December 13, 2013
Agustín Alezzo, master theatre directorTuesday, September 3, 2013
‘I see serious problems in BA City theatres’
Buenos Aires, August 15, 1938
Training: He studied with Hedi Crilla at La Máscara theatre, alongside Augusto Fernándes, Pepe Novoa and Carlos Gandolfo.
Hobby: Reading any kind of book
Favourite film: The Dead, by John Huston; A Streecar Named Desire, by Elia Kazan
A place in the world: Buenos Aires
Agustín Alezzo opens the door of his beautiful house in Palermo neighbourhood. Walking stick in hand, he offers a coffee, sits on his rocking chair, his back to the lovely garden behind, and talks to The Herald about cultural issues and his fifty-year-plus professional career.
Did you expect to receive the Golden ACE (Entertainment Critics Association) award last week for your work during the 2012 season?
No, I didn’t. I was really moved by the reaction of the audience, who gave me a long standing ovation every time I went on stage to receive the prizes.
You are directing Sombras desde el jardín (The Maiden’s Prayer) at Auditorio Losada. Why did you choose this piece by US playwright Nicky Silver?
It is a superb piece that somebody gave me to read some years ago. I loved it. Since then, I kept wanting to do it but had to delay because I had other projects. I had it in mind and this year it came true. It is a marvellous play, a good story with great characters, depicting human relationships from an intense, deep, comprehensive and moving point of view. And above all, it definitely has humour.
What do you take into account when selecting a material?
I have to like the world the author creates and his approach of the plot. If I feel identified, I do it. If not, I certainly don’t.
You have trained lots of great performers, but who were your teachers?
My real trainer was Hedy Crilla. We worked together from 1957 until her death in 1984. She taught me the craft. She directed me, she acted in lots of shows I directed, and we co-directed other plays. It was a long-lasting relationship.
What about Lee Strasberg?
I only took a few classes with him, but he wasn’t my trainer.
How do you choose performers?
I know the acting milieu and the actors. I have seen them on stage, worked with them or even taught some of them. I never worry about choosing a cast.
Has any actor said “no” to the great master?
Maybe... I can’t remember right now but sometimes timetables and projects overlap, making any collaboration attempt impossible. But yes, some told me they couldn’t work in my projects.
Is acting talent innate or do you have to work for it?
We are born with skills to do different things. It depends which one you develop.
What do you think about the variety of plays staged in Buenos Aires?
There is a wide variety of shows and the activity is awesome. It has to do with the huge creativity of actors, directors and the people who make it all happen. Most of them don’t make a living with theatre. They perform once or twice a week after many months of rehearsals. They have impressive determination and will power.
Last year you directed ¡Jettatore! at the Cervantes National Theatre. It was the first time you worked at that venue. How was that experience?
It was excellent. I chose the cast and it was a large group but very well coordinated. It was a relaxed experience because we didn’t clash at any time.
What do you think about the national government’s management of cultural activities?
There’s always something missing in every administration. Culture always gets relegated. Nowadays especially, I see serious problems in Buenos Aires City theatres.
Municipal theatres such as the Teatro San Martín are in serious decline and not fulfilling their tasks. They lack a repertoire and a schedule. They aren’t hiring actors and ticket prices aren’t reasonable. Those are big deficiencies.
Mauricio Macri’s administration recently announced that the building will be refurbished...
Yes, yes, I am well aware.
Do you think it is right to associate private producers with the public theatres?
That’s just awful. Mainstream producers should stage plays at their own theatres instead of public venues. I believe we shouldn’t mix private and public issues, because they come from completely different circles and target different needs and goals.
Do you admire any director of the new generation?
Yes, I do. I admire many of them. Maybe they aren’t the most popular. But I prefer not to mention any of them. Some of them are very creative.
What television programmes do you watch?
None. I just turn on the television to watch films.
What newspapers do you read?
I don’t read newspapers or online media. I just listen to the radio.
Do you like any specific radio show?
Well, I listen to many but not regularly. I read books. I have had a soft spot for reading since I was a child.
What’s your favourite?
I have read a lot, so I can’t mention any books in particular. And I am a fan of good cinema.
Would you like to go back to acting?
No, I wouldn’t. The last time I acted was in 1973, a very long time ago. I have a problem with my left leg after undergoing brain tumour surgery some years ago. So, it’s impossible to even imagine I could go back on stage.
When did you decide to become a director?
It wasn’t a decision. I worked as an actor for 17 years, but over the last years I began directing. I combined both jobs and also teaching. Directing prevailed over acting. Every time I was called to play a role while I was also directing, I refused the acting proposals. There are changes in life that one doesn’t decide. Life takes the decision for you. I just happen to love my job.
Is there any play you would like to direct in the future?
There are a lot, for example Henrik Ibsen’s works. I love Isben, but I have never directed any plays written by him. A lifetime isn’t enough for everything we want to do...
But you have directed more than 70 plays. That’s a lot!
Actually, there are people who have done a lot more. It’s incredible. If you look at Ingmar Bergman’s productions, he shot 40 films written by him, managed important theatres and directed more than 100 mises-en-scène. He had nine children. Considering Bergman’s fruitful life, I haven’t done much. Bergman is an unusual case and a genius.
Who are your favourite actors today?
I like a lot Al Pacino, Leonardo Di Caprio — some time ago, Woody Allen said that Di Caprio was the best US actor — Sean Penn, Meryl Streep and Vanesa Redgrave, among others. I tried to watch all their work.