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Henrietta in Guanacaste: The musical about a history that’s ours

Esta publicación también está disponible en: Español

Costa Rica abolished its army in the middle of the 20th century, after the country bled in an armed revolution. That is the historical milestone that many of us are familiar with, but “Henrietta” is a musical that reveals how the worries and longings of the women who lived through those times have been hidden– and forgotten– through the passing years. At the end of August, this melting pot of music, history, and theater will come to Guanacaste for the first time.

The musical, “Henrietta,” is a show that more than 20,000 people in the country have enjoyed since 2020 during three seasons, but until now, it hadn’t gone beyond the doors of the National Theater in San José.

The group Teatro Espressivo is in charge of this $200,000 production that will bring the stage to life at the Coopeguanacaste Convention Center, in Santa Cruz, from August 31 to September 3.

The play is set in the 1940s, a turbulent time in history that defined what it means to be Costa Rican. Henrietta Boggs was a young woman from Alabama, from the United States, who sought a new home in Costa Rica with her husband, José María Figueres Ferrer, who eventually became the revolutionary leader and founder of the so-called Second Republic. The 1948 Civil War changed both of their lives and Boggs became the First Lady of a new Costa Rica.

Denise Duncan Villalobos, the playwright of “Henrietta,” said she set out to highlight Boggs’ perspective of that historic moment, “when she was totally in the background, but at the side of one of the people who was leading one of the factions of the revolution.”

I was interested in her feminine vision in a conflict as masculinized as a war,” she explained.

Henrietta Boggs expressed her memories in the book “Married to a Legend, Don Pepe.” The theater group used that documentary reference work and reinterpreted the way in which the characters felt during those years of revolution. “Personally, I was very interested in the perspective of someone who said that she had two homelands: that she felt from the place where she was born, which was the United States; and, on the other hand, that she felt Costa Rican,” Duncan commented.

For the Espressivo theater group, the life of this woman provides the opportunity to describe  the civil war that rewrote our national identity of peace from a first-hand perspective.

Talent from Guanacaste is also unmissable in the staging. Jaime Gamboa Goldemberg, who comes from Nicoyan roots and founded the band Malpaís, composed the lyrics of the songs that 23 actors and actresses perform. The play is directed by Luis Carlos Vasquez and the choreographies were created by María Amalia Pendones. You can see a preview of the work here.

Potential for Guanacaste

More than 900 students from elementary and high schools in Guanacaste will be able to enjoy the musical “Henrietta” thanks to support from companies and sponsors. The group Espressivo wants local businesses to combine their financial support with this initiative so that more girls, boys and young people can enjoy a play of international quality in the heart of Santa Cruz.

A cast of 23 actors and actresses bring Henrietta to life with songs written by Jaime Gamboa and Bernardo Quesada (music), supported by a team of 30 people in logistics and production. Photo: courtesy of Teatro Espressivo.

The general manager of Espressivo, Natalia Rodríguez, said that performing “Henrietta” in Guanacaste is a “first experiment” by the group to perform this show outside of the capital. According to Rodríguez, Guanacaste is an ideal venue due to the diversity of its population and the province’s tourist potential.

General admission costs ₡25,000 (about $46), and access to the bleachers costs ₡15,000 (about $28). The play also has VIP seats for ₡60,000 (about $110) that include a copy of Henrietta Boggs’ book, a bilingual host, preferential access, a pre-show cocktail and an opportunity to interact and take photos with the cast.

You can buy tickets for this play at all Coopeguanacaste branches or on the Internet, through Espressivo also offers ticket packages for companies and organizations through these contacts: [email protected] or by calling 6360-9158.

If you are part of a local business and want to support giving Guanacaste students access to see this work, send a message to this email address: [email protected].

This is the schedule of the six performances that will be open to the public at the Coopeguanacaste Convention Center:

  • Thursday, August 31, 6:00 p.m.
  • Friday, September 1, 7:00 p.m.
  • Saturday, September 2, 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
  • Sunday, September 3, 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.