August 16, 2016 Print

Storytelling is a fundamental component of the art of persuasion. That’s why Fundación para el Progreso (FPP) has begun a program of cultural outreach, kicked off by the production and staging of plays throughout Chile.

“Art and storytelling have tremendous potential to change cultural realities in a much more efficient manner,” said Ricardo Neumann, director of the Culture Department of FPP and regional director of FPP Valparaiso. “There are very few Chileans who would read a book full of Friedman, but many who would lead their children to a free children’s play to advance, both large and small, in a subtle and playful way, the same substance. Appealing to the senses of everyday people is the best way to empathize with their realities and generate a change of mentality regarding freedom.”

Neumann realized the potential of widening his organization’s target audience through drama, saying that in order to market an organization’s ideas to the public, “the ideas have to go in through your ‘guata’ (gut). Ideas have to reach an audience through their guata, their skin, their eyes, their feelings before reaching their minds — this is contrary to the traditional way of doing things.”

El Gran Circo Tremebundo (The Great and Terrifying Circus) is the first FPP children’s play, which has toured around the cultural and educational hubs of Chile since April. The protagonist of the play, Ceferino, must find a way to stop mysterious and incessant rainstorms because flooding has prevented audiences from coming to see his circus show.

The catch is that all weather is controlled by the government, in the play’s unusual world. The Climate Subdivision of the Meteorological Department in the Ministry of Natural Phenomena is responsible for determining when the sun will shine and when storm clouds will let loose their fury. Striking workers in the Ministry of Natural Phenomena have resulted in nonstop storms. Upon learning this, Ceferino begins to question why the government regulates the weather at all — and resolves to gather his friends and do something about it.

The play shows how it is possible to solve problems without the help of a state authority, using a lighthearted form of satire that has had a rich history in the arts — repeatedly exposing the absurdity of government policies. Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal used biting satire to criticize British policy concerning Ireland and its inhabitants and the prevailing attitude of apathy toward the poor, casually suggesting that the babies of poor Irish people be sold off and eaten. Frédéric Bastiat’s A Petition From the Manufacturers of Candles suggests to contemporary policymakers in Paris that they blot out light from the sun, in order to prevent unfair competition with the artificial light industry. FPP has taken this form of satire in a playful and family-friendly new direction.

Another cultural endeavor from FPP is its photographic exposition, “Oficios Porteños,” which depicts several traditional crafts that illustrate how value is created through the work ethic, building on ideas from renowned economist Deirdre McCloskey. A forthcoming FPP project called “Citizens” highlights the roles that several individuals played in developing an era of increased freedom in Chile, and features a “living history” component that brings the characters to life as they speak about the importance of free societies. FPP is also planning a major production of a play written by celebrated playwright former president of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Havel, in early 2017.

“Progress is essentially a cultural issue,” Neumann said. “Through the use of art as a vehicle for transmitting ideas, FPP has positioned itself as one of the most influential think tanks in the country. Art is available to everyone, so it should be a medium used more frequently each day within the network of foundations and movements that believe that people can be masters of their own destiny.”