Carmen Aguirre

Carmen Aguirre, actor, director, playwright and writer (born in Chile, 1967). In 1973 Carmen Aguirre's family emigrated to Vancouver in the wake of the military coup that began Augusto Pinochet's reign of terror. In 1979, her mother answered the revolutionaries' call and the family left Canada to join the Chilean revolutionary movement. For several years Aguirre's parents established secret safe houses for fellow resisters throughout LATIN AMERICA. During this time, Aguirre and her sister attended private schools, learning alongside the children of the Chilean dictator's most powerful friends and collaborators. At the age of 18 Aguirre became a runner, transporting messages and goods into Peru and Bolivia and throughout Chile. Today Aguirre believes she was fortunate "to give my early years to a cause greater than myself."

With her safety compromised, at the age of 22, Carmen Aguirre returned to Vancouver and enrolled in the prestigious THEATRE program Studio 58 at Langara College, beginning her career in the theatre (SeeDRAMA, MULTICULTURAL THEATRE) and fulfilling a long-held ambition. She has appeared in FILM and on TELEVISION, including a lead role in Quinceanera, an independent film which won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.

The Trigger is Aguirre's highly acclaimed play on RAPE, first performed in 2005. Based on her personal experiences, Aguirre casts the victim as a resilient and intelligent individual who endures the violent ripple effect of rape and manages the trauma by speaking about it with honest dignity. In 2008 Carmen Aguirre began writing her best-known play, The Refugee Hotel. With humour and pathos, she presents the story of eight REFUGEES arriving at a hotel in Vancouver and experiencing the emotional turmoil of political exiles: the exhilaration of survival and the angst of dislocation. It is the fearful guilt of being perceived as a traitor by those left behind which Aguirre's character Fat Jorge expresses: "She's not a traitor. But I am... I am. I am here when I could be there. Oh my God." Widely reviewed as a gripping drama with international reach, The Refugee Hotel was nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore Award in 2010.

Carmen Aguirre began making notes on her revolutionary experiences in early 2003. By 2009 those notes became the memoir (SeeAUTOBIOGRAPHICAL WRITING) Something Fierce: Memoirs of a Revolutionary Daughter. Opening the work is a description of her dramatic flight to Canada with other fleeing refugees: "'We have crossed the border into Peru. We are out of Chile.' Passengers... cried ...Someone started singing the Chilean national anthem and everyone joined in. My parents had put their arms around us and said, 'You will never forget this. You. Will. Never. Forget.'" Something Fierce won the 2012 CBC Canada Reads contest. Sharp debate among the Canada Reads panellists marked the defense of Aguirre's memoir, focusing on Aguirre's family and their collective role as resisters of the American-backed Pinochet regime.

Aguirre says "One never gets over a dictatorship. One accepts it as part of one's history. I feel no anger or hatred." Her one woman show Blue Box opened in Ottawa in February 2012. In it she explores the theme of hunting and the hunted with raw humour and unvarnished emotion. A direct address drama, with no costumes or staging, her highly structured and intimate dialogue begins with the story of her grandmother's ghost, arriving unbidden to kick Aguirre out of the malaise of a broken heart: "Look in front of you!" she scolds. This adage resonates throughout as the heroine calls upon her inherited strengths to live in the moment, in order to move forward.

Carmen Aguirre teaches at the Vancouver Film School and has served as playwright-in-residence at the VANCOUVER PLAYHOUSE, Touchstone Theatre and Victoria's BELFRY THEATRE. Founder and director of The Latino Theatre Group, she has facilitated workshops for Theatre of the Oppressed and has written and co-written more than a dozen plays. Aguirre lives in Vancouver, continuing to write for and perform on stage, television and film.