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and where text-based drama (even in the form of original musical theatre, such as that of the professional
company Dagoll ...
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Dance
Contemporary dance also deserves attention; the latest batch of creators in this genre stand out in their own
right:...
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Pinteresque roots and so on. The list of writers is endless, but to name a few, we have: Jordi Galcerán, Sergi
Belbel, Llu...
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average Bavarian, Saxon, Prussian or Swabian audience-member will be unable to discriminate the ‘Catalan’
nature of the te...
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The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - Februar...
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The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - Februar...
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The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - Februar...
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The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - Februar...
5) National hegemonic groups in a state usually treat the internal, national differences of democracies as
‘particularist ...
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The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - Februar...
vine yards] (1950) and gained much success with his incursion into religious drama in ‘La ferida lluminosa’
[The luminous ...
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The Catalan Theatre Scene (In Transit #24)

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The Catalan Theatre Scene (In Transit #24)

Source: IT In Transit.

Date: 02.2014.

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The Catalan Theatre Scene (In Transit #24)

  1. 1. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - February 2014 EDITORIAL The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival Sharon G. Feldman, William Judson Gaines Chair and Professor of Spanish and Catalan Studies, University of Richmond The past four decades have been an exciting time for the Catalan stage. Barcelona has come into its own as a vibrant international theatre capital, and theatrical offerings in Catalonia are richer and more diverse than ever before. The process of recuperation, relegitimization and institutionalization of Catalan theatrical life that began during the period of transition from dictatorship to democracy has reached an impressive state of fruition and maturity. The situation is all the more astonishing when viewed in light of an historical context replete with political and economic constraints that have threatened to overwhelm and submerge, time and again, the language, cultural life and intellectual spirit of this autonomous community. The Spanish political landscape continues to be inhabited by the retrograde ghosts of Francoism, and, as recently as September 2012, the central government delivered a crippling blow to theatres throughout Spain when it abruptly increased the VAT rate from 8 to 21%. To be sure, the Catalan stage has made enormous strides and continues to survive – even thrive– despite, and not because of, the aforementioned difficulties, which by any European standard are far from advantageous. For dramatists writing in Catalan, ever conscious of the precarious condition of their language and cultural identity, the paradoxical position of both political distance and proximity in relation to Spain has perhaps accentuated their cosmopolitan yearning to reach beyond local borders and belong to a larger international sphere. Several contemporary Catalan playwrights –Carles Batlle, Sergi Belbel, Josep Maria Benet i Jornet, Guillem Clua, Lluïsa Cunillé, Jordi Galceran, Pau Miró and Esteve Soler, to name more than a few– have fulfilled the dream of seeing their works staged to great acclaim in cities that include Athens, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Copenhagen, London, Milan or Paris. The creative team of director Calixto Bieito and playwright/ librettist Marc Rosich, likewise, has been applauded throughout Europe and even in Chicago for adaptations of plays and operas drawn from an international repertoire. Àlex Rigola and Lluís Pasqual have established their directorial reputations throughout the European continent, as well, and the multidisciplinary productions of Carles Santos have ventured as far afield as the Sydney Opera House. History, however, has seen only one Catalan dramatist, in the figure of Àngel Guimerà, fulfill the dream of captivating a Broadway audience, when his works traveled throughout the United States and Latin America during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Catalan theatre professionals in democratic times have been largely motivated by a utopian vision of the theatre as a public service for “the people”. The democratic period has consequently seen the realization of previously unimaginable