December 23, 2014
Fate collides to produce perfect chemistry
For the Herald
How Paula Kohan and Mariana Jaccazio’s dream of working together came trueThe first thing that’s made clear when one meets Mariana Jaccazio and Paula Kohan together, is that the chemistry the actresses share on stage exceeds the four walls of the theatre. Taking some time off from the dramatic characters they embody in Vicente Battista’s Dos almas que en el mundo, the play they starred in at the Centro Cultural de la Cooperación, they both discussed their performances, working together, being directed by Walter Velázquez and the strong emotions involved in their performances.
How did this play get into your hands?
M: Well, it was pretty much fate, in a way. Vicente Battista is an author I liked and have enjoyed since I was thirteen, during my very early teenage years. Some years ago, I joined a workshop he was conducting at the National Library. I told him I worked at the theatre (back then I was doing Perdón por ser tan puta), and one day he showed up with a copy of Dos almas que en el mundo and said, “Here, take a look, see what you think of it.” I found it fascinating.
I met Paula a few years before that, and we wanted to do something together. When the time came to look for a partner I didn’t hesitate, though I wondered whether or not she’d be available.
Dos almas... is quite an emotional play; it covers some very strong feelings and while it has many comic elements, it is also very dramatic. Was this a challenge when it came to establishing a bond between each other and developing your characters?
M: At first we didn’t know what Velázquez’s take on the play would be like; his view made it then a double challenge, for he had an intense focus on the text and the story. For us, emotionally, it meant a strong commitment.
P: In addition to the fact that it’s hard playing or going through this kind of relationship, because it’s not really just about a mother and a daughter, it’s about relationships in general, and such bonds can be translated to any other.
M: Exactly. It’s like a universal thing, isn’t it?
P: It speaks about the bond between two human beings. In this sense, it’s already difficult, especially when you consider that, in our first meeting, we talked a lot about our families.
M: In fact, a creative triangle developed between the three of us (that is, Walter, Paula and I), a healing process generated by our roles. Paula, as the mother, had to build a character a lot older than her actual age, and also had to find a special language to have the audience believe that, even though we’re actually the same age, we play mother and daughter. Then there was this process in which I had to feel like a daughter and understand that she’s my mother.
As for Battista, he is a contemporary writer. There are no stage directions whatsoever in his plays, not even indications about moods and emotions. You may get brief references about physical space, but that’s about it. He’s very contemporary in this regard, and very, very pure. So a great deal depends on the director’s interpretation. Playing the daughter, I had to identify with many situations and work on submission, on restraint.
It’s actually very interesting, the way you handle the characters, the way you refrain from going over the boundaries of their personalities.
M: Well, a great deal of stress was put on striking a balance. Paula handles the humour, the grotesque, the comedy, the rhythm of the play, and I handle the story, the facts, and the unhurriedness of it all. We each take on different, complementary aspect of the play.
The play explores the female world. Was it a factor in choosing it?
P: It’s peculiar, considering it was written by a man.
M: What surprised me the most, especially compared to his novels, is that the universe Battista presents is particularly feminine. It’s amazing how much he knows about mother-daughter bond and the subtleties of it. Paula and I have had very important, hierarchical mothers, and we were surprised by how well these kinds of relationships are represented in the text. However, it is clear that this bond can be easily translated to other relationships, we’ve seen male viewers touched and moved in the audience.
Paula, your character demands a lot from you. How challenging is this?
P: This is the kind of character I want to play the most, it’s a risk, it makes me bet on the unknown. The unknown is scary because, well, it’s unknown, it’s not safe and you don’t know where it will take you. I had a very, very hard time during the first two weeks of rehearsal, because I kept asking myself, “What’s the angle of this character?.” “How do I get to its core?”
From the third week on something magical started to happen, something playful, and we became like kids. What I wanted, which was to connect with my inner child, began to take place, and nothing could go wrong.
Although this is a text that is interesting in itself, a great deal depends on the director who works on it...
P: None of the actions you see on stage were in the original. From the dart-throwing to my rolling on the floor, everything was a construction of Walter’s, Mariana’s and mine. Everything was trial and error, then we would hit the mark with something, and it would stay. It was very hard, at first, to play Mariana’s mother. But, then again, why not? During the first two or three minutes they don’t really buy it, I mean, my character being Mariana’s mother. And then by the fourth minute, they’re into it.
Do you think your musical careers have influenced your acting methods?
P: Well, in my case, I don’t really know if it has to do with my musical training or not, but I can’t build a character without a musical approach to it. I think of a character’s voice in terms of tonality, and I also take rhythm into account. It comes naturally to me, really; I’m always thinking of rhythm and the musical side of everything.
Mariana, what was it like for you, producing the play?
M: It was my first time, and I loved it. I’ve actually been producing my own shows since 2009, always musicals. Since Dos almas... is a text there are other aspects to be taken into account.
The transition from musicals to texts is something I’m very interested in, I’m definitely working on it. I think this is the right path, producing important stage plays rather than musicals. I still want to continue working on my music career. Coming from the world of musicals, I will always gladly take part in them, but I want to focus on this new aspect of my professional career.