Casco Viejo, Panama`s UNESCO World Heritage colonial city has slowly become the cultural heart of Panama. Artists and artistic souls gravitate towards Casco attracted by its authenticity and multiple textures.
And as summer approaches, Casco Viejo starts bubbling with small and big events, most of them un announces (or improvised!), but all of them wonderful. Last weekend, walking by plaza Herrera, I saw the kids of the Fundación Danilo Perez Jazz School playing at the Mano de Tigre plaza, surrounded by locals and visitors. This Jazz School is the first art school to open doors at the colonial city after Casco`s decline in the 60`s. They take talented kids from the neighborhood and open for them the doors of a whole world through music. Many of them have been accepted at international music schools.
Now, a theater company has started a school as well. Located at 3rd Street and Central Avenue, next to the Ministry of Justice, there is a building with no logo nor sign. But it is the headquarter of an independent theater company called Teatro Lagartija, a group that has been working underground for some years, presenting interesting works at unexpected places.
For 2011, La Prensa reported they are working on celebrating a Festival de Cocos (Coconut Festival) which would inaugurate officially their home in Casco Antiguo. The festival will be held during the last weeks of January (right after Panama Jazz Fest) and the whole month of February. They are hoping to get theater directors to present either plays that were never presented or emblematic work of their careers.
Teatro Lagartija was founded in 2004. The play I remember the most is Panama for Dummies, which presented in a well weaved tapestry some of the most important aspects in politics and Panamanian “day to day” stuff in a small space using smart dialogue and only plastic storage boxes as props. They used them to form buildings (while commenting on the real estate boom), buses (public transportation), a classroom (commenting on education), among others.
So keep your eyes open for Teatro Lagartija!