March 9, 2014
Exchanging ideas about experimental theatre
Not even the typical heat and humidity at this time of the year in Argentina’s river provinces could abate the participants’ enthusiasm: they came to Rosario from all over Argentina and abroad to collaborate in this highly productive event.
Guests from different countries, strictly followed the tight agenda, which featured a wealth of interesting activities, aimed at encouraging them to exchange ideas and experiences about theatre theory and practice.
The festival opened in the afternoon of Saturday, December 7. Aldo El-Jatib, Experimenta 14 organizer and director of El Rayo Misterioso company, and theatre critics Julio Cejas (Argentina) and Carlos Gil Zamora (Spain) delivered a welcome speech and thanked everybody for attending Experimenta 14. They also sorrowfully announced that celebrated Spanish-French playwright and director Fernando Arrabal would not come to Argentina because he had just had a stroke. Arrabal was to receive the Orden del Guerrero Teatral award, a special prize previously received by playwright Roberto “Tito” Cossa, directors Rubens Correa, Paco Jiménez, Renzo Casali, Idilia Solari, Mario Delgado and Etelvino Vázquez. Almost all the activities (performances, luncheons and dinners) were held at the lovely venue, with the sole exception of two stage productions. Every night there were performances by local and international groups, all available to the general public. One of the plays worth mentioning was Dionisos aut, by the host group El Rayo Misterioso. Dionisos aut is a play that goes straight to the point. In no more than an hour, El-Jatib tells the story of an apocalyptic society to convey a multilayered message. The five actors in the play —Catalina Balbi, Sebastián Arriete, Hani El-Jatib, María de los Ángeles Oliver and Ada Cottu — all turned in good performances, aided by good lighting and set design.
Another interesting play was Si c’est mon frère (Belgium), the story of two brothers who reunite in France after 10 years. One of them was missing after fighting in the Algerian War. Both have completely different ideologies and thus a physical and verbal dispute begins. Actors Thibault Géhin and Thomas Henry — who also direct the play — showed their acting mettle, but their direction job was rather weak. Si c’est mon frère is a moving play, but someone other than the actors themselves was probably needed to put everything in the right place. They took an additional big challenge: they performed in Spanish, which they speak fluently. Pronunciation was not the problem here, but rather the translation, which did not sound authentic. Si c’est mon frère heavily references Argentine culture, including tango and soccer. Other plays worth mentioning include Medéa - O Evangelio (Haja Teatro group, Brazil), Paisaje con argonautas (Kabia - Espacio de investigación de Gaitzerdi, Spain), La nave de la memoria (Cuatrotablas group, Peru), Protocolo Portzess (La escalera group, Argentina), San Martín vuelve (Los desconocidos de siempre, Argentina) and Shock Ilión (El Rayo Misterioso).
Although the stage productions and performances were uniformly good, the round tables were no less important, even meatier than the plays. In one way or another, participants had the chance to share their views and show what they do. One of the topics was Performance Dismantling, consisting in a series of debates coordinated by Cejas, with performers and directors receiving feedback from experts and thorough explanations about the previous night’s performances.
The encounters with culture magazine editors, drama critics and festival directors were rich and most productive, with experts discussing their metier, contributing ideas and innovative proposals and giving festivalgoers the lowdown on new trends.
Apart from performing, each drama group organized a workshop. As festival hosts, El Rayo Misterioso coordinated EnBioM (movement bioenergetic training) and the experimental talk El teatro fantasmal (Ghostly Theatre). Collectif Alluvion (Belgium) offered La partitura escondida (The Hidden Score), and Spain’s Carlos Gil Zamora offered a workshop-staging entitled Lectura física de un texto post-dramático en busca de un cuerpo utópico (Physical Reading of a Post Dramatic Text In Search of an Utopian Body). From Brazil, Haja Teatro group organized the workshop Experimentos para forjar una concepción y organización teatral (Experiments to Forge a Theatre Concept and Execution). Spanish actor-director Borja Ruiz coordinated Perspectivas de la escena (Scene Perspectives), and Mario Delgado Vázquez (Peru) talked about Los tiempos de Shakespeare, la acción y la palabra (Shakespeare’s Times, Action and Word).