Mariana de Althaus studied literature at the Catholic University of Peru. Alongside her studies she took part in several acting workshops directed by Roberto Angeles and Alberto Isola, among others, and acted in theatre productions, including ¿Quieres estar conmigo? (Do you want to be with me?)by Roberto Angeles; Ojos bonitos,cuadros feos (Beautiful Eyes, Ugly Paintings) by Mario Vargas Llosa directed by Luis Peirano; and Durmientes (Sleepers) by Lourdes Velaochaga. She also studied dramaturgy in workshops led by Rafael Dumet, César de María and Alonso Alegría.
De Althaus’s first play, En el borde (On the Edge) was premiered as part of the production, Una absurda y estúpida película (An Absurd and Stupid Film), directed by Miguel Iza in 1998. It was also performed in the Contemporary Peruvian Art Show organised by the Casa de América (Madrid, Spain) in 2001. That same year it was performed for the first time in Peru, as part of the show Contra Viento y Marea (Against the Wind and Tide) produced by CELCIT.
Her second play, Los charcos de la ciudad (The City Puddles), was performed for the first time in 2002 and published in the book Dramaturgia peruana II. This work was chosen by various media publications (El comercio, Caretas, El dominical) as one of the best new shows of 2002. El viaje (The Journey) was also produced that year as well as Vino, bate y chocolate (Wine, Weed and Chocolate), directed by Marisol Palacios and Princesa Cero (Princess Zero) directed by Lourdes Velaochaga.
In 2003 de Althaus wrote and directed Tres historias del mar (Three Sea Stories) which was performed at the Alliance Française in Peru. It opened in parallel in Barcelona and was part of the Festival Margaritas, a Catalán festival dedicated to promoting the work of women theatre practitioners in the performing arts, as well as the New Voices festival in the Sala Beckett theatre, also in Barcelona. Once again this work was selected as the best new play by various local press publications, and came second in the category of ‘Best Peruvian Work of the Year’, in a survey carried out by the newspaper El comercio in 2003. This play was performed in Buenos Aires for the first time in 2005, under the direction of CELCIT’s Carlos Ianni. In October of this same year it premiered in Cuzco and then in Lima in 2006, under the direction of Ronal Cruces. Ruido (Noise) was premiered in 2006 and her more recent play, Efímero (Ephemeral), won third place in the Peruvian Drama Competition in 2007 (Concurso de Dramaturgia Peruana 2007).
Mariana de Althaus also runs playwriting workshops.
There can be no doubt that Mariana de Althaus is a witness to her times. In her work she transmits the social reality of her country, Peru, having lived through periods of intense instability and violence, including moral and ethical violence. In Ruido (Noise) she symbolises the period of Alan García’s last government where economic crisis, state violence and terrorist violence became an integral part of everyday life.
There is an apparent simplicity on the surface of Mariana de Althaus’s drama, almost as if its target audience might be children. Perhaps part of this effect is created by a certain innocence in the quality of the humour which is so prevalent in the work. However, what emerges is a drama which, below the surface, has a complexity which is much more knowing than at first it might appear.
In terms of visible influences of theatrical traditions, Mariana de Althaus’s dramatic style is eclectic. Her work could be described as symbolic and expressionist, and she is clearly marked by the absurd breed of theatre most typified by Harold Pinter. Perhaps the theatre of the absurd is most present in the way de Althaus represents solitude, isolation and the inability of humans to communicate and be understood by each other. The effect of this miscommunication is comic, but the solitude it conveys has strong melancholic undertones.
In interviews, de Althaus has talked about being influenced by scriptwriters for film, as much as dramatists. Among the filmmakers she mentions are Wes Anderson, Wim Wenders and Jim Jarmusch.
de Althaus, Mariana. 1998. En el borde (On the Edge) (in Spanish)
de Althaus, Mariana. 2002. Los charcos de la ciudad (The City Puddles) (in Spanish)
de Althaus, Mariana. 2002 El viaje (The Journey) (in Spanish)
de Althaus, Mariana. 2002. Vino, bate y chocolate (Wine, Weed and Chocolate) (in Spanish)
de Althaus, Mariana. 2003. Tres historias del mar (Three Sea Stories) (in Spanish)
Luchting, Wolfgang A. 1981. ‘Getting Better: Perú, Latin American Theatre Review, 14, 2, 89-90
Luchting, Wolfgang. A. 1982. ‘The Usual and Some Better Shows: Peruvian Theatre in 1981’, Latin American Theatre Review, 15, 2, 59–63
Morris, Robert J. 1976. ‘Alonso Alegría: Dramatist and Theatrical Activist’, Latin American Theatre Review, 9, 49–55
Entry written by Gwendolen Mackeith. Last updated on 24 February 2011.