Student Spotlight: Ricardo Neumann '20

February 16, 2018

Ricardo Neumann '20 is a first-year student studying Theatre Management & Producing. He moved to NYC from Valparaiso, Chile with his wife and 3-year-old daughter. He is a lawyer who also studied dramaturgy at Universidad Católica de Chile where he served as Cultural Director of Fundación para el Progreso, one of the most influential Chilean NGOs. Under his direction, he produced several artistic projects of social intervention, using theater as a means to social change. He also participated as a newspaper columnist and panelist in several Chilean TV and Radio programs.


We sat down with Ricardo to discuss his experience at Columbia thus far. 


You came from Chile to study Theatre Management & Producing. What do you think is the biggest difference between the theatre industry in the US and your country?

Coming from a place where the Government is practically the only agent of cultural funding, I really appreciate the presence of a more complex creative ecosystem in the US. Chile needs a developmental context where the arts are not necessarily subordinated to a bureaucratic monopoly. Philanthropy and civil society should also be able to play a predominant role, especially now, where the commercial theater is not the only antithesis of the governmental option, and the "third way" of not-for-profit institutions can develop many cultural "public goods".



What would you like to be doing ten years from now?

I see myself back in Chile, leading a regional not-for-profit theater or developing sustainable cultural policies from the Secretary of Cultural Affairs (a State agency that should create developmental conditions and not only paternalistic "gifts"). In the last decade, my country has experienced remarkable economic growth. Our buildings get taller and our cities have modernized, but our Theater almost remains the same. I would like to change that reality, especially because, as a developing country, Chile is in kind of a historical moment where we need to choose what is our own definition of “Progress”. If we still believe that in this equation the arts do not play an important role, we will be condemned to be forever a third world country.



Who's your favorite theatre artist?

Václav Havel, Czech playwright, political dissident and former President. He was one of the leaders of the “Velvet Revolution,” a cultural movement able to peacefully overthrow the dictatorship that was sweeping his nation. Havel’s example shows us that Theater is also a powerful tool of democratic awareness and social transformation.



What do you miss the most?

Family, friends… and Chilean wine…