A childhood in Chile marked by both the lyricism of Pablo Neruda’s poetic legacy and the violence of the Pinochet regime flavors the experiences that poet and playwright Carlos Baron has brought to his writings over decades as an exile from his homeland. Spark follows Baron as he and a group of young actors rehearse and perform his play “Poeta Pan” in San Francisco and in Chile.
“Poeta Pan,” or “Bread Poet,” is an evocation of Baron’s Chilean roots through the poetry of Neruda. A multifaceted collaboration with Latin jazz flutist John Calloway, Rafael Manriquez and choreographer Martha Zepeda, the play calls up comparisons between September 11, 2001, and the Pinochet coup d’etat that occurred 28 years earlier on the same date.
After studying sociology and theater arts at the University of California at Berkeley in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Baron returned briefly to Chile to defend the Salvador Allende government, for which he was imprisoned. Upon returning to the Bay Area, in 1975 he helped to found La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley. La Peña provides, among other things, a cultural meeting ground for Chilean exiles. Baron was the center’s first cultural coordinator.
Multiculturalism and Latino theater remain the primary interests of Baron, who was also the theater and dance coordinator for the Mission Cultural Center and founder of San Francisco’s Teatro Latino. As a professor of theater arts at San Francisco State University, Baron not only has helped to expand La Raza and multicultural studies at the university, but also directs the university’s Teatro Arcoiris, or Rainbow Theater, a multicultural theater workshop.
An activist and an actor, Baron has worked with Berkeley Rep, the Magic Theatre and San Jose Repertory Theater. He has also had a hand in radio and television for many years, as a programmer for both KPFA and KPOO, and has consulted for Antenna Theater, Intercultura and the “McNeil/Lehrer NewsHour,” among others. Also a poet and a professional storyteller, Baron has exhibited his impassioned work at festivals in Cuba, Chile and the United States.