levels of professionalization and the establishment of an impressive system of publically subsidized theatrical infrastructures (the Teatre Lliure, the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, the Mercat de les Flors, the Institut del Teatre, El Canal - Centre d’Arts Escèniques de Salt/Girona, the Centre d’Arts Escèniques de Reus, the Centre d’Arts Escèniques de Terrassa and others), all of which situate the Catalan theatre scene on a par with many advanced European nations. Even when in private hands, there are some theatre spaces, such as the one hundred fifty-year-old Teatre Romea and the Sala Beckett, both in Barcelona, that often behave as public showcases. The Grec summer festival of theatre, dance, music and circus, which began in 1976 as a post-Franco vindication of the alternative Catalan theatre scene, today, in the talented hands of director Ramon Simó, occupies a prominent position in the European summer festival circuit. Other recent initiatives in Barcelona, such as the Sala Flyhard and the Nau Ivanow, have contributed to the cultural revitalization of the Sants and Sant Andreu neighborhoods, respectively. The Sala Beckett and its artistic director Toni Casares, innovators in nurturing the work of emergent playwrights, will soon have a newly renovated space in Poble Nou, and La Seca-Espai Brossa, guided by Hermann Bonnín, has brought theatre in all its multiplicity of forms to a corner of the old quarter that is only steps away from the new Born Cultural Center. The Catalan theatre scene, as one can gather from this sampling, remains quite Barcelona-centric, despite a concerted effort on the part of government administrations to disseminate theatrical activities throughout a consolidated network of regional cultural centers. Major platforms, such as the Festival de Temporada Alta, held in and around the city of Girona, and the Fira de Tàrrega, a festival devoted to street theatre, represent noteworthy exceptions. The question that has endured within the collective psyche, stirring continual debate within the theatre profession throughout the process of recuperation and so-called normalization of the Catalan stage, is that of theatrical programing and repertoire: the issue of what will go on inside the aforementioned infrastructures. Should programming merely reflect the tastes and inclinations of an artistic director or, to what extent should it be driven by a mandate to uphold the cultural-political imperative of safeguarding the Catalan theatrical legacy and a subjectively determined canonical culture? Does the nature of public theatre and public subsidies allow for a considerable margin of aesthetic risk or artistic daring, or should public institutions cater to the popular or bourgeois tastes of their citizenry? What is the role of international drama (the so-called universal repertoire) staged in Catalan in the process of relegitimization and institutionalization of the Catalan stage? Is it still possible or desirable today, in this historically heteroglossic literary space, to construct a predominantly monolingual national repertoire? Public theatres in Catalonia are spaces that often exhibit international drama, as well as autochthonous work,
  2. 2. and where text-based drama (even in the form of original musical theatre, such as that of the professional company Dagoll Dagom) thrives alongside circus, dance and experimental forms of performance. The democratic period has produced new opportunities for safeguarding the Catalan historical repertoire (which includes the work of Joan Puig i Ferreter, Santiago Rusiñol, Josep Maria de Sagarra and Salvador Espriu), along with new mechanisms –workshops, prizes, festivals and subsidies– for cultivating the work of emerging Catalan dramatists, directors, choreographers and other theatre professionals. Are these opportunities sufficient, and are they on a par with European standards? Many would insist that they are not (at least, not yet). It is interesting to note, nonetheless, that national theatres have quite often predated the establishment of the nation states whose interests they would come to represent. And so, it would seem that Catalonia, at least from a theatrical perspective, is on the right path in its quest for sovereignty. In recent seasons, the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, currently under the direction of Xavier Albertí, has featured on its main stages momentous works by young playwrights that include Guillem Clua’s Marburg, Jordi Casanovas’s Una història catalana (“A Catalan Story”), Pere Riera’s Barcelona, and Josep Maria Miró’s Fum (“Smoke”). In recent seasons, we have also witnessed the consolidation of a new crop of dramatists who quite often have chosen to direct their own plays, thereby imposing their unique artistic visions upon the mise en scène and creating what can be described as a théâtre d’auteur. It is a phenomenon that, while already apparent during the late 1980s in the figure of Sergi Belbel, has culminated during the current decade with a sizeable