- Letters, Etc.
To the Editor:
I was pleased to find Deborah K. Middleton's essay on the work of Nicolás Núñez's Taller de Investigación Teatral (Theatre Research Workshop) in the latest issue of TDR [Middleton 2001]. While Middleton succeeds in giving an accurate description of the TRW's complex training processes and participatory dynamics, her essay is missing contextual information I believe is important in assessing the Workshop's exceptional position within Mexico's theatre and cultural milieu.
At 27 years of age, no other group in Mexico has achieved a comparable consistency working primarily as a workshop. While the TRW's sustained research into psychophysical training techniques is unparalleled, it does not generally cater to regular acting students but rather to people from all walks of life in search of spiritual development.
While respected (if seldom actually understood) by most people in the theatre community, the work of Núñez and his group is considered eccentric and has not spawned similar workshops anywhere in the country, except for short-lived groups established by former members such as Jaime Soriano. While some of the TRW's "dynamics" might inspire the training techniques of performers that come in touch with them, no other theatre group has attempted to create participatory performances of the kind the TRW is known for.
It is important to acknowledge the influence on TRW not only from international gurus such as Grotowski, but also from Mexican theatre researchers Oscar Zorrilla and Gabriel Weisz. It is with them that, in 1982, Núñez began developing ritual-participatory performances as part of the Seminario de Investigaciones Etnodramáticas (Seminar of Ethnodramatic Research) under the auspices of Mexico's National University (UNAM). The two performances created with Seminar members—Tloque Nahuaque and El monte análogo—served as models for all subsequent work. TDR readers will be interested in knowing that it was during this period that Richard Schechner came in touch with the group; they shared a mutual interest in research into ritual and theatre techniques. The following year, Núñez published the first version of Teatro antropocósmico (Middleton cites a later edition) jointly with Schechner's essay, "El fracaso de las circunstancias representacionales" ["The Crash of Performative Circumstances" from Schechner's The End of Humanism].
In stressing Nicolás Núñez as the man behind the TRW, Middleton elides the collective nature of much of the Workshop's activity. This is a mistake my colleague Yolanda Muñoz and I made in our discussion of the TRW (1992), and for which several Workshop members took us to task. Helena Guardia, Ana Luisa Solís, Julio Gómez, Virginia Gómez, Jaime Soriano, and many others members past and present, are not mere supporters and followers, but creative forces co-responsible for the Workshop's development.
Finally, I'd like to address Middleton's assertion that, "Núñez is particularly careful not to invest the actions and experiences of the dynamics with any overt [End Page 7] ideology. The TRW professes no particular belief system [...]" (43). While Workshop members indeed avoid imposing a religion or an ideology on participants, there's a particular corpus of beliefs underlying their work. The TRW is intimately associated with a movement of spiritual nationalism known as Nueva Mexicanidad (New Mexicanity), which spans everything from Carlos Castaneda to conchero dancing.
Nueva Mexicanidad emerged in the midst of the countercultural movements in Mexico City during the '70s, and is now widespread in large sectors of the urban middle and upper middle classes. One of the main leaders of this movement is Antonio Velasco Piña, who is cited in the TRW's playbills as a key advisor. Velasco Piña has devoted half a dozen books to rewriting the history of Mexico from an esoteric perspective, largely unknown to mainstream readers until the publication in 1987 of his controversial "historical novel" Regina, dos de octubre no se olvida. In this work, the author describes himself as a "witness" to the events surrounding the 2 October 1968 massacre in Mexico City's Tlatelolco residential compound. The novel's main character, Regina Teuscher, is based on an actual student...