The CAMINOS Festival presents Augusto Bitter's CHICHO
by DREW ROWSOME 04 October 2017
The CAMINOS festival is back with the addition of "Latinx" to the mandate. One of the artists who fall into that fabulous category is Augusto Bitter who has, at a young age, already earned a sterling reputation as an up-and-coming performer to watch out for. As part of CAMINOS, Bitter will be presenting his theatrical performance piece CHICHO and he was happy to talk about how his deeply personal piece fits into the festival mandate of, "Inclusive, discursive, daring and incorrigible: CAMINOS 2017 is a festival of new works-in-progress by local Pan-American, Indigenous, and Latinx artists, who are pushing the boundaries of theatre, dance, performance art, music, visual arts, installation, and film."
s of theatre, dance, performance art, music, visual arts, installation, and film."
Drew Rowsome: Do you think it is possible to, quoting the press release, "reconcile being queer, Venezuelan, and Catholic?" How much is CHICHO, and that triad of identities, based on your own life?
Augusto Bitter: The irony in CHICHO is that he's clearly tortured by this triad of identities, yet he remains quite eloquent and humorous about it. (On the surface.) The show is structured like a meticulous school presentation, where things start going (very) wrong as the reality of the chaos in Venezuela infiltrates Chicho's psyche. I often work from a place where "exaggeration makes the truth bearable." While the show is largely autobiographical, I've also taken many artistic liberties for the sake of entertainment and dynamics. In creating Chicho - a creature much more romantic, political, and mischievous than myself while still being myself - I've created living proof that it is, in fact, possible to reconcile seemingly disparate parts of identity into something unique and beautiful.
All three aspects have a certain theatricality about them. Which do you draw on the most to create?
Augusto Bitter:CHICHO, stylistically, is relentlessly theatrical. It's entirely addressed to the audience, it's colourful, it's high-energy, it's very-specifically timed and choreographed. It takes place at whichever theatre it's playing. I don't think I can separate any of the three labels from each other, since the intersection—the border—creates some amazingly useful stereotypes. I love wearing the stereotypes like an ill-fitting dress and asking the audience: "Do you like what you see?" Regardless, I can confidently say that a lot of the "panache" in CHICHO comes from celebrating my queerness, whatever that continues to evolve into, unapologetically.
Why does Chicho believe that being beautiful will solve his problems? Why do we never ascribe any depth to Miss Universes?
Augusto Bitter: That question became the thread that allowed me to weave together many of the themes in the piece, from race, to religion, to pageants, to failed attempts at romantic love. He "wants to be beautiful," but part of the journey is discovering how to define beauty in his own terms despite external expectations and cultural forces. In terms of Miss Universe, it's easy to think of them as daft and empty, but I hope CHICHO illuminates the underlying patriarchal machismo that puts pressure on women to look a certain way and on men to like a certain look. They're working under the same external expectations and cultural forces as Chicho, but having to navigate it a different way.
How did you come to be part of CAMINOS? What work did you have to do to get CHICHO ready for public scrutiny?
Augusto Bitter: After applying and being accepted to present the first 30-minutes at CAMINOS, I was excited to finally to partner with Pencil Kit Productions and bring on a dream team of young artists. I've biked across this city daily, looking for costume pieces, running to meetings or rehearsals, doing promotion, buying ripe avocados, all the while memorizing my own tongue-twister writing while pedalling. CAMINOS became an opportunity to go balls-to-the-wall (literally), take risks, have fun, and truly test my vision. It is also a festival run by a company that is close to my heart. For a freelance artist, Aluna Theatre has become a home-base of sorts, where I can fully embrace both my Canadian and Venezuelan influences. The festival itself, showcasing proposals from pan-american, indigenous, and latinx artists, is truly one-of-a-kind. It's been a great place to start our CHICHO adventure before we move on to a BUZZ workshop with Theatre Passe Muraille in February 2018.
You are proud to be an omnivorous consumer of theatre, what other CAMINOS performances and events are you looking forward to?
Augusto Bitter: I'm definitely looking forward to Aluna Theatre's Lineas Divisoras on the opening Wednesday night. Partly because I am trying to see as many masterful solo performances as I can, and largely because I love the heart, style, and grit that Aluna continues to explore in their work. On Thursday, October 5th, I am also honoured to share the stage with two other solos with relatively similar cultural themes: Monica Garrido's The Cunning Linguist and Jiv Parasram's Take d Milk, Nah?; as well as Victoria Mata's installation, Cacao: A Venezuelan Lament. Design-wise, Skin by Leslie Baker with Emma Tibaldo and Joseph Shragge looks promising, and I know Lido Pimienta can work a crowd in her and Gein Wong's We're in a Non-Relationship Relationship. Most of all, our community loves a good party. Come eat arepas at the Cabaret nights with us.