cluster of names: Nao Albert and Marcel Borràs, Marc Angelet, Carles Be, Marta Buchaca, Jordi Casanovas, Marc Crehuet, Jordi Faura, Llàtzer Garcia, Carol López, Carles Mallol, Albert Mestres, Josep Maria Miró, Pau Miró, Iván Morales, Josep Pere Peyró, and Pere Riera. Many of their works are the result of opportunities emerging from the now discontinued “T6” program of the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya or from the Obrador workshop space of the Sala Beckett. In this contemporary landscape, women’s voices have acquired an increasingly innovative tone and thus an increased measure of protagonism, expressed in the work of playwrights Marta Buchaca, Cristina Clemente, Lluïsa Cunillé, Daniela Feixas, Carol López, Mercè Sarrias, Victoria Szpunberg and Helena Tornero, or that of directors Lourdes Barba, Glòria Balañà, Carme Portaceli and Magda Puyo. The vibrant tradition in Catalonia of image-based theatre and collective creation, practiced by companies with legendary historical trajectories (La Cubana, Comediants, La Fura dels Baus, Els Joglars and El Tricicle) continues to enjoy significant prestige both within and beyond Catalan borders. It is in some ways indebted to the innovative groundwork laid by experimental Catalan artist Joan Brossa, who, through his scenic poetry and paratheatrical activities, lent new meaning to the relationship between text and image in the twentieth century. Moreover, multiple hybrid artistic forms have emerged in Catalonia as a result of contemporary intersections between theatre and dance. In particular, the Barcelona locale known as the Mercat de les Flors (or “Flower Market”), under the artistic direction of Francesc Casadesús, has affirmed its interdisciplinary orientation as a space for cutting-edge work by international and Catalan choreographers and companies that include Àngels Margarit, Maria Muñoz and Pep Ramis, Ramon Oller and Sol Picó. Yet, perhaps, during these post-dictatorial years, the mere gesture of writing or staging a play in the Catalan language has served as the most blatant, crucial, o even politically charged, marker of identity. In its nearly forty-year history, the Teatre Lliure, in particular, currently under the artistic direction of Lluís Pasqual, has granted Catalan spectators access in their own language to the richness of the universal repertoire, creating a sense of collective identity among its spectators through the staging of an international gamut of plays. In the present era of globalization, a national culture, such as that of Catalonia, needs to be understood in relation to other cultures in order to survive. To stage a play in Catalan –even if it is a translation or adaptation of a text originally composed in another language– is, in effect, to inscribe and reclaim a specific cultural space. Thus, when two Barcelona companies, currently all the rage, Les Antonietes (under the direction of Oriol Tarrasón) and La Perla 29 (under the direction of Oriol Broggi), offer imaginative revisions of plays by authors that vary in range from Shakespeare to Ibsen, and from Valle Inclán to Friel, they are still, in a sense, speaking about Catalan culture. The micro-theatre format, popularized in Madrid, is now beginning to take hold in Barcelona. Àtic 22, MiniTea3, Sala Fènix, Teatre d’Estrangis and Terrats en Cultura are among the projects and places where brief works are staged in reduced (and, sometimes, even miniature) spaces or unconventional places, thereby lending new meaning to the intimate rapport between actor and spectator. While some have suggested, unconvincingly, that this minimalist phenomenon may be a function of the economic crisis, what matters is that it represents a sign of vitality and innovation, a signal that, no matter the circumstances, the Catalan theatre scene will no doubt continue to thrive, for it is a story of survival. Image by Teatralnet
  3. 3. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - February 2014 FURTHER READING The performing arts, between tradition and the avant-garde Institut Ramon Llull The performing arts in Catalonia are an expanding universe, a rich and healthy ecosystem because of the diversity of species within it. Different actions carried out in recent years have served to establish an area of coexistence for a great variety of projects. The widespread idea that the performing arts are one of the main assets of Catalan culture – constructed on a solid popular tradition – has made possible a fruitful coexistence of public, private and mixed initiatives, with notable success. The creative potential distributed among many diverse individualities, corresponding to virtually all the dramatic genres and styles, has in recent years given rise to a growing international projection. Catalonia exports dramatists, directors, artists and companies. From the early days to the present There is a tradition of the performing arts in Catalonia that has enabled them to evolve over time. In the late 1960s and the early 1970s, independent theatre paved the way for the boom in