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As the economic crisis unfolds arts and cultural institutions are slashing expenses and struggling to remain alive. The story is no different in Mexico, though theater groups in Mexico City have come up with a novel way to survive. In the past year a movement has started where small theater groups perform in people’s apartments or homes. The amount of money saved by not having to rent a theater is making a huge difference for theater groups trying to make it through lean times, says Mariana Garcia Franco, director of the theater group “C”.

On a recent evening I was invited to see Garcia’s group perform in a friend’s apartment. Each person attending was asked to pay $80 pesos (about $6 bucks). There were two actresses: Alicia Martin and Maricela Penalosa who performed an hour-long untitled play.

There were 17 people in the audience and we all crammed into my friend’s apartment to watch the show. The play was very abstract and also visceral and athletic at times. Both of the characters were battling some type of mental anguish and at times it made me feel uncomfortable to be so close. The actresses were so good they embodied their two characters completely. They also did not appear to be nervous at all. (No small feat when you are performing in someone’s living room surrounded by your audience.) At some points the two characters would seem to be addressing us and they would sit amongst the audience. They were firmly locked inside the play though and it was a little like being a fly on the wall in a lunatic asylum. This might sound jarring or awful but it actually was a really good theater experience.

Garcia, the theater group’s director, says they are booked just about every week performing in someone’s home. “Usually someone from the audience will ask us to come to their home and perform,” she says. “And it spreads by word of mouth.” There are also several other theater groups in Mexico City performing on a weekly basis including a group called Teatro Instantaneo where the actors write the play as they go along with the help of the audience.

It’s heartening to see that theater groups in Mexico City are thriving instead of letting the economic crisis close them down.

Melissa del Bosque joined The Texas Observer staff in 2008. She specializes in reporting on immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border. Her work has been published in national and international publications including TIME magazine and the Mexico City-based Nexos magazine. Melissa is a 2014-15 Lannan Fellow at The Investigative Fund.