Our first ICAF Reads is a critical summary, in English, of Teatro de Vecinos: de la comunidad para la comunidad (Neighborhood: From the Community for the Community) by Edith Scher, translated and written by Eugene van Erven.
Edith Scher is an Argentinian writer, musician, academic, actress, and director of the Matemurga theater group. She studied piano, flute and accordion and art history at Buenos Aires University. In 2002 she founded the Matemurga community theater group, based in her own neighborhood of Villa Crespo, Buenos Aires. She has been its artistic director since. From 1991 onwards, she has also worked as a theatre critic.
Teatro de Vecinos: de la comunidad para la comunidad was written from the knowledge, experience and perspective Edith Scher has gained from working with Matemurga. Through the different chapters in the publication, she critically reflects on the processes she has helped in facilitating, and the productions she has aided in producing in her own environment. As such, Scher’s take on Argentinian community theatre provides inspiring food for thought for practitioners elsewhere in the world.
Scher’s book is structured into two parts. In the first, the author defines what she understands by “community theater”, including discussions on its importance for social transformation and what “acting” for and in community theater is. In the second part of the work, Scher takes the reader on a journey through the unique stories of those, she believes, form the most representative groups of community theater.
After the political-social and cultural impact produced by the 2001 crisis in Argentina, society engagement and commitment took on a relevance that seemed impossible after the Menemist decade, coloured by an empty and consumerist individualism. In this way, the context led to the proliferation of new community theater groups throughout the country, as a space for resistance and social transformation. Teatro de Vecinos: de la comunidad para la comunidad, by Edith Scher, accounts for this phenomenon, and is therefore an extremely valuable contribution to contemporary theatrical historiography.
In this critical summary, Eugene van Erven breaks down Teatro de Vecinos: de la comunidad para la comunidad chapter by chapter, adding invaluable commentary from his own perspective on community arts and theatre, the social, cultural and political context of Argentina, and his experience working and collaborating with Edith Scher.