PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 27.1 (2005) 55-60
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Writing for a Catalan Theatre
Carlota Subirós interviewed by Bonnie Marranca
Carlota Subirós is a director and translator. At 23 she staged her first show, based on the Thomas Bernhard novel The Loser, which was highly acclaimed by the critics. The piece was presented at Teatre Lliure, one of Barcelona's major independent theatres, of which she has recently become a member of the artistic direction team. Meanwhile, she has introduced in Spain the work of contemporary playwrights as Jon Fosse and Wallace Shawn, whose The Designated Mourner she directed in 2003. She has also staged plays by Catalan young writers such as David Plana, and worked with dance, music and literature as sources for her own pieces. Carlota Subirós has translated plays by David Mamet, Wallace Shawn, Harold Pinter, Neil LaBute, David Harrower, Jessica Goldberg, and Luigi Pirandello into Catalan, and edits a journal published by the Teatre Lliure, DDT, Documents de Teatre. This interview was conducted on June 20, 2004.
Teatre Lliure seems to be host to many contemporary productions as part of Forum Barcelona 2004, not only those of Robert Wilson, The Wooster Group, Peter Sellars, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Robert Lepage, but also the Catalan choreographers Cesc Gelabert and Àngels Margarit. What is the profile of this theatre in relation to the city and to Catalonia?
This is one of the two main subsidized theatres in the city, the other being the National [Teatre Nacional de Catalunya]. It was founded in the 1970s and has a personality rooted in Barcelona becaue it started playing the classics and contemporary plays in Catalan, in a beautiful and engaged way. Since the former head of the theatre, director and set designer Fabià Puigserver, died in 1991, the theatre has undergone a long period of uncertainty. Now we are starting a new phase after a bit of controversy involving Lluís Pasqual, who started his work at the Lliure and has been the director of the theatre for short intervals, but renounced the directorship because of political and economic problems. A new young director, Alex Rigola, was apppointed in 2003. He set up a team of four people, including himself, who are [End Page 55] artistic directors, of which I am one. We base our program very much on contemporary theatre and on interdisciplinarity.
When you speak of performing plays in Catalan, does that mean you don't perform any in Spanish?
Very, very rarely, for specific occasions. The natural language of the theatre is Catalan. We perform in Spanish if we perform a Spanish play, or if a Spanish or South American company is invited, and sometimes we've produced plays in both languages, as I've done with The Designated Mourner. One character, Jack, played by an Argentinian actor, was performing in Spanish, and the others in Catalan. This happens often, too, in pieces which don't depend on a text but are created by actors' improvisations and end up having a bi-lingual text.
How did the question of using different languages in the Wallace Shawn play come about?
That happened because I wanted to work on this play with Gonzalo Cunill, an Argentinian actor whom I had seen in the wonderful play by the Needcompany Morning Song. I felt it was silly not to do it since in Catalonia we are all bi-lingual. On the other hand, when I had this idea I felt it would give so much more volume to the piece for us. It gave interesting political associations because Catalan was banned during the Franco dictatorship. That had implications in The Designated Mourner which is about a culture being repressed by a dictatorship. Catalan intellectuals went into exile in South America where the situation was that of Catalans being refugees and the culture hosting them being Spanish. Still, the fact that Jack was Argentinian also reminded one of the Argentinian dictatorship. It was not an explicit interpretation affecting the text, and as a Catalan...