Are You Afraid Of The Dark? A Night At Teatro Ciego
Article by Nora Wallenius. Photos Courtesy of Teatro Ciego.
I’ve never been afraid of the dark. I never asked to keep the light on while I slept as a child, I never panicked when I couldn’t find the light switch, and I never felt unsure of myself when I was in a dark room. That is, until I went to Teatro Ciego. Take away everything you know about yourself, your five senses, and most importantly, your vision, and see what you find out about yourself. turns out I’m not sure confident in complete darkness or trusting others with my safety. Welcome to Teatro Ciego, an exhilarating, albeit slightly scary, evening in the dark where you are able to temporarily experience what it feels like to be blind.
After having talked to a few friends who had gone to so-called “blind theaters” before, I felt like I had prepared myself. Alright so I can’t see, what’s the big deal? It turns out, it is a big deal. Located in the heart of tango culture in the neighborhood of Abasto, Teatro Ciego is an embodiment of olden Buenos Aires with a twist. Our greeters at A Ciegas Gourmet, one of the many “blind” shows happening at the theater, made us feel at ease as they explained the rules of the evening. Turn off all cell phones and electronics for light prevention, no loud talking during the show, and don’t put your hands on the table when you sit down (more on that later!).
The large group of diners begins to enter the dark room forming a human train with our hands on each other’s shoulders. Nervous giggles ensue. My eyes slowly adjust to the darkness, and I start to feel slightly claustrophobic. However, I feel secure in the human train, knowing that whoever is leading it knows where to go. Our guide places my hands on a chair and tells me this is my seat, to slowly pull it out from the table and sit down. Why were we told not put put our hands on the table when we sit down? Because our food is already served and no one wants a smashed dinner! My hands slowly begin to explore the table in front of me where sit a large rectangular plate, two glasses and two napkins. No silverware needed to eat in the dark apparently. We have been instructed to begin eating left to right, beginning with appetizers and ending with dessert. Pleasant tango music serenades in the background.
My hands find my first item of food, a crostini with cheese and pear? My taste buds have not yet adjusted to tasting without seeing, so they aren’t as sharp as I thought they would be. Next, a caprese skewer and two different canastitas (open faced empanadas) of curry chicken and roquefort cheese. Lastly a delicious fondue fruit skewer covered in chocolate. All of the food had been prepared to easily eat with our hands and a variety of flavors to dissect with our palettes. I was surprised at my inability to guess the exact flavors in the dish, and I became even more surprised of how much sight is inherently connected with all of our other senses.
A loud bang and the show begins. Sounds explode from everywhere, actors begin talking right in front of me, and I let myself fall into the interactive world of teatro ciego. As the show is in Spanish, it is better appreciated if you can speak and understand the language to some degree. Not to worry, as there are many songs and musical numbers that can keep you entertained if your Spanish is not your strong suit. My favorite show(wo)man of the night was Brenda Garcia, the amazing female vocalist that carried the show. From classic tango numbers to “Hit the Road Jack,” I was hypnotized by her voice each time she sang.
After a pause for another round of drinks served, the show concludes with an interactive number that had the entire room singing along. It’s unbelievable being in a dark room together brings such a sense of community.
I discover after the show that the actors at Teatro Ciego are half blind and half with sight. The theater holds many different events, from blind tango and theater classes to blind theater and musical events. The theater’s motto is “Lo que ves cuando no ves,” which is translated as “What you see when you do not see.” The theater wants to emphasize that the sense of smell, sound, and feeling are amplified and powerful when sight is taken away. With a wide range of shows to choose from, there is a “blind” experience for everyone to choose from.