Works: Mario Barrantes Espinoza

Karla Espinoza D Trinidad

El cantar del playo or… a song is a rose is a thorn

El cantar del playo or… a song is a rose is a thorn is Mario Barrantes Espinoza’s third multimedia performance. With it, he revisits the sound and text worlds of the gay night scene in Costa Rica in early 2010 – a time in which he began to explore his sexual identity, also the year in which the music genre later known as plancha popularized.

Plancha is a musical genre that contains a wide variety of styles, artists and songs that have lyrics about love and heartbreak in common, often considered too melodramatic or simply outdated by the contemporary ear.

Before being known in this way, plancha was practically the daily music that flooded Latin American radio and television stations from the late 1960s to the early 1990s, closely linked to the very present ‘telenovela’-culture and to the golden era of songwriting in Latin America. It was also the raw material for the art of the transformistas (drag queens) in gay bars and were dearly treasured in the jukeboxes of the various old cantinas (bars). The songs were full of theatricality, often celebrating the fantasy and suffering of romantic love. Over the years, plancha music continued to be present in the sonorous landscapes of the region but overshadowed by other booming genres, like pop, electro, and reggaeton.

El cantar del playo or… a song is a rose is a thorn is one possible way of exploring these ideas. It can be imagined as a songbook, containing a collection of scenes, plancha lyrics and music, as sensorial snapshots drawn from Mario’s experiences in Costa Rica in the early 2010s. At that time, plancha was reviving in the heart of the capital’s night life, and this coincided with the personal explorations of his sexual identity. Only a decade later, on May 26th 2020, the legalization of same-sex marriage had an important impact on the socio-political landscape of the country. Through melodrama and poetic storytelling, he’ll be reincarnating these times.

Plancha playlists


Artistic direction and performance: Mario Barrantes Espinoza Artistic assistance: Theo Livesey Text edition: Theo Livesey, Mario Barrantes Espinoza Artistic accompaniment: Manu, Martín Zícari Sound design and music arrangement: Pablo Lilienfeld Lighting and technical direction: Ryoya Fudetani Costumes and set: Flavio Juan Núñez, Laurent Tijou Video projections: Federico Vladimir Strate Pezdirc Vocal advice and coaching: Ignacio Jarquín Production: Hiros Coproduction: Het TheaterFestival, Kunstencentrum Voo?uit, C-takt, KAAP In collaboration with: Kunstencentrum Buda (Kortrijk), workspacebrussels, DE SINGEL, KVS, Kunstenwerkplaats, wpZimmer With the support of: de Vlaamse Overheid