Updated 05:42 AM EST, Thu, Feb 25, 2021

Beauty Pageants in Colombian Prison Depicted in Theatrical Play Titled 'Another Word For Beauty'

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An interesting annual beauty contest inside a Colombian prison is the highlight of Jose Rivera's play "Another Word for Beauty," which runs at the Goodman Theater until next month.

According to Loyola Phoenix, the play's setting is El Buen Pastor, the largest female prison in Bogota, Colombia, where murderers, political opponents and drug dealers are housed.

But despite friction inside the penitentiary and outside the jail, the inmates maintain the yearly tradition of having a beauty contest.

Vivala reported that director Steve Cosson and playwright Rivera decided to collaborate on the special play.

The two were able to discover great facts about the various lives and struggles of the inmates, who came up with the contest called Señorita Simpatíaevery September.

Rivera told the Chicago Sun Times that the situation in the jail was very depressing, since it was loud, dirty and chaotic.

"Many of the women looked like they'd been eating bad food, had no exercise, and weren't particularly healthy, with broken teeth, and scars on their faces. But some were beautiful. And the contestants in the pageant -- representatives of each cell block -- really train for the event," Rivera explained.

The playwright said this tradition could have also stemmed from Colombian's obsession with pageants.

Explaining more of the pageant, Rivera added that the inmates make use of everything they have inside the jail for their floats.

He noted that there are actually two pageants in that jail -- one for inmates 45 years old or older, and one for the younger inmates.

To make the play similar to the prison pageant, Rivera said that they interviewed 70 of the 2,000 women inmates.

 "We also did a writing workshop with them. The exercise was to write a 'goodbye scene' and read it out loud. They did it too well. The results were heartbreaking. Everyone was in tears," he added in the Chicago Sun Times.

For his part, Cosson said in a Make it Better report that all he wanted was to bring the vibrant and competitive performance inside the Colombian prison to the play stage.

The show will run until Feb. 21 and is 2 hours and 45 minutes. Ticket prices range from $25 to $75.

Theater Mania said the play deals with the positive subject of prisoners given the chance to hope.

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