Review: Del Manantial del Corazón (From the Spring of the Heart)

by Lynn on October 5, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the AKI Studio, Daniels Spectrum  585 Dundas St. E, Toronto, Ont.

Written, directed and performed by Conchi León

Lighting by Esaú Corona

Cast: Conchi León

Addy Teyer

Lourdes León

Randia Escalante

A fascinating look at another culture’s ideas on death, duty, women and babies.

 Del Manantial del Corazón (From the Spring of the Heart) is part of the RUTAS festival of international works from the Americans. The play celebrates life while reflecting on death.Conchi León is the writer, director and dramaturge of the piece and also performs in it along with three other women: Addy Teyer, Lourdes. Lourdes León and Randia Escalante. Conchi León writes about the feminine world of the Mayan people.  She travelled through the State of Yucatan documenting the testimony and stories of women living in indigenous villages.

There is a story of a woman betrayed by her cheating husband.  Stories about women who have born children but the children died either in child-birth or a little later.  There is a story of a woman shunned by her family because she was a woman who was thought to have not been a good wife. So the story is about that tricky position of women treated as a second class citizen.

While these stories show a serious side of the culture with their own traditions and for that it’s fascinating. The performances of the women are full of ceremony: incense, candles are lit at certain times in the story telling.

There is also humour.  And at first it’s three women gossiping, bickering and having a good time.  They talk about a fourth woman who prays all the time and they make fun of her. But as the performance continues we hear the stories of the individual women and get a deeper sense of who they are and what they endure.

But then the mood changed because Conchi León said we all in the audience were going to participate in the ceremony of Hetzmek (Mayan baptism). She said she needed volunteers and she needed a baby. It just so happened that a baby came with her mother to the play. How lucky for everybody. The baby’s name is Martina and I recon she’s about a month old, if not younger.  She was beautifully behaved in her lovely print dress and blue knit cap. She didn’t wear any socks. She gurgled slightly but that’s it. And she smiles easily.

 The ceremony required that various volunteers from the audience present the baby with little gifts to get her on her way, and they were to say a few words to the baby explaining the importance of what they were giving her. Martina’s mother held her upright for the whole ceremony.  For example, Keith Barker, one of the presenters is the artistic director of Native Earth a theatre dedicated to telling indigenous stories. He gave Martina a pouch of tobacco because tobacco is sacred to his people. Jani Lauzon was in the audience and gave Martina one of her boots to be able to walk the earth and appreciate the land.  Each gift and the message of the person giving it were eloquent and special. Then a bowl of edible (sunflower?) seeds was passed around, we took some, ate some, and we gently threw seeds on the floor representing long life to Martina.  Martina looked in the face of every person who gave her something and smiled—who knew a month old kid could do that. Then Martina and her mother sat down and the show continued.

That joyous scene of baptism balanced the sobering scenes of the women telling their own stories. It’s interesting to see the traditions of other countries and the RUTUS festival certainly does that and how shows how similar traditions are in various cultures.

Apparently in Judaism, in the Talmud, it mentions throwing something like puffed wheat at the bride.  In other religious, rice is thrown at the bride…

In any case, I thought Del Manantial del Corazón was a beautiful piece of theatre from another culture, and is well worth a visit before it closes on Sunday.

 Del Manantial del Corazón (From the Spring of the Heart) plays at the AKI Studio until Sunday, Oct. 7, 2018.

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