As countries around the world seek greater inclusion for the disabled, many have turned to the arts as an arena to foster understanding. In Mexico, there’s a theater program that relies on a full company of blind actors.
As CGTN’s Alasdair Baverstock reports, its shows are nothing short of revelatory for the seeing public.
Audience members take their seats in the theatre, the lights fade to black – and stay that way.
Deprived of clear vision, they will experience the performance as these actors experience life – blind.
This is Mexico’s ‘Teatro de Ciegos’ – the Theater of the Blind – an immersive experience for audiences and a personal quest for the players.
“It’s about challenging yourself and discovering all the things you can do”, Jesus Rodriguez, one of the actors in the show who lost his sight as a child said. “Not just a blind person, but anyone with a disability, because often we hold ourselves back by thinking of our disabilities as limitations.”
According to advocacy groups, more than 2 million Mexicans suffer from some form of visual impairment, with more than 400,000 fully blind. Activities like theatre for the blind are aimed at building empathy within society through experiencing someone else’s reality.
In total darkness – which we recorded through an infrared camera –audience members are led in human chains around the stage, shown the heightened power of their other senses, and introduced to Braille.
It’s the brainchild of Juan Saavedra, who has normal vision, and was inspired by a blind friend.
“When you find yourself in the dark, you are alone, because even if you have someone next to you, you can’t see them. Your eyes are open, but you can’t see. So what we have wanted from the very beginning is to have audiences experience that vulnerability.”
For many in the audience it is a powerful experience.
“The value they bring to life, it’s sensational”, said Alejandro Solorzano, an audience member from Mexico City with tears in his eyes as he left the auditorium. “We complain about life, being badly treated, about money, about work, but in reality, we have everything. We can see, we are healthy, we have all our limbs. And there are people who don’t have that, and it makes you value things.”
As Mexico’s Theater of the Blind achieves its landmark 100th performance, the actors hope the experience they offer in the auditorium, will translate into greater empathy in the outside world.