Flamboyan is working closely with twelve arts organizations on the island to preserve, amplify, and sustain the arts in Puerto Rico with an additional round of grantees to be announced this summer. This series will spotlight all twelve Arts Fund grantee organizations.
The University of Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico’s state university – is recognized as the first educational institution on the island, as it is a center for academic development at the highest levels. Two large and similar structures accurately represent the values of the University better than any other on campus: the University Tower and the Theater.
Located in the heart of the Río Piedras campus in San Juan, the Theater of the UPR has been both a witness and a center for a large part of the cultural, social, intellectual, and artistic history of Puerto Rico. The theater has gone through several restorations over a period of over 80 years, and it has been part of the life of many Puerto Ricans. The building stands out for both its exterior and interior beauty and is highly valued for the countless events it has hosted that are now a part of the island’s history.
To find out more about this symbolic building, continue reading below.
What is the history of the theater?
At the end of the 1930’s, San Juan found itself without a government-run theater once the Municipal Theater closed in 1939. That same year, the University Theater opened to serve this purpose. The opening of the Theater in 1939 would eventually become recognized as one of the most important moments in the cultural and theatrical history of Puerto Rico.
The Theater of the University of Puerto Rico is one of the most elegant representations of art in Puerto Rico. Since its restoration in 2006, the Theater has seen a multitude of theatrical productions, dance productions put together by dance companies and schools, symphonic orchestras, operas, and popular artists. The Theater is also the aula magna of the University of Puerto Rico.
What have been the UPR Theater’s biggest accomplishments?
The University Theater is considered the most important cultural center in Puerto Rico and has continually hosted a wide array of artistic productions. Artists of international recognition such as Marian Anderson, Montserrat Caballé, Plácido Domingo, Joan Sutherland, Luciano Pavarotti, Alfredo Kraus, and José Carreras have taken the stage there. Additionally, it has also hosted productions by Puerto Rican artists of the highest caliber such as Justino Díaz, Margarita Castro, Pablo Elvira, and many more.
The Theater has also been host to the foremost ballet companies, including The Ballet “Russe De Monte Carlo” featuring Alicia Alonso, Margot Fonteyn, Alicia Markova, Ludmililla Scharina, Fernando Bujones, and Igor Youskevitch. Additionally, it was home to the Symphonic Orchestra for many years and it served as the main setting for the teacher Pablo Casals and the Festival named after him.
On the other hand, the Theater, as aula magna of the University, never lost its academic element. For more than 55 years, all graduations were held in the Theater and prominent figures such as José Figueres, Gabriel Mistral, Juan Ramón Jiménez, Jorge Luis Borges, Isabel Allende, David Leaky, Arnold Toynbee, Victor Frankl, and Cornel West made their appearance.
The Theater has also served as a training ground for Puerto Rico’s most famous actors, actresses, and directors. Miriam Colón, founder of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in New York, began his career here.
What was the state of the theater before it received funding from the Flamboyan Arts Fund?
On the Theater’s website, the University’s architects share that Hurricane María caused major damages to the impermeable features of the roof. As a consequence, water leaked inside and caused damages to the ceiling in the central room and short-circuits in both the power generator and the drainage pumps in the basement. Lastly, the lack of air conditioning led to the spread of fungus within the building.
How have the funds been used?
The funds received have been used to rebuild the space in order to receive the accreditation of the Actors Equity. This accreditation allows the Theater to attract another type of artistic productions with other requirements that were not possible before. According to public information on the official website of the University of Puerto Rico, the reconstruction was divided into two phases. In the first phase, all of the damages inflicted by Hurricane María were dealt with. On the other hand, in the second phase, efforts were focused on technology and infrastructure. “The changes made include the restoration of chairs, changing rooms, scaffolds, the roof, ceiling tiles, and ornaments. Additionally, concerning technology, the wireless internet connections were strengthened and all technological systems in the theater itself were improved”.
What do you think about this collaboration between Flamboyan Foundation, Lin-Manuel Miranda, his family and the producers of Hamilton to create this Fund to support arts and culture in Puerto Rico?
When the news of the creation of the Flamboyán Arts Fund was released, both the rector of the University, Dr. Luis A. Ferrao Delgado, and the President, Dr. Darel Hillman, publicly expressed their gratitude towards the assistance made possible by Lin Manuel Miranda and his family, Flamboyan Foundation, and the Hamilton production. As stated by Hillman, “The Theater is the heart of the University of Puerto Rico. It is a symbolic space that gives life to the University and provides an artistic setting for the community in general. Additionally, it is the birthplace of thousands of talented artists that have made their way around the world because of their work. We appreciate your valuable contribution in order to help us restore the first academic center in Puerto Rico”.
Look out next week for another opportunity to meet a Flamboyan Arts Fund inaugural grantee! Learn more about the Arts Fund @ http://www.flamboyanartsfund.org.
Rosiris Ramos Meléndez is the Communications Manager in our Puerto Rico office. Learn more about her at https://flamboyanfoundation.org/team_members/rosiris-a-ramos-melendez/.