On October 27, 2014, Patricia Ariza (Colombia) received the 2014 Gilder/Coigney Award for excellence in theatre, presented by the League of Professional Theatre Women’s International Committee. Please look below for her acceptance speech, translated in both English and Spanish.
Patricia Ariza Acceptance Speech
October 27, 2014
English Translation by Juanita Lara
This award holds a deep significance for me, for my company and for the Woman’s Peace Movement, of which I am a part.
It is significant because it comes from the U.S., an enormous and powerful place in the world, full of contradictions but also a place where there are lots of beautiful and democratic peoples like the artists and activists in the League of Professional Theater Women that through their art and activism, everyday invent new ways to communicate with the world.
I am honored to receive this award because it comes from the women who are, we are, a humanity that has launched a peaceful revolution and has challenged the world to doubt patriarchal dogmas that support neocapitalism and its cold and arrogant belief that money, war and arrogance can sustain an absolute power over this world.
This award is significant too because it is the first time that a woman from Latin America is its recipient, like me who has never hidden her ideology or my passion for transformation of this world through art and culture.
I have a profound belief that everything we humans have done or made, can be changed by us too, because we are doing it now.
We are returning to their rightful place, the overriding values of life and culture. It’s these values that need to return to the center of large utopias.
We must return to work on our most beautiful and ambitious humanitarian dreams, like those ideals of justice for all, much like the ethics of women who has taught us how to care for mankind.
We must convince ourselves and persuade others to believe a just and democratic world without invasions, wars and patriarchy is possible.
I also believe in art and theater, and through this art unlike any other, can contribute to changing the perception of the audience if the inalienable right to say the truth on stage is reclaimed.
A profound truth through beauty and art that is born from the depths of society and is emitted through the hearts of the performers.
Women have not had the best place in this world, nor in theater, for centuries, for millennia we have been denied a voice and a presence on stage, unless they were sewing the costumes onto the actors, who represented the powerful, the nobility, and at the same time, this was a drama in itself sentencing women to be courtesans and cinderellas. These roles do not end here, for we see them all too often in these same roles in commercial theater.
The time has come for us to reenter the stage but in a different way, to invent a new theater space large enough for our whole body and our entire history. Just as Virginia Wolf suggested in A Room of One’s Own, we need a stage of our own, large enough for our whole body.
Because it is not enough to reenter the stage and represent women, we need to be able to create a different kind of theater that contributes to the demolition of the patriarchy.
That is why some of us in Colombia have The Festival of Women on Stage, where we all fit and where our theater emerges with a devastating force a different relationship between the private and the political and the public with the intimate.
It is a privilege for someone who thinks this way to be honored with such an award, and I am grateful.
I know many of the nominees and I would like them to know that I am incredibly humbled because any of them would have deserved this.
But it is a good thing that a woman from Colombia has received it and I am here with all the dignity that 49 years of working in theater has bestowed on me, throughout everyday of my life, having founded La Candelaria theater company alongside Santiago García, and a theater movement that brought together some of the most vigorous and committed performers in Latin America.
I am Colombian to the marrow of my bones, and this means that I am from a country that has a name of a dove but that is not at peace, a country that continues to battle against an old social and armed conflict, accumulated though decades and never resolved and the ever present hope for peace. I am a political activist and this brings me incredible joy because I stand alongside my fellow laborers and students from my country who fight everyday for access to land and education. And I am part of the Women’s Social Movement, and Women for Peace.
I stand here before you on stage to petition all U.S. women to join us in our search for peace through theater and art.
Thank you to the League of Professional Theater Women here in U.S., a country home to patriarchs and warriors, is too the country Emily Dickenson and Silvia Plath called home, the country with an 8 hour work day and a country that has shown me the bright side of New York, the illuminated side.
Getting to know the members of the League has been for me the greatest gift of my life. To have recognize
d the immense effort we do in Colombia to keep the theater open, producing original works of drama and building a public following that has always accompanied us, this is not a solitary act, and this is known and understood around the world.
To work with victims like us, we work together with Carlos Satizábal (la Corporacion de Teatro), this is not an isolated act because women who create inhabit the heart of the empire, and they listen to the voices from those of use who live on the other side of the world. And who are, as García Márquez would say, listening so that we do not continue to condemn ourselves to live another hundred years of solitude.
I would like to dedicate this award to my theater company La Candelaria, The women laborers of my country who are a prime example of struggle and dignity and to my extended family, who are, in addition to my brothers and sisters, my theater colleagues, my colleagues at the CCT, my feminist friends and all who at this very moment, dialogue for peace.