It makes sense to me that anyone who would move to another country that speaks a different language– will be inquisitive and interested in discovering new things and ideas. For some, this might be an interest in nature – observing the wildlife of the Andes, or maybe the foods. And for many, it will be the arts, providing a window into the human experience.
Those considering a move to Cuenca who are regular consumers of the performing arts – theater, film, music, and dance – soon find that this city of 600,000 and home to several universities – has an active performing arts scene that can be enjoyed by English speakers. In particular, the dramatic arts – plays, and films that tell a story – rely upon a common language between the artists and the audiences. But finding examples of English language theater and film may initially appear to be a bit of a challenge here. So, below we cover some examples of great choices.
Read to the bottom to learn about an exciting opportunity to enjoy international films in English at Cuenca’s own film festival now underway.
Live theater fans had to go cold turkey during the pandemic when venues were shut down or hobbled by sick cast and crew members all around the world. Those who missed the power of live performances will be happy to know that Cuenca is home to English-language theater which has come roaring back from the dark days of the pandemic.
Azuay Community Theater
Azuay Community Theater has been in regular operation except for the pandemic years since 2014. After a season of 5 shows ending this August, its 2023-24 season includes a season of six productions.
While the company’s performers and support personnel are all volunteers, many arrived in Cuenca with many years of experience in acting, directing, and producing theater in their home countries.
Azuay Community Theater (ACT) has performed in various borrowed venues over the years and has recently secured its second in a sequence of two permanent homes in El Centro at Antonio Vega Muñoz 14-46, between Coronel Tálbot and Estévez de Toral. ACT’s shows consist largely of contemporary comedies that originated on Broadway, like its upcoming productions of Neil Simon’s The Prisoner of Second Avenue, and the Tony Award-winning The Waverly Gallery. Current information on ACT’s productions and ticketing can be found on its website at www.actseats.com.
Fishbon del Sur
Fishbon Sur was created almost 10 years ago as a community covering a wide range of disciplines. It spawned an ensemble of comic actors performing its latest show in November 2022 inside idiomART which formerly served as Fishbon’s full-time home.
Fishbon’s founding couple, Laura Inks Bodine and Clay Bodine came to Cuenca with professional art backgrounds from Santa Barbara California. Their latest show called ‘Vaudeville Hijinks’, was a great example of the creative team’s comedy chops and showcased expats who joined in the fun on stage performing an original script by Clay with an outrageous storyline and a lot of music.
The cast included many stage newcomers, as well as the musical performer and Broadway star, Cindy Benson. Although there is no schedule available at this time, I recommend you watch the expat press including yapatree.com for announcements of upcoming productions.
TNT – The New Theater
TNT is a new company that emerged in Cuenca a few months ago and recently produced the epistolary comedy, “Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney. Its website indicates that it will produce Dracula but no production date is provided.
Spanish Language Theater Anyone?
For those interested in sampling local Spanish language theater and arts, check out the websites for performing arts including live theater. Direccion de la Cultura manages Teatro Sucre at the corner of Borrero and Sucre https://cultura.cuenca.gob.ec/ and frequently hosts theatrical as well as musical and other events.
A separate organization, Casa de la Cultura, manages several theaters in Cuenca that offer film, theatrical, and other cultural fare some of it produced in English https://casadelacultura.gob.ec/. You have probably their name in big red and white letters above their largest venue, Casa de la Cultura Núcleo del Azuay located at Presidente Cordova and Luis Cordero.
YapaTree often includes these events on our Cuenca events calendar.
Film – Classic and Contemporary
Another form of dramatic arts that took a hit from the pandemic was the cinema. With movie theaters closed, as well as live theaters, film enthusiasts were able to keep up and catch up with movies thanks to streaming services like Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu, and more. These services and others are available in Cuenca from many streaming sources. But for those who like movies on a big screen, in the company of other movie fans, there are some great opportunities.
