Celebrated Mexican director Martin Acosta returns to CalArts to direct the School of Theater’s production of playwright David Gaitán’s Paraíso Diseñado (Paradise by Design), translated by Andrea Thome.
Paraíso Diseñado explores the journey that the brain takes in the seconds before and after death. It challenges the audience’s perception of death and of themselves.
Acosta himself underwent a “near-death experience” when he suffered a massive heart attack as a result of a congenital heart condition in 1997. He registered no vital signs for two minutes, but was eventually revived. He relates the experience in an email:
I remember the moment and the experience clearly: Once past the physical part, which is very painful, the state in which I entered was very nice. My brain began to function in a different way, as I have never experienced before or since. There wasn’t a tunnel with a light at the end; I hate to disappoint those who expect that kind of story. However, there was this world of sound that I woke up into that had this unusual clarity. The sound was not in relation to time but, more specifically, to the story of my life. So, I could hear my mother’s voice calling me to eat when I was four. Like a radio frequency searching for a correct signal, it was my mother’s voice searching for me.
David Gaítan’s work spoke to me, as I have been to the place his play describes, and reading it took me back to that place, a place I call “the next room”—the place where I awaited my return to a state of consciousness.
In 2012, Acosta directed the CalArts Center for New Performances (CNP)/Duende CalArts production of Timboctou, presented at the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater (REDCAT) in Downtown Los Angeles and in Guadalajara, Mexico. Last season, the School of Theater produced Gaitan’s play Leakages and Anticoagulants, directed by CalArts student Rachel Park (Theater MFA 15).
Paraíso Diseñado opens on March 6 and runs through the 14th.