Guillermo Calderón (Santiago, Chile, 1971) is a screenwriter, playwright and theater director based the USA. His plays include Neva, Diciembre, Clase, Villa, Speech, Quake, Escuela, Kiss, Mateluna and Goldrausch. Calderón’s productions have toured extensively through South America, North America, and Europe. He has been commissioned to write and direct by the Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus, Theater Basel, HAU Hebbel am Ufer, the Royal Court Theater, Center Theater Group, and the Public Theater in New York City, where he also directed Neva. His co-written screenplay Violeta Went to Heaven won the World Cinema Jury Prize for Drama at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He co-wrote The Club, directed by Pablo Larrain, winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlin International Film Festival 2015, and nominated for the Golden Globes in the Foreign Language category. The script won the Silver plaque at the Chicago International Film Festival. He wrote the script for Neruda, directed by Pablo Larraín, presented at the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs (The Director's Forthnight) during Cannes Film Festival 2016.
His recently directed his play Villa in New York City, produced by The Play Company. His new play B will be produced at the Royal Court Theater in September 2017.
B (transl. by William Gregory)
Alejandra and Marcela are planting bombs in the middle of the night. They don’t want violence. They just want to be heard. Prison’s not much of a threat when most of your friends are inside. But José Miguel is from another generation, and he’s committed to change by any means possible.
Premiered at The Royal Court (2017).
“Enlightening about the varied impulses behind urban violence” - The Guardian
“This grotesque, darkly funny new play… A startling, stylish and suspenseful piece... The writing has a dash of Pinter, Chris Morris' Four Lions and even Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs with its menace, its blend of the comic, grisly and grotesque, and its confused, conflicting deceptions" - The Stage
“A wonderfully surreal touch… A reminder that here Calderón is writing in the great British imaginative tradition of Caryl Churchill” - Arts Desk
Two couples meet for dinner to take their minds off the war raging around them. An unexpected profession of love, an untimely proposal, and one kiss later, one of the foursome lies dead on the floor. KISS breaks open cultural barriers as a group of western actors interpreting a Syrian play slowly realize the limits of their own understanding, and the suffocating effect of an oppressive, omnipresent regime.
European premiere at Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus (Spring 2014). North American premiere at Woolly Mammoth (2016) and subsequent production at Canadian Stage Company (2017).
"If you want theater that questions the very nature of theater, that explores whether art is honest, that seeks the hidden truths in scripted dialogue, you go to the Yale Repertory Theatre...[KISS] is a play that folds in upon itself, questions its own realities and ultimately asks what right we have to dramatize the realities of others...funny and tragic, hyperbolic and completely natural, dizzying and sometimes distant...You will likely be unsettled by KISS but its disturbances are internal, not external. Brace your mind and open your heart." - The Hartford Courant
At the end of Chile’s long dictatorship a group of young activists meet in a safe house in order to receive paramilitary instruction. Their aim is to overthrow the government by violent means before the centrist opposition takes over the country’s transition into a disappointing democracy. The play in in effect a long class in which a lost generation gets ready to come to terms with the horrors of the dictatorship, the justification of political violence, and the frustration of unrealized dreams.
Presented in the US at MCA Chicago & the Chicago Humanities Festival (2015), The Public’s Under the Radar Festival, Fringe Arts, and Yale Rep (2016).
“an ideal theater piece for early 2016, as the presidential elections leave their beta phase and people start to exercise their democratic voices…a narrowly focused, transportative work, like entering a fading kodachrome snapshot.” - Phindie
In a politically charged, haunting interrogation of theater and the revolutionary impulse, writer-director Guillermo Calderón’s NEVA tells the story of Anton Chekhov’s widow, the actress Olga Knipper, who arrives in a dimly light rehearsal room in St. Petersburg in the winter of 1905. As Olga and two other actors await the rest of the cast, they huddle together, act out scenes from their lives and muse on their art form and love—while unseen striking workers are being gunned down in the streets by the Tsarist regime. Calderón savagely examines the relationship between theater and historical context in this ominous and tightly crafted ensemble work that allows a palpable terror to creep through the theater walls.
Premiered at The Public, NYC (2013). Presented at the 2011 TCG conference in association with RADAR L.A., an international festival of contemporary theatre.
