first_imgAs a story, “Sonrisa de Tiburón” isn’t all that complicated: An explorer flies a plane to a distant island, then scuba-dives into the surrounding waters. Fish and oysters emerge, each interacting with the explorer in a different way. Halfway through the show, we see evil anglers catching sharks and mutilating them in order to prepare shark fin soup.Translated as “Shark Smile,” the touring show is a family-friendly celebration of marine wildlife with a social message in its middle. The theater company Ex-Ánima wants its audience to think critically about commercial fishing and to embrace underwater life forms. While there is no text or dialogue to say so, the island in the piece is supposed to represent Isla del Coco, a Costa Rican territory and one of the most famous shark habitats in the world.But Ex-Ánima’s real triumph is its technical sophistication: “Shark Smile” is a “black light” show, a genre that started in Europe in the 1960s and has wowed audiences ever since. Like moving Lava Lamps, the actors and props are painted in colors sensitive to ultraviolet light. The dark room, black background, and colorless costumes make everything invisible except for deliberately glowing colors and forms. Related posts:Christmas-themed theater warms hearts this month Sea Shepherd’s Paul Watson files human rights lawsuit against Costa Rica ‘Virus’ is solo performance at its finest Valentine’s Day, lyrical boleros, and other happenings around Costa Rica While these special effects could represent anything, Ex-Ánima uses the black light to illustrate the darkest depths of the ocean. Schools of fish swim in collaborative patterns. Sharks stalk in slow circles. Sea turtles float along in formation. The actors have clearly studied the movements of marine animals, and they believably mimic that physicality. Even the explorer swims like an actual scuba diver, and it takes long minutes to guess how his entire body levitates above the dark stage.The shark-finning section is staged as shadow-puppetry, and given the long history of shadow puppets as tools of protest, this part of the show is particularly powerful. We see fisherman hooking sharks and slicing off their fins, collecting them at the docks in buckets, then selling them to restaurants.The scene isn’t exactly tactful: The soup is ultimately set before a figure in a sedge hat, who slurps up the soup with a large spoon. By using the iconic East Asian headgear, “Shark Smile” unambiguously blames such poaching on the Chinese. While demand for shark fins is highest in China, the costume could be construed as unnecessary race baiting (so to speak). Remember, this is a show for kids.Political correctness quibbles aside, “Shark Smile” is a wondrous production, and when the lights come up and the performers take their bow, it’s astonishing to realize that there are only six of them. Lasting less than an hour, “Shark Smile” packs a lot of images into a short period, making it a perfect family excursion.Then again, the show will appeal equally – and maybe more so – to adults. When I attended a special noon performance at the National Theater (this weekend’s shows will take place at the National Cultural Center or CENAC), the auditorium was packed, and the mean age was probably 40. While kids will enjoy the animals, adults will appreciate the inventive staging. It’s hard to imagine pantomiming oceanic movement and synchronizing with five other people in complete darkness. Black light theater requires a physical self-awareness and attention to rhythm that most of us couldn’t imagine. If you’ve never seen this kind of live performance before, “Shark Smile” is a worthy maiden voyage.“Sonrisa de Tiburón” plays Sept. 12-14 at CENAC, downtown San José. Fri. & Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. 2,000-4,000 ($4-8). Info: RedCultura. Facebook Commentslast_img read more

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Country Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Emailcenter_img On Friday, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) revealed that it had begun to phase out controversial monkey experiments at one of its labs in Poolesville, Maryland. The action followed an aggressive yearlong campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), but an NIH director tells ScienceInsider today that financial straits—not animal rights pressures—led to the decision.“NIH has to make decisions on how to spend its research dollars regardless of what others may think,” says Constantine Stratakis, the scientific director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), which oversees the lab in question. “Clearly the timing is awkward, but I can assure you that PETA was not a factor in this decision.”The lab is run by Stephen Suomi, who has been at NICHD since 1983. His team studies how early environment shapes behavior—work that involves separating young rhesus macaques from their mothers, measuring their addiction to alcohol, and monitoring their long-term stress levels. PETA has been targeting the lab since last year. It ran extensive ad campaigns, successfully pushed for a congressional inquiry, and—most recently—sent hundreds of letters to the neighbors of Suomi and NIH Director Francis Collins, accusing the lab of “cruel psychological experiments” and revealing both Suomi’s and Collins’s home addresses and telephone numbers.“They did the right thing by shutting down this work,” says Justin Goodman, PETA’s director of laboratory investigations. “It’s a historic moment that appears to be the death knell for horrendous maternal deprivation experiments.”But Stratakis says the decision was purely financial. For decades, the animal facility in Poolesville was shared by many of the agency’s institutes, including NICHD, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Institute of Mental Health. A number of these institutes have decided to pull out because they couldn’t afford to stay there, he says, leaving NICHD to assume the costs of running the entire facility. “For us, it wasn’t tenable in the long run.”Stratakis says that NICHD decided this summer to begin phasing out the animal work at Suomi’s lab, the only NICHD lab at Poolesville. It currently houses about 300 monkeys, all of which will be transferred to other facilities over the course of the next 3 years. In the meantime, Suomi’s team can continue working with the animals it has, but it cannot breed new ones. “It won’t be business as usual,” Stratakis says.Still, some are concerned that NICHD’s action will be seen as a victory for the animal rights movement. “If these types of strategies are influencing decisions about scientific research, that would be very worrying,” says Tom Holder, the director of Speaking of Research, an international organization that supports the use of animals in scientific labs. “NIH needs to stand up for the value of animal studies and allow its researchers to speak more clearly to the public about their work.”Stratakis says the Poolesville monkeys may still be used in research after they leave Suomi’s lab. And he says the work itself has been invaluable. “There is a treasure trove of material that has been collected over the years,” he says. “The lab has made critical observations on the impact of certain behavior on genetics.” Even after the animals leave, he says, researchers will be able to analyze any remaining serum, DNA, and tissue samples. “This work is going to produce amazing data.” (Suomi did not respond to a request for comment.)In the end, Goodman says PETA is just happy the macaques are leaving the lab. “We don’t care why NIH made its decision. We just care about the monkeys.” He says his group will continue to put pressure on the agency to end all federally funded experiments of nonhuman primates. “We’re also trying to get NIH to start counting the number of mice and rats it uses.”last_img read more