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On the Culture Front: Bogota, a Developing Metropolis

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Bogota is both a confounding and beautiful city. Public transportation is lacking, cabs are peculiar (one driver drove in reverse on the highway after realizing he missed our exit), and service leaves a lot to be desired. Nestled below the Andes mountains, the expansive developing metropolis doesn't reveal its charms easily, but rather holds them close as tightly guarded secrets. I only scratched the surface in the four days I spent there over Easter weekend this year with an actor friend, but many moments of my time there still resonate deeply.

Sometimes the best way to see something is to step back a bit, and this is doubly true in Bogota. After wandering around the city the first day, we decided to take the funicular up to Monserrate, the Christian pilgrimage that sits high above the skyline. Because it was holy time, the lines were ungodly long, but good company and our building anticipation kept us engaged and motivated during the wait. On top, we really began to feel the enormity of the city, which stretched as far as we could see. The urban expanse seems endless, but just a turn of the head reveals a lushly green mountain-scape that makes the city feel far away. Just an hour outside of the city sits the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira, build in a former salt mine. The views inside are dramatic and for a non-believer like myself and brought to mind the film The Exorcist, with its ominously lit crosses.

Back in the city, we took in its two biggest attractions: the Gold Museum and Botero Museum. The first had a lot of, well, gold, and was largely underwhelming. It's housed in a brand new building where no expense was spared, but unless you love looking at gold, you could skip it. The Botero on the other hand is a must see. Housed in a renovated colonial mansion, the space features the largest collection of Colombian artist Fernando Botero's work. His buxom portraits burst with color and hang alongside works by Picasso, Dali and local Colombian artists. Hidden in an alcove on the first floor is the perfectly lit Dali sculpture bust of a woman with a baguette balanced on her head and two miniature men atop.

The main reason we were in Bogota was the Ibero-American Theater Festival, an event that stretches over two weeks and occupies dozens of venues across the city. Most of the offerings were not in English and didn't provide super titles, which provided an interesting challenge. As it turns out though, my favorite show (Donka: A Letter to Chekhov, coming to BAM in November) didn't have a word of English. Written and directed by circus artist Daniele Finzi Pasca, the wildly imagined dreamscape melds scenes of Chekhov's plays and his life together to create a stream-of-conscious vision delving into the inner workings of the great playwright's mind. There's an incredible feeling of levity throughout the show, and I left feeling thrilled by the endless possibilities of the theater.