe.

The apparent simplicity of the theatricality on stage, like the apparent simplicity of the initial question, eases the spectator into sympathy with the characters who, involuntarily, trigger laughter. Laughter, skillfully used by Compañía Bonobo, wakes us up. With nothing changing on stage, the neutral space of a conference room emerges as a microcosm that condenses and confronts the spectator with all the layers of a central question: what is dignity?

In this piece, the members of Compañía Bonobo continue their inquiry into the complex phenomenon of violence and the difficulty of identifying it when it happens in a friendly environment where there is no apparent discrimination, injustice, or inequality. What is our role in the violence perpetrated upon another? And who is ‘the other’? How is ‘the other’ constructed? With these questions in the background (like the question that the spectator reads at the beginning of the play), Compañía Bonobo’s crew goes through a creative process in which improvisation plays a key role. What they do seems impossible: turning questions into actions, theory into practice. The bodies on stage enter a silent dialogue to explore relations that are beyond language: context, intentionality, and individual histories color human encounters that, once translated into a staged scene, appear to be simple daily situations. Making visible these invisible relations is Compañía Bonobo’s line of work.

By revealing the invisible in our daily interactions, Compañía Bonobo members explore the light and shadows of human beings and their communities. In the conference room where there is a sharp contrast between light and shadow, the coworkers move between the bright light of the projector and the dark, unilluminated areas of the room. We either see them clearly in bright light as they are, or we see only their silhouette in the shadows. Or is it the other way around? Do we see them as they are in the shadows, but only see their silhouettes when they present themselves in bright light? The question of who the characters are turns into the question of who we are, and who we would be in this situation. The just and fair one? The one with strong judgment? The one with a secret past? The good-hearted emotional one? There is no easy answer; the spectator refuses to identify with any of them and is simultaneously able to identify with all of them.

With simplicity, empathy, and fine humor, Compañía Bonobo turns our attention to the invisible meaningful details of our everyday lives that perpetuate violence. Perhaps, after all, laughter is the beginning to the end of violence.

Visit Compañía Bonobo's Residency Page

Teresa Casas Hernández, originally from Manresa (Barcelona), is a New York based actress and PhD student in Philosophy at the New School for Social Research for which she was awarded the fellowship La Caixa and The Onassis Foundation Fellowship in Ancient Greek Studies. With the image of “the world is theater” she is working on the intersection between philosophy and theater with the aim to bring into philosophical discussion elements that have been banned from philosophy since Plato banned the poets from the idea city—vividness, evanescence, co-presence. As a performer, she has worked with Beth Moysés and Tatsumi Orimot.

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