“There is a uni­ver­sal tone to the script that is par­tic­u­larly rel­e­vant dur­ing this pres­i­den­tial ad­min­is­tra­tion.”

Pasatiempo - - RANDOM ACTS - Ata­cama, Ata­cama,

Ata­cama Desert is the dri­est desert on earth. Tak­ing up more than 41,000 square miles west of the An­des moun­tains, its stony and sandy ter­rain dot­ted with salt lakes and fel­sic lava flows has been com­pared to that of Mars. In 2010, the skele­tons of 75 pre­his­toric whales — be­lieved to be about two mil­lion years old — were un­earthed in a cor­ner of the desert. The Ata­cama is a pop­u­lar tourist desti­na­tion for its spec­tac­u­lar night skies, and home to the La Silla and Paranal ob­ser­va­to­ries, one of which is vis­i­ble in the dis­tance to Ig­na­cia and Diego. They are two char­ac­ters in

a play by Au­gusto Fed­erico Amador that has its world pre­miere at Teatro Paraguas on Fri­day, Sept. 7.

In ad­di­tion to fos­silized whale bones, seashells, and other an­cient mat­ter, pieces of hu­man skele­tons were buried un­der the thin sand in the mid-1970s, af­ter Gen. Au­gusto Pinochet tor­tured and mur­dered tens of thou­sands of Chileans for the crime of be­ing com­mu­nists. Moth­ers and other rel­a­tives of the dis­ap­peared, called the Women of Calama, search for bones by me­thod­i­cally dig­ging into the desert floor. Their search has been go­ing on for over 40 years. Nu­mer­ous re­mains have been iden­ti­fied by lab tests, but the bones — a toe joint here, a fin­ger there — have been bleached and scat­tered by the el­e­ments. At this point, it would be nearly im­pos­si­ble to find and re­assem­ble a whole skele­ton.

The Teatro Paraguas pro­duc­tion of di­rected by Juliet Salazar, stars Ber­nadette Peña as Ig­na­cia and James Chavez as Diego. Ig­na­cia’s son is among the miss­ing, and she has been dig­ging for his bones for years. Diego lost his daugh­ter, but it is his first time in the desert. His wife, who has died, spent decades dig­ging along­side the other Women of Calama, and he is try­ing to ful­fill a prom­ise he made to her. Ig­na­cia and Diego live inside their grief, al­ter­nately un­able and un­will­ing to look at cer­tain truths from their pasts.

“For Ig­na­cia, the bones are her trea­sure. She would prob­a­bly dig for­ever to get her son back home,” Peña said. “She be­lieves she’s Diego’s guide, but she needs his help as much as he needs hers.”

“She’s the one with all the ex­pe­ri­ence, and Diego comes in as a rookie with no in­ter­est in be­ing there,” Chavez said, adding, “The third char­ac­ter is the lo­ca­tion. The sand, the desert. You have to re­al­ize where it’s tak­ing place in or­der to get a deep sense of the tragedy and the de­spair that took place there.” I

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