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Accountant gave up career for theater, launched popular international festival in Colombia

One day, Diana proposed an idea for a theater festival. I thought she was crazy, but you could not argue with her passion for the project and her relentless optimism. We soon launched the Mosquera International Theater Festival – a major undertaking in our small town. [It would feature national and international plays, street theater, performing arts, and workshops.]

  • 1 year ago
  • December 17, 2022
5 min read
Theatrical shows taking place in the streets throughout the Mosquera International Theater Festival in Colombia Theatrical shows taking place in the streets throughout the Mosquera International Theater Festival in Colombia | Photo courtesy of Dagoberto Garzón Q.
Pedro Barrera
Interview Subject
Pedro Barrera is a playwriter, actor, and theater director who has won multiple awards. He represented Colombia on tours of South America and at the XIV Ibero-American Theater Festival in Bogotá. He currently dedicates himself to teaching and theater direction. Alongside colleagues, he helped create the Mosquera International Theater Festival. He has won more than 70 awards including Best Actor at the Col-Rosario Festival; First position as Director in the Pigmaleón Regional Festival; and Best play at the Vetusta Nova Theater Festival to name a few.
Background Information
The Mosquera International Theater Festival began in 2014 with the motto “Mosquera, theater city.” In August 2022 the team hosted the ninth edition of the festival called “Under the sky of Mosquera, the theater city.” The festival has brought together more than five hundred artists from countries such as Chile, Argentina, Spain, Costa Rica, and Peru and is a favorite event for locals and visitors.

MOSQUERA, Colombia – After working for a year as an accountant at a multinational company, I made a decision that changed my life forever. On a Saturday morning in 1999, my mother woke me urgently and called me to the front door. Camilo Ríos, my first theater teacher, stood waiting.

On that warm and clear morning, I could hear the distant sound of engines and birds singing. Having just awoken, the brightness of the sun seemed dazzling. Camilo got straight to the point. “Pedro, I’m giving up my theater position and want to leave a worthy replacement,” he said. “Would you like to be the new teacher at the Colegio Salesiano de Mosquera?”

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Up to that moment, my life was divided in two. On the one hand, I worked efficiently as an account – my career on the rise. On the other hand, my love for the performing arts called to me. I participated in plays and helped out with all the aspects of theater like lighting, sound, set design, and script writing. While time and money felt perfectly in balance, standing in that doorway, I knew I needed to go further.

Working two jobs, theater instructor sacrifices stability for a dream

As a young student, I performed well and had outstanding grades, but my shyness prevented me from expressing myself in public. The school recommended I take theater classes, and I immediately fell in love with the artform. I found a place where I felt fulfilled. While my life followed a safe path toward a traditional professional career and a respectable job, theater always remained part of my daily life.

Standing in the doorway that day, with my former teacher in front of me, my sleepiness disappeared. So excited by the unexpected offer, my hands began to sweat. My breathing quickened and a slight tremor interrupted my voice. None of that prevented me from say yes immediately.

Performers put on displays throughout the city streets | Photo courtesy of Dagoberto Garzón Q.

After we said goodbye, I ran up the stairs at my house, my heart pumping with a shudder of satisfaction and fear. “What if the school administrators rejected me,” I worried. That fear vanished in the morning when I found out the job was mine, if I wanted it. They had one condition: cut your long hair. I went straight to the barber, even before returning home.

For one year, I kept my accounting job alongside my theater classes. The financial reward of teaching equated to a tiny fraction of my salary as an accountant, but the happiness I felt made up for it. As I performed well on the job , my boss accommodated me by allowing me to alter my schedule for teaching.

That beautiful time of transition became a light for me. My overflowing passion did not go unnoticed by my coworkers. For some, they felt inspired watching me do something simple but significant: invest time and effort into my dream.

He wins big, and helps launch the Mosquera International Theater Festival

Only a year later, I won my first award as a theater director, taking first place for best play in a theater competition for my rewrite of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. The win strengthened my determination, and I began studying theater full-time while still working.

Many people believed I went crazy, but voices of encouragement from people like my mother gave me the courage to follow my path and fight for what I loved. While I faced difficult moments along the way, I never doubted my decision. In time, and with perseverance and discipline, I knew my passion remained worth every risk.

By fighting for my dream, I get to help others fulfill theirs. In 2003, I met Diana Sotelo, a student of mine who had a special enthusiasm. After finishing her studies, she became my right hand and the engine behind a big accomplishment for both of us.

One day, Diana proposed an idea for a theater festival. I thought she was crazy, but you could not argue with her passion for the project and her relentless optimism. We soon launched the Mosquera International Theater Festival – a major undertaking in our small town. [It would feature national and international plays, street theater, performing arts, and workshops.]

The diversity of performances at the festival proves a big attraction for attendees | Photo courtesy of Dagoberto Garzón Q.

In 2014, her dream took root when our town hosted a successful theater festival of international proportions. That first year, the auditorium, with a capacity of 700, proved far too small to accommodate the massive attendance. We soon tired from organizing such a feat. Our feet ached, our backs hurt, and we carried a palpable weight on our shoulders. Yet, all of that vanished as we watched the rivers of people flocking to our festival on its final day.

An emotion ran through us from head to toe as we overcame our exhaustion and witnessed a lesson in greatness. In 2022, we held our ninth festival, and the success continues to overwhelm us. Dreams are worth fighting for.

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