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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Reimagining the stages of exile : Carmen Aguirre's The Refugee Hotel Herrera-Lasso Gonzalez, Martha


The purpose of this study is to examine the process of translating a personal experience of refuge into a theatre form in the country of exile. The study focuses on The Refugee Hotel by Chilean-Canadian playwright Carmen Aguirre, a biographical drama about her exile to Canada at the age of six after the coup d’état in Chile in 1973. Aguirre is a prime example of a refugee artist who has transposed her personal experience of exile into her drama, referencing not only her own story and the history of Chile, but also contributing to the history of her country of exile. In the first chapter I attempt to understand the exilic experience in relation to art, with the objective of placing Carmen Aguirre’s biography and work within the confines of previous literature on exile artistry and introducing her perspectives on themes of home and exile. In the second chapter I observe the challenges of dramatizing a refugee testimony, and identify the ways in which theatre as an artistic medium can provide unique ways of healing and sharing the experience of exile. The final chapter is focused on the analysis of The Refugee Hotel and the specific ways in which Aguirre experiments with theatrical elements in this play in order to offer a diverse representation of the exilic experience to a diverse Canadian audience. With this analysis of Aguirre’s oeuvre I aim to reflect on the profound complexity of diaspora and how theatre as an artistic medium can offer a stage on which to share and heal the internal, geographical and cultural fragmentations born from displacement.

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