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Susquehanna Life

Chilean Puppetry Company at the Weis Center

Feb 06, 2017 10:12AM ● By Erica Shames
Chilean puppetry ensemble Silencio Blanco will perform the work “Chiflon, el silencio del carbon” or “Chiflón, silence of the coal,” twice on Friday, February 17 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. at the Weis Center for the Performing Arts. The one-hour long performance is part of the year-long Coal Collections series. It is suggested for ages 10 and above and seating will be on-stage and general admission. 

There will be a free pre-performance talk with the creators of the piece on Thursday, February 16 from noon-1 p.m. in the Weis Center Atrium Lobby. Bucknell University Associate Professor of Spanish Fernando Blanco and puppeteers from Silencio Blanco will discuss coal mining in Chile and puppetry as a means of storytelling.

This tour engagement of Chiflon is made possible by Southern Exposure: Performing Arts of Latin America, a program of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts.

Silencio Blanco is a collective of mixed media–artists based in Santiago de Chile.  The members are best known for their hand-built puppets—painted white and constructed from a newspaper base—and for performing without words to original sound scores. They use this montage, and detailed portrayals of everyday situations and familiar gestures, from a desire through acting to represent the emotional and expressive human experience.

The group was formed in 2010 by Santiago Tobar and Dominga Gutiérrez, who met while studying acting at the legendary Theater School of the University of Chile. At the time, few schools offered majors in puppetry. The founders adopted Bunraku, the Japanese art of transferring energy into the object by three puppeteers, to innovate their training as actors.

“Chiflón, el silencio del carbon” or “Chiflón, silence of the coal,” is the company’s third work and explores the story of a young miner forced to find work in one of the most dangerous mines in Chile after the mine where he worked collapses. “Chiflón” is the common name in Spanish that miners give to the natural draft that flows through a mining shaft. It is also the name of the notorious mine in Lota, in central Chile’s Biobío region along the Gulf of Arauco. The mine operated from the mid-1850s until the 1990s and at its height employed more than 1,500 miners and produced 250 tons of coal a day.

The mining industry has played a crucial role in Chile’s history and the company is committed to instigating further thinking and conversation about the troubling conditions in the post-industrial 21st century, which often stay invisible despite strident headlines. Based in part on the story of “El Chiflón del Diablo” by distinguished Chilean author Baldomero Lillo, and site visits to Chilean mining towns over a period of two years, the fruits of this lengthy creative process have resulted in an intimate feast for the eyes and spirit. The highest imagination and modesty in scale conspire to create a greatly accessible and deeply engaging puppet work.

Tickets for this performance are general admission with on-stage seating only. Tickets for the performance are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors 62+, $5 for youth 18 and under, $5 for Bucknell employees and retirees (limit 2), $5 for Bucknell students (limit 2), and $5 for non-Bucknell college students (limit 2). Tickets can be purchased at or by calling 570-577-1000.

Tickets are also available in person from several locations including the Weis Center lobby (weekdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) and the CAP Center Box Office, located on the ground floor of the Elaine Langone Center (weekdays 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.).

For more information about this performance contact Lisa Leighton, marketing and outreach director, at 570-577-3727 or by e-mail at

The next performance in the Weis Center’s 2016-17 Season is a jazz performance by The Bad Plus on Saturday, February 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Weis Center.

For more information about the Weis Center for the Performing Arts, go to or search for the Weis Center on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.

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