Teatro del Murciélago [Theatre of the Bat] By Townsend, Sarah J.
Teatro del Murciélago (Theatre of the Bat) was a group that gave what appears to have been its only public performance at the Teatro Olimpia in Mexico City on September 17, 1924. Inspired by La Chauve-Souris, a touring revue troupe formed by Parisian-based Russian émigrés, the Murciélago brought together figures linked to the avant-garde movement known as estridentismo and artist-ethnographers who had worked among indigenous communities in central Mexico. Although its existence was ephemeral, the group served as an inspiration for other artists over the following decade and is regarded as one of the most significant theatre experiments of the Mexican avant-garde.
One of the roots of the Teatro del Murciélago grew out of a project led by Manuel Gamio, known as the founding father of modern anthropology in Mexico. In conjunction with his archaeological excavation of the ancient Toltec city of Teotihuacán, Gamio organized an anthropological study of the indigenous communities who lived in the surrounding valley and employed several artists whose task was to create pieces of ‘regional theatre’—stylized depictions of indigenous customs with the faint outlines of a plot, most often revolving around scenes of daily life and local fiestas. These short, simple plays were performed in an open-air theatre by indigenous actors for other members of the community as well as for tourists from urban areas as part of Gamio’s project to encourage an ‘ethnic’ or ‘cultural fusion’ among the nation’s diverse peoples.