Some members of NYC theater company The Civilians are in Colombia, researching a new project they're calling The Bogatá Musical, based on the beauty pageants held in women's prisons. (The Civilians usually make theater based on research and interviews with people in the real world. Seattle last saw them at the Rep, where they workshopped Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric Play, about the apocalypse and The Simpsons.)

One of their members has just sent an email about death threats that have been issued to theater companies in Bogotá from right-wing paramilitary groups, who work under the umbrella name of Águilas Negras, or "Black Eagles." (For one man's story about Colombia's ongoing civil war and how its factions intersect with the country's drug trade, see the first section of this article.)

There's an election coming up and the Águilas Negras have targeted theater companies that work with lower-income kids to make traditional Colombian street theater—parades, dance, masks, stilt walking, that kind of thing:

Today we begin a social cleansing of all the dirty organizations that stand in our way... motherfucking organizations of shit that pretend to be defenders of the human rights through artistic expressions that are against the policies of our government. We don't care whether you're protected sons of bitches, it won't do you any good.

The Águilas Negras gave the companies eight days to leave the city. But they didn't leave. Instead, on their eighth-day deadline, they held a parade. Video and more details—as well as a call to action—below the jump.

To read more about the situation, including the full text of the death threat, see this blog post by Steve Cosson, director of The Civilians.

Now The Civilians are mounting a letter campaign to the Colombian government, urging it to protect the theater companies. Some big names are onboard, including Caryl Churchill, Oskar Eustis, David Henry Hwang, and Kevin Kline.

I have my doubts about whether a letter campaign will offer much protection to individuals in a situation this charged with violence and corruption, but at least it lets the powers that be know that other people in the world are watching.

Cosson and The Civilians—and Caryl Churchill and Kevin Kline and the rest—are asking people to contact the following folks, express their concerns, ask them to protect the theater companies, and seriously investigate the origins of the death threats:

Volmar Antonio Perez
Defensoria del pueblo
Calle 55 No 10- 32
Bogota, Colombia
Email: http://www.defensoria.org.co/red/?_item=0008&_secc=00&ts=1

Hernan Jaime Ulloa
Programa presidencial de derechos humanos
presidencia de la república
carrera 7 No 6 – 54
Bogota, Colombia
Email: ppdh@presidencia.gov.co

Mariella Barragán
Secretaria de Gobierno Bogota
comunicaciones@gobiernobogota.gov.co

Good luck, everybody.