When I first got to Mexico City, I had yet to find a place to live, so I stayed with my dear friends Ximena, Roberto, and their giant Akita Lev (short for Leviathan) in up-and-coming neighborhood Santa María la Ribera.
The colonía’s hallmark attraction is the Kiosko Morisco, a structure built as Mexico’s submission to the World’s Fair in 1902.
The kiosko is in the Alameda of Santa María, the heart of the colonia, and as you can see from the picture above, the Alameda is always bustling with activity. People play soccer, set up booths for various causes, or just sit on one of the park benches and watch the world go by.
One evening, Roberto announced that he and Ximena had a surprise for me, so we walked south on Insurgentes to an undisclosed location. We swung a right off of Insurgentes close to the Buenavista Metrobus station onto a little alley, and I saw a crowd of people gathered outside a nondescript building with a simple sign that read ‘Microteatro.’ We went inside what I soon realized was a theater, and Roberto asked us to pick out some shows we’d like to see. We settled on ‘Con Final Feliz?’ (A Happy Ending?), ‘El Funeral’, and ‘Naúfragos’ (Shipwrecked).
“We’ll see 3 shows,” Roberto explained, “because they’re only 15 minutes each, and you get a free drink with your ticket. It’s a special deal!”
We all ordered our mezcalitos before going to see our first show ‘Con Final Feliz?’ We were ushered into a tiny room with a bed taking up most of it. The premise of Microteatro (Tiny Theater) is that you see ‘Micro Obras’ (Short Plays). 15 minutes each with 15 audience members. I had no idea what to expect and was immediately enraptured by the actor standing right beside me who started speaking to another woman in the room. She played the character of a prostitute, and before they got down to business, the man started to ask her all kinds of personal questions. She became upset, and in an effort to explain himself, the actor began to recount the story of attending his mother’s funeral. He looked down at the ground, and then looked up…directly at me!
I looked at Roberto and Ximena in panic. The actor grabbed my hand, tossed aside my empty mezcal cup, and motioned for me to lie down in the bed. Having just arrived in Mexico a few days earlier, I prayed that I wouldn’t have to say anything – I could only understand half of what they were saying anyway! Then I realized, I was playing the role of the actor’s dead mother.
It was a lot of fun, and fortunately, I didn’t have to say anything! The actor just explained his experience of attending his mother’s funeral, while looking down at me, and as you can see, clasping my hand. I was more of a prop than an actor really.
We moved on to our next show ‘El Funeral’ a short play about a young man and his sister who… (spoiler alert) is actually his mother. She confesses this to him after the funeral of her mother (his grandmother) and an uncomfortable screaming match ensues for the duration of the play. “Well, that was a little dramatic,” I naively thought to myself when we exited, but my friends proceeded to tell me that the play’s theme hit close to home for some people in ultra-conservative and Catholic Mexico. The type of scenario illustrated by ‘El Funeral,’ I learned, was sometimes a family’s recourse for the actions of their unwed and pregnant teenage daughters.
In the final show, the room was set up to look like the Victorian-style living room of an affluent family. I was so struck by the architecture of the entire Microteatro. Whatever it had been in its past incarnation, the owners of the Microteatro fully optimized the entire building. Every room became a stage. When we walked through the doors of each room, it was like we entered a new world. The proximity to the actors themselves gave each of us an intimate, voyeuristic feeling – like we were privy to a conversation we shouldn’t be hearing, and for that reason, I felt like the emotional impact of each show was that much more intense. The lobby of the Microteatro is filled with contemporary art pieces and the laughter and lively discussions of the hipsters who frequent it. The first floor also boasts a bar and antojitos, or little snacks, for purchase. If you’re interested in experimental, accessible theater, I highly recommend the Microteatro. It’s especially ideal for someone like me whose first language is not Spanish. The shows are short and direct, so I feel like they are easier for a foreigner to understand than a longer production. I’m not completely fluent in Spanish, and I burst into quiet tears after one particularly poignant play.
But be warned, you might just get pulled on stage.
Santa María la Ribera, Cuauhtemoc, 06400
Ciudad de México, D.F.