Most of the high-profile current releases are recorded or dubbed in Spanish. But most are also shown in English with Spanish subtitles at the Multicines multiplex in Millenium Plaza, just south of El Centro and near the Parque de la Madre. The Multicines theaters are clean and modern with current technology. They also have locations in the Batan Mall and the Mall del Rio, but those locations only show films in Spanish. Admission prices are $6.70 for general admission and $3.35 for tercera edad (seniors) with ID (and they do check IDs). There are discounts for midweek shows as well. Multicines in MIllennium Mall also offers a higher-priced VIP section that offers seat-side refreshment service, a special menu, recliner seats, and additional space. Current listings and online ticketing are available at https://www.multicines.com.ec/en.
One deterrent for those who don’t like to go out at night is Multicines’s practice of showing the English-language versions only once per day, and generally, the last showing of the evening, meaning the films are usually between 10 pm and midnight. While cabs are readily available outside the mall at those hours, some filmgoers may prefer to be home earlier. For those non-night-owls, there are occasionally weekend daytime showings of popular films at Multicines Millenium sponsored by Cuenca Car Share. These screenings are announced in local expat media like YapaTree’s calendar.
Those looking for more diverse fare than the mass-appeal titles shown at Multicines will find a lot to choose from at the La Guarida restaurant at Mariscal Lamar and Luis Pauta. La Guarida shows films in conjunction with its delicious dinners most Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays.
A dinner purchase is usually required, but there is no additional charge for the films, which are shown on a 10’ x 8’ screen with perfect sightlines and good audio quality. The titles shown range from pop classics like The Wizard of Oz or Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? While the newer releases include independent and world films (in the US, we would call them “foreign” films) that could play at the most sophisticated art film theaters in New York. Titles are announced monthly and can be found on La Guarida’s Facebook page.
FICC – Cuenca International Film Festival
Did you know Cuenca hosts its own annual film festival? In fact, just in time for inclusion in this article, the 2023 Cuenca International Film Festival will take place from September 22 to 28.
More than 50 films from all over the world and from different genres such as fiction, documentaries, horror, and short films, will be screened in different spaces in Cuenca. One of the different spaces will be the 85-seat Alfonso Carrasco Room on the second floor of the Casa de la Cultura Núcleo del Azuay mentioned above. Another is the Teatro Sucre on Sucre mentioned above.
Each year a number of films with English dialog or subtitled in English are featured. This year all subtitled films will be shown in the Selina Hotel from September 23 through September 27 all starting at 3:30 pm.
- On Monday, the 25 two films will be shown: BENEDETTI 60 AÑOS and NADA SOBRE MI PADRE
- Tuesday the 26th it’s LA FÁBRICA DE PANDEMIAS
- Wednesday the 27th see HASTA QUE EL SOL SE APAGUE
Set your browser to translate into English to read the content at the film links. The schedule of all the films and venues can be viewed on the FICC Facebook page here.
A complete catalog of films and jurors for the competition can be downloaded here. Tickets are $3 and available at www.meet2go.com and at the venues. Whatsapp +593 96 230 6942 with questions.
The Blue Llama
Here is a novel film viewing opportunity. In the obscure category of Cuenca-based films made in English, featuring local expats, check out The Blue Llama Secret Message, a mockumentary by Daniel Osorio subtitled in Spanish. It was recorded mostly in 2020 during the pandemic and edited and post-produced in 2021 as an independent film project. It is available to view on Prime Video or on DVD.
The story follows the style of a paranormal documentary. During 2020 a group of 9 adventurous, retired, North-american expats decide to follow an Ecuadorian tour guide named Patricio Tipactocta up into El Cajas National Park in the quest of a mysterious mountain called the Devil’s Wart, to find the aliens.
A special screening will occur at 7 pm on October 3 at the Sala de Carrasco with a $10 admission. To book contact the film’s producer Daniel Osorio at [email protected]
Cuenca has no shortage of expat entertainment options. And if you want to enjoy theater and film, you don’t have to look very hard to find it. So, get out of the house, culture vultures, and enjoy some of the offerings we shared.
Let us know in the comments of others we didn’t mention and why you like them.