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Theater in Costa Rica

Theater in Costa Rica

The Costa Rican cultural revolution began in the 19th century, and has flourished over the last 100 years. Live theater is an integral part of the nation's heritage, and today local newspapers are filled with announcements of the week's upcoming shows – from classic plays to comedic performances written by Costa Ricans.

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Costa Rican theater draws from the country's most beloved themes – romance, folklore, religion and politics. In the 19th century, plays were often set in the countryside and detailed rural living, but by the beginning of the 20th century, theatrical pursuits had followed Costa Rican life into the country's urban centers. Ricardo Fernandez Guardia (1867-1950), considered by many to be the father of Costa Rican theater, authored "La Magdalena" (1902), one of the first works to transition to a more contemporary, urban theme.

In the beginning of the 20th century, playwrights including Daniel Urena, Ernesto Marten, and Jose Fabio Garner, focused on themes of morality, and the clash between traditional values and emerging interests like world politics and capitalism. By the late 1920s, Costa Rican theater had again evolved to reflect the times, incorporating European influence and industrialization into the decade's most popular plays.

There was a decline in Costa Rican theater – both works produced and the public's attendance – during the 1930s and 1940s. By the 1950s, the county was again interested in the cultural creations of its leading playwrights. New theater companies formed and enjoyed success, and in 1969 the University of Costa Rica founded its own drama department.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Costa Ricans were concerned with political and moral issues, and theater explored challenging themes like peace, abortion and adultery. Popular playwrights, like Samuel Rovinski, Alberto Canas and Daniel Gallegos, explored existentialism, politics and the power of the people – and Costa Ricans responded by visiting the stage even more frequently.

Today, Costa Rican theater takes a balanced approach, blending classic theater – Cervantes, Shakespeare, and Lope de Vega – with modern works by Costa Rican, Latin American and international playwrights. Comedic performances, which often poke fun at current events and contemporary themes, are a national favorite, and there are often sexual undertones to these productions.

English-language theater is growing in popularity, and traveling groups perform at Costa Rica's most popular venues, including the National Theater, which hosted Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" and "King Lear" in 2011. The Little Theatre Group of Costa Rica regularly performs English-language plays, including such titles as "Laughter on the 23rd Floor" and "Steel Magnolias."

Central Valley Theaters

National Theater: Avenida Segunda between Calle 3 and 5. Telephone: 2221-5341
Melico Salazar Theater, Avenida segunda, between Calle 0 and 2, San Jose. Telephone: 2233-5172
Teatro 1887: Calle 11, Avenida 3 and 7, San Jose. Telephone: 2257-5524
Teatro Arlequin: Calle 13, Avenida Central and 2, San Jose. Telephone: 2221-5485
Teatro Chaplin: Calle 11 and 13, Avenida 12, San Jose. Telephone: 2221-0812
Teatro De San Jose: Calle 15, Avenida 8 and 10, San Jose. Telephone: 2222-2624
Teatro Dionisio, Cafe Britt on the road to Barva, Heredia. Telephone: 2277-1600
Teatro El Triciclo: Calle 15, Avenida 8 and 10, San Jose. Telephone: 2222-2624
Teatro Eugene O'Neill, Calle 37, Avenida 1 and 3, Barrio Dent, San Jose. Telephone: 2207-7554
Teatro Jose Joaquin Vargas Calvo: Calle 5, Avenida Central and 2, San Jose. Telephone: 2222-1875
Teatro La Comedia: Calle 11 and 15, Avenida Central, San Jose. Telephone: 2233-2170
Teatro La Esquina: Calle 21, Avenida 1, San Jose. Telephone: 2257-0223
Teatro Laurence Olivier (Sala Garbo): Calle 28, Avenida 2, San Jose. Telephone: 2222-1034
Teatro Municipal de Alajuela, Alajuela. Telephone: 2436-2362
Teatro Variedades: Calle 5, Avenida Central and 1, San Jose. Telephone: 2222-6108

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