Out of the Wings

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La orgía (c.1972), Enrique Buenaventura

English title: The Orgy
Date written: c. 1972
First publication date: 1977
First production date: ?1972
Keywords: morality, violence > murder, violence > revenge, identity > class/social standing, history > change/revolution, ideology > politics, power > inter-personal/game play, power > use and abuse, love > lust

This is an orgy of art and memories, it’s not something commercial.

On the thirtieth day of every month, it’s orgy day at a libidinous old woman’s house.  Three local vagrants and a dwarf are invited to take part in a game of make believe where, in return for a belly full of leftovers, they will act out the old woman’s fantasy of an orgy.  These beggars play their parts half-heartedly, wanting nothing more than to be fed, but when the woman tarries in delivering their payment of food, they revolt against her direction and the game (or play) comes to an end.  The old woman’s mute son returns home at the end of the day and finds his mother dead.  ‘Why?’, he asks the audience.    This grotesque black comedy is a fascinating example of Buenaventura’s Collective Creation theatre.


The play opens with an old woman arguing with her mute son because he has accused her of stealing his money, which she vehemently denies.  Instead she tries to involve him in the role play of her sexual fantasy: ‘The prince who was to be king kissed my hand on the train in Argentina.  Come on, come on, help me.  Do it for your father!  He loved this story!’

The mute son complies until his interpretation of the part of the prince falls short of what the old woman has in mind.   She scolds him for getting it wrong, provoking his rage which is only calmed by laying his head in her lap to which she responds: ‘You’d like to get back in there wouldn’t you?  You’d like to curl back up inside here again [… ]They spend nine months, struggling to get out, and all their lives fighting to get back in’ at which she laughs hysterically.

We learn the son has been his mother’s voyeur, watching her  ‘through the cracks’ as she conducted her various liaisons with her lovers, or clients, in what seems to have been the life of a prostitute.  She refers to his jealousy and defends her right to spend the money she supposedly earned from sleeping with these men on the beggars who attend her monthly orgy.   When he protests that the money is in fact his, she throws him out, chasing him away with a broom.

The first beggar arrives and coughs into a bloody rag, at which, amidst insults, the old woman accuses him of having no right to such a ‘delicate illness’ (tuberculosis).  He reluctantly puts on his moth-eaten costume which is too big for his emaciated body and the role play begins: ‘How beautiful you are, Maria Cristina’ he says, stifling his laughter.  The old woman turns on the audience: ‘Look.  There they are.  And every one of them with his little private life under lock and key … They’ve come not to see.  They don’t want to see.  That’s why they’ve come.  If they could see they’d be frightened.’  She begins to single out members of the audience with her pointing finger and critical eye.

Enter the second beggar who asks ‘What are they performing?’  to which the old woman replies, ‘Their own lives.’  The first and  second beggar announce that their charge for participating in the orgy has gone up.  The third beggar arrives late.  The three begin to realise that the portions of food they receive are shrinking.  The role play in the orgy begins to take on political themes and the beggars  express their political allegiances with passion, which titillates the old woman: ‘the masses are getting stirred up!’.  The female dwarf enters and gets into costume to play the role of the bishop.  They drink and dance and the beggars fondle the old woman and the dwarf under their skirts, then the actors demand to be fed.  The old woman attempts to direct them: ‘Let’s drink freely and eat moderately, like ladies and gentlemen.  This is a decent orgy.’  But the dwarf’s and the beggars’ appetites intensify and they can wait no longer to eat from the pot.  This provokes outrage in the old woman and she berates them for their outspokenness.  The beggars and the dwarf revolt attacking the old woman, hitting her over the head and stabbing her to death.  The four actors then go looking for the mute son’s stash of money.  When he returns to find his mother dead, he goes to the front of the stage to ask the audience why this has happened.

Critical response

Buenaventura is known as the founder of the New Colombian Theatre.  He formed his own methodology for a theatre which would create a relationship with the audience, which would be alive to the current and pressing political and social realities facing Colombians at a particular moment in time.  This came to be known as creación colectiva, collective creation, a methodology which worked on the principle of a democratic creative process, where, through improvisation, actors would participate in the making of a play, lending their own ideas, physicality and collective memory to the devising of the play. In 1955, Buenaventura co-founded the theatre company Teatro Experimental de Cali, (TEC), an independent ensemble of actors, which  addressed itself to certain sectors of society which were deemed to be voiceless, in particular los campesinos, agricultural labourers.

TEC concerned itself with the non-literary aspects of theatre, with a greater emphasis on the actor’s physicality, as well as indigenous oral traditions.   Buenaventura’s work sought to speak to a multicultural society and to multicultural national identity.  It was also of paramount importance to Buenaventura that his work had popular appeal.

Critic Penny A. Wallace read The Orgy as an ‘absurd ritual representing Colombian society' which forces its audience to face up to Colombia’s violent history, and violent present too (Wallace 1975: 45).

  • Penny A. Wallace. 1975. ‘Enrique Buenaventura’s Los papeles del infierno’, Latin American Theatre Review, Fall, 45

  • Buenaventura, Enrique. 1977. La Orgía. In Enrique Buenaventura, Teatro. Bogotá, Instituto Colombiano de Cultura, pp. 135–59

Useful readings and websites
  • De la Campa, Ramón. 1980. ‘The New Latin American Stage: An Interview with E. Buenaventura,’ Theater 12.1, 19–21

  • Penny A. Wallace. 1975. ‘Enrique Buenaventura’s Los papeles del infierno’, Latin American Theatre Review, Fall, 45

  • Watson Espener, Maida. 1976. ‘Enrique Buenaventura’s Theory of the Committed Theatre,’ Latin American Theatre Review 9.2, 43-7

  • Weiss, Judith A, ed. 2004. Colombian Theatre in the Vortex: Seven Plays. Lewisburg. Bucknell University Press

Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 5 October 2010.

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