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  • Freak Performances: Dissidence in Latin American Theater by Analola Santana
  • Kirsten F. Nigro
FREAK PERFORMANCES: DISSIDENCE IN LATIN AMERICAN THEATER. By Analola Santana. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2018; pp. 266.

The purpose of Analola Santana's groundbreaking study is to examine freak performances on the Latin American stage, and to engage with hegemonic discourses that delegitimize or enfreak whole sectors of Latin American society. While noting that the notion of Latin Americans as freaks has been around since colonial times right up to the era of Trump, Santana concentrates on twelve performances and plays from the 1990s through the first decades of the twenty-first century, all of which she has seen and many of whose authors, directors, and actors she has interviewed. Taking her lead from disability and freak studies, Santana organizes her book into four chapters that are bookended by an introduction and conclusion. Each chapter contains case studies, as Santana labels them, of three works, for each of which she provides detailed descriptions as well as their political, historical, and artistic contexts. She sees a common thread in these works as dissident accounts and symbols of resistance; however, because they are quite varied in their performance practices, Santana uses a slightly different methodology and theoretical framework for each. Taken together, they show the breadth of Santana's readings, as well as her critical acumen.

In chapter 1, "From Monster to Freak: A Latin American Genealogy of Difference," Santana explores how today's "freak" is a historical construct with roots in notions of the wondrous, and then of the monstrous, and later of the savage Other of colonialism, and lately of the deviant or freak. She elaborates on this genealogy with the analysis of De monstruos y prodigios: la historia de los castrati (Of monsters and prodigies: The history of the castrati), staged in 2000 in Mexico City by the Teatro de Ciertos Habitantes (for whom Santana works as their dramaturg); Hecho en Perú (Made in Peru) by the award-winning Grupo Cultural Yuyachkani (2001); and Fauna (2013) by the Argentinian playwright Romina Paula. The following chapter, "Danger Unleashed: The Pathology of Difference and Deviance in the Latin American Neoliberal State," further explores the supposedly abnormal or diseased body, especially the female body, as defined by modern medicine; there is also a discussion of the role of science in the enfreakment of nature. Here, Santana focuses on Vacío (Emptiness) by the Costa Rican theatre troupe Abya Yala (2010); De un suave color blanco (Of a soft white color) by the renowned Ecuadorian Teatro Malayerba (2010); and Violeta Luna's 2009 performance piece NK 603: Acción para performer & E-Maíz (NK 603: Action for a performer and e-corn). The third chapter, "The Savage Exotic: Gender and Class in the Construction of Freakery," further elaborates on gender identity and the degradation of the female body, while also looking at the enfreakment of the working class as expendable waste in the economy of neoliberalism. To develop her argument here, Santana chooses one dance piece, Geraldas e Avencas (2008) by the Brazilian dance group Primeiro Ato, alongside two performance pieces: El brillo en la negrura de sobrevivir (The brightness in the darkness of survival, 2015) by the Mexican artist Katy Tirado; and Piedra (Stone, 2015) by the Guatemalan artist Regina José Galindo. The final chapter, "Violence and Politics on the Freak: The Perversion of Citizenship," deals with the representation of violence on marginalized groups deemed a threat to the nation during periods of political repression and dictatorships in late twentieth-century Latin America. Santana is especially interested in the process of enfreakment as a means to disenfranchise or to literally disappear these groups. She focuses on the way this experience is remembered in works written or first performed after the fact by people who did or did not experience this brutality: Gemelos (Twins) by Chile's Teatrocinema (1999); El barro se subleva (The mud revolts) by the Argentinian actor/playwright Norman Briski (2013); and Halcón de oro: [End Page 404] Q'orihuaman (The golden falcon: Q'orihuaman) by the Peruvians Ana Correa and Rodolfo Rodríguez (1995). In each case study, Santana underscores...


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