A Lesson in Escuela

Gabby Nowicki

Escuela was recently playing at the Yale Repertory Theatre called “No Boundaries.” It was in the Iseman Theatre off Chapel Street. The play was written and directed by Guillermo Calderon, performed by students from Yale, and is approximately one hundred minutes.

The play takes place in Chile in 1988 during a dictatorship era. There are only five characters present on stage, which looks like someone’s living room, set up as a home school. The face of each character is covered with a ski mask in order to protect their identities. Based off their clothes, you could assume they are in the past. The clothes are simple, but there is a difference. Since their faces are covered, the clothes are the only aspect showing social class difference. Some are dressed very nicely, while some are dressed not so nicely. The set has a blackboard and old furniture, such as a table and chairs, on a dirty, old linoleum floor. After some dialogue between characters, it is clear that this play takes place during the 80s. The small set and room conditions shows that everyone is in lower class area of Chile.

This play has a slow start with every character singing the opening song.

Each character is introduced one by one. There are two men and three women. They seem to be young adults and ordinary citizens. At this time in Chile, there is a dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet causing a group of young citizens to take steps against Pinochet. They are activists and each person has a different skill that is offered to others. The scenes change between each person quickly. One man teaches them how to use a gun and includes technique, safety, and even cleaning of the rifle.

There is a bit of humor here, especially when the man demonstrates a particular move with the gun and then the others would try to imitate. The women were the most fun because they would try to act stealthier, but over exaggerate their movements. The other man shares his knowledge of political theory and taught about the role of a dictatorship in this country.

Students and other young adults are forced to fight and defend themselves because the police do not help. The women discuss macroeconomic and organizational methods. They mix tension with hope and are very passionate about achieving justice and freedom for their country. The offbeat humor brings a lightness to the severity of the political situation. The fact that they are dressed differently shows that this situation brought a group of different social classes together over one major issue.

The characters know they are the future and the future of Chile depends on them. The simple scenery and low lighting puts into perspective the importance of secrecy but activists. There is a war outside those walls and the actors do a good job we imagine internally.

Calderon makes this work, because even young adults today, around the world, are dealing with governments limiting their rights. In the United States, young adults play a greater role in politics especially now during the presidential campaign. Before this work was written, there were dictatorships and after this work was written, there are dictatorships. Escuela will be relevant for a long time and it was nice to see.