“It’s already 1905 and I believe that theater is finished,” declares a seething actress in Neva, which both makes her case and proves her wrong…playwright Guillermo Calderón uses thick needles to weave a densely metatheatrical interplay of artifice and history…Even as it exposes the gaps between the stage world and the world stage, NEVA’s neobrutalist punch demonstrates that power.” –Time Out New York
“…starkly elegant…Calderón’s drama is Chekhovian in the best sense.” – Village Voice
“…brilliant and provocative…Calderón shatters the suspension of disbelief…I don’t know the Spanish equivalent of “the most important organ in my body is my appendix and I want to stick it in your kidney and watch you sweat,” but, I know it sounds breathtaking and ridiculous in English…thrilling.” – Theatre Mania
“…Calderón’s direction remains as concentrated as his writing…NEVA has a dreamlike power…After seeing the play Thursday night, I woke Friday morning still wandering in Calderón’s provocative maze. More conscious of the theater’s limitations as an agent of political change, I found myself marveling at its ability to transcend that limitation by commenting on it.” – LA Times
“The sensitive and subtle direction of Guillermo Calderòn questions, with irony and intimacy, the role of the actor and the function of theatre in the context of a society shaken by violence and repression. Between the terror of the outside world and the depths inside the room, Calderòn’s delicate approach hits the nail on the head.” – Festival De Liege (France)
“NEVA reminds us just how powerful a work of art can be.” — Magazine Artez
“Minimalist theater that comes up big where it counts.”— La Segunda
After the 2010 Chilean earthquake a group of volunteers from Germany come to help with disaster relief. At their base camp they tell a 200-year-old brutal story from their homeland: Heinrich of Kleists’ account of an earthquake in Chile. Their story lands them in the heart of a deep conflict with their surroundings.
Premiered at Schauspiel Duesseldorf, Germany (2012).
“Calderón’s pessimistic comedy slowly uncovers that the four individuals in crisis are hiding behind good intentions and that their idealism is born from pure selfishness. As a director, Calderón succeeds in directing a lively performance with a strong comedic tone.”– WZ (Germany)
During the Pinochet regime in Chile, approximately 5000 detainees were brought to Villa Grimaldi: most were tortured, hundreds “disappeared”. Today, the Villa has been demolished. Three women discuss the future of the site where it once stood. Should it have a new life or remain a memorial to the crimes committed there? How should we remember the violence of the state?
Premiered at Santiago A Mil (2011). Toured worldwide in 2011 and 2012 including a reading at the Royal Court in 2011. Produced at REDCAT (LA) in 2013. NYC Premiere at Play Co (2017).
"stirring and mournful" - NY Times
"a photorealistic comedy about decision by committee, a bolder No Exit and an anguished scream" - Time Out New York
"A subtle work of political theater by an exciting contemporary voice. The play is a knock-out." - Exeunt
Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s president from 2006 – 2010, makes her farewell speech on leaving office but she is not being as gracious and diplomatic as she should be. Is she saying what she really thinks or is someone putting words into her mouth?
Premiered at Santiago A Mil (2011). Toured worldwide in 2011 and 2012. Produced at REDCAT (LA) in 2013.
Click here for a great article from the LA Times about VILLA + DISCURSO.
“Calderón’s acute reflection on the painful and unresolved aspects of Chilean society constructs a point of view as sober as it exceptional, and VILLA + DISCURSO places him as the most outstanding, suggestive and original protagonist in our contemporary theatre.” – La Tercera
“…examines the shards of memory that stab at the heart of a nation unable to forget…The piece is both impassioned and wry – particularly in its satirical take on the nature of memorials to horror – and while it offers a glimpse of the future for survivors and their relatives, it also points up how hard it is to stop picking at the scars of the past.” – The Guardian
“…an impassioned diptych…a superb poem for three voices.” - The Scotsman
“…jolting incongruities run through the discussion, in which unexpectedly funny moments are followed by references that freeze our smiles…Finely played, humane and without self-pity.” – Financial Times
Christmas Night. Chile. 2014. A soldier arrives home on leave to celebrate with his pregnant twin sisters. One sister doesn’t want him to return to the front lines and wants his permission to hide him. The other sister believes that he needs to return to the war in order to fulfill the patriotic expectations of a country in war. She is ready to denounce her siblings if they go through with a plan that, for her, is treason. DICIEMBRE explores the reality of war and its power to transform the collective conscience and the domestic reality of a household.
Premiered at Santiago, Chile (2008). Toured worldwide, including a hit run in The Public’s Under the Radar Festival in 2011.
“From the roiling imagination of Chilean writer-director Guillermo Calderón comes this politically charged, haunting drama about a near-future war in the Andes…Calderón’s play strips away ostentatious theatrical conceit for us to hear clearly the terror knocking at the door….witty, sharply focused….Mr. Calderón, whose spiky everyday surrealism suggests the young Edward Albee in an unusually laid-back mood.” - The New York Times
“…lurches from the surreal to the poignant…” – The Guardian
“…intimate, thought-provoking theatre in the raw…” - Edinburgh Guide.com
“One of the most brazen plays of Latin American theater in recent years.” – Festival di Internacional de Buenos Aires
“Explores the reality of war and its power to transform collective consciousness and domestic life.” - Caras y Caretas (Buenos Aires, Argentina)