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Orlando's Performing Arts Festival Leaves You in the Dark

Imagine a play taking place in total darkness. That's exactly what theatergoers see – or rather, don't see – in Odd Man Out, a show that takes audiences on a journey through sound, smell, taste and touch.

“Odd Man Out” is one of the headliners of the fourth annual Latin American Performing Arts Festival, known as FLAE and presented by Open Scene. It runs June 17-19 with online workshops and plays — including a deconstruction of “Witch Hunt” and a Julie Andrews-inspired musical — followed by a workshop on June 20 and three live performances June 21-23 at Fringe ArtSpace in downtown Orlando.

“It's a unique theatrical experience” that “holds a special place in my heart,” Open Scene executive director Thamara Bejarano says of “Odd Man Out.” “You will feel, smell and hear every aspect of this incredible story and immerse yourself in a way you've never experienced before.”

“Odd Man Out” transforms the ArtSpace into an airport where theatergoers arrive and begin their journey – concurrent with the journey of Alberto, the blind jazz musician at the center of the story. After decades of self-imposed exile, he flies from New York to Buenos Aires and shares his life with his fellow travelers.

The flight is also part of the show once you're seated in the pitch-black aircraft cabin. There was no mention of seatbelts in the official show description. So you'll have to wait and see.

The “pitch-black theater” technique used in “Odd Man Out” was developed in Argentina by blind and sighted artists. The show's creative minds say the excitement of the show lies in realizing “what you see when you can't use your eyes.”

“Odd Man Out” began at Argentina’s Teatro Ciego — “ciego” means blind in Spanish — an organization that has been creating live experiences in the dark for 15 years. Forty percent of the theater’s staff and creative teams are people with visual impairments, say the producers of “Odd Man Out,” which opens later this month at the Sheen Center for Thought and Culture in New York City.

Mabel Roch, Juan David Ferrer and Mabel Roch star in the Artefactus Cultural Project's production of The Lion and the Tamer, a play by Antonio Orlando Rodríguez that is part of Open Scene's Latin American Performing Arts Festival. (Courtesy of Artefactus Cultural Project via Open Scene)

“Odd Man Out” will be presented in English and will crown the Open Scene Festival on June 23rd at 3pm, after two evenings of other live performances.

“Tebas Land” (June 21, 8 p.m.), a new work by Uruguayan playwright Sergio Blanco, was staged in an Arca Images production in Miami in November and has also been seen in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Barcelona, ​​​​London, Paris, Tokyo and other major cities.

Inspired by the Greek myth of Oedipus, “Tebas Land” tells the story of a man from our time who is accused of murdering his father and is approached by a writer who wants to write a play about the murder. Ariel Texidó and Daniel Romero play the main roles in the production directed by Carlos Celdrán.

The play will be performed in Spanish and simultaneously translated into English.

"This is Salem," from Venezuela's Teatro de La Penumbra, is a deconstruction of Arthur Miller's "The crucible." This is an online presentation of Open Scene's Latin American Performing Arts Festival. (Courtesy of Teatro de La Penumbra via Open Scene)
“This Is Salem” from Venezuela’s Teatro de La Penumbra is a deconstruction of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” It is an online presentation of Open Scene’s Latin American Performing Arts Festival. (Courtesy of Teatro de La Penumbra via Open Scene)

“Bandit and Bad Blood” (June 22, 8 p.m.) by Venezuelan author Gustavo Ott celebrates its US premiere at the festival.

The show is presented in Spanish with English subtitles and produced by the GALA Hispanic Theater in Washington, DC. It is one of Ott's most performed works, having been performed throughout Europe and translated into French, Portuguese and Catalan.

The play is described as “a hilarious and caustic work about any country that laughs at its tears, fears and frustrations unless it is held to account for its actions and inactions.” In the play, six characters, from a flamboyant dog catcher to a soap opera actor, a troubled debt collector to an alcoholic sailor, tell their stories – some tragic, some comic, but always with a glimmer of hope.

Online workshops and plays will be presented the week before the in-person events at ArtSpace, which will also feature an art installation by Central Florida native Gisela Romero.

Julie Andrews, pictured in "The sound of music," inspired "A piece without Julie," one of Open Scene's digital offerings at this year's Latin American Performing Arts Festival. (Orlando Sentinel archive photo)
Julie Andrews, pictured in “The Sound of Music,” inspired “A Play Without Julie,” one of the digital offerings of this year’s Open Scene Latin American Performing Arts Festival. (Orlando Sentinel archive photo)

The plays include “The Lion and the Tamer” (June 20, June 17) by Cuban writer Antonio Orlando Rodríguez, a story “full of humor, fantasy, tenderness and reflections on exile, home and identity.”

“This is Salem” (8 p.m., June 18) by Venezuelan playwright Andreína Polidor is a deconstruction of Arthur Miller's “The Crucible” with its themes of education as a system of control, power, indoctrination and persecution. The online performance will be the first time the play has been seen in the United States.

Argentinian Fernando Albinarrete wrote the musical “A Movie Without Julie” (8 p.m., June 19) in honor of Julie Andrews. The piece traces the life of lonely 6-year-old Catalina, who befriends Andrews in her imagination after watching “The Sound of Music,” through the traumas of her teenage years to hope and redemption in adulthood.

All three online plays will be performed in Spanish with English subtitles, and each will be followed by a discussion with the cast and crew. Although the plays can be viewed from home, this year a new communal festival spirit will be introduced with evening gatherings at Lobos Coffee Roasters, 3000 Corrine Drive in Orlando.

“We organize watch parties where we all come together to enjoy the digital content together,” said Bejarano. “It's a wonderful opportunity to share the experience with other art lovers.”

Follow me on facebook.com/matthew.j.palm or email me at mpalm@orlandosentinel.com. For more arts news, visit OrlandoSentinel.com/entertainment.

FLAE IV

  • What: Open Scene's fourth annual Latin American Festival of Performing Arts, or FLAE (Festival Latinoamericano de Artes Escénicas)
  • Where: Fringe ArtSpace, 54 W. Church St. in Orlando
  • When: 17 to 23 June
  • Cost: For online events, pay what you want; for in-person ArtSpace performances, pay $20-$30; student tickets are $15 at the door with ID, except for Odd Man Out, which is $35-$40.
  • Information and complete schedule: openscene.org

Anna Harden

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