groups of collective creation, some of which began to conquer the street, connecting with the spirit of the fiesta and the longing for freedom after decades of repression under the Franco dictatorship. Historic companies of that time and others, created in the 1980s, are still active today: Els Joglars, Comediants, Dagoll Dagom, La Fura dels Baus, La Cubana, El Tricicle, Cesc Gelabert, Angels Margarit, Los Galindos, and others. The scene has been enriched with publicly-owned theatres like the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, the Teatre Lliure and the drama centre network with venues in Reus, Sabadell, Terrassa and Girona; with the complicity of private production companies, occasionally the driving force behind projects that go beyond frontiers and stereotypes, like Focus at the Teatre Romea or Bitò Produccions at the Festival Temporada Alta; with the renewing force of more recent initiatives like the Factoria Escènica Internacional (FEI) and the Antic Teatre, or the new fàbriques de creació promoted by the Ajuntament de Barcelona. Text-based theatre In recent years, a group of very diverse and plural playwrights has been creating an unabashed portrait of the society in which they live. This is the case with Lluïsa Cunillé, Josep Maria Miró, Pau Miró, Marc Rosich, Jordi Casanovas and Marta Buchaca. These names form the latest batch of creators that wish to tell the story of this country, a goal that has always been in the hearts of renowned playwrights like Josep Maria Benet i Jornet, a creator who has acted as a link between the theatre before and after Franco’s dictatorship. Benet i Jornet, with a long list of successes and acknowledgements throughout his career, was one of the first Catalan dramatists, after Àngel Guimerà, to project his work beyond the frontiers of his country. He was a pioneer; however, fortunately, these days a series of names, like Sergi Belbel, Esteve Soler, Guillem Clua, Pau Miró or Jordi Galceran have seen their plays premiered all over the world. All of them, and many other names, are part of a flowering of Catalan playwriting that is unparalleled in its own history and has been closely linked in recent years to the Obrador de la Sala Beckett. Non-text-based theatre This flowering, however, does not affect only text-based theatre: new idioms are also going through a good period. Àlex Serrano, loscorderos.sc, Jordi Oriol, Marcel.lí Antúnez, Roger Bernat, Sergi Faustino, Nico Baixas and El Conde de Torrefiel, among others, are demonstrating the vitality of the theatre of risk, a category that feeds on object theatre, movement, video, new technologies, or text-based plays themselves. One of the characteristics of the current Catalan scene is its transverse nature; thus, for example, we find dramatists and choreographers collaborating closely in the creation and production of their shows with circus performers, visual artists, musicians. Companies like Playground or Antigua i Barbuda are avant-garde theatre, but in fact, they are the latest phases of a tradition of dramatic mixing in the field of object theatre that goes back a long way: during the 1970s object theatre was in fact one of the forms most exploited by the then emerging street theatre. At that time, Joan Baixas and Teresa Calafell’s La Claca had already associated objects and puppets with the avant-garde plastic arts (to construct a show as ground-breaking as Mori el merma, in collaboration with Joan Miró). Street theatre With its privileged climate due to its Southern European location, Catalonia has managed to make the street one of its most fruitful performing laboratories. Companies like Els Comediants, Albert Vidal or, shortly afterwards, La Fura dels Baus and Artristras represented a Mediterranean response to the English-speaking influences of groups like the Living Theatre or Bread and Puppet. The international acknowledgment that street theatre today enjoys is in large part due to the Fira Tàrrega. Moreover, theatre for all kinds of audiences, currently articulated by the association TTP, is finding one of the essential stages in the street, while it is consolidating itself as an important component in theatres specializing in this genre.
  4. 4. Dance Contemporary dance also deserves attention; the latest batch of creators in this genre stand out in their own right: Roser López, Pere Faura, La Veronal, Vero Cendoya, Brodas Bros, Les filles Föllen or Lali Ayguadé. They are very diverse personalities that incorporate in their approach a lack of formal inhibition that breaks down the severity of the past and opens up new avenues of communication with the public. The latest phase of the Mercat de les Flors and the new creative factory El Graner have had a direct influence on the emergence of this new generation of choreographers. Mal Pelo, Sol Picó, Trànsit, Andrés Corchero and Senza Tempo, among others, form the main body of today’s contemporary dance. It has opened up to the world with its own interpretation of the evolution of the genre in Europe. Cesc Gelabert and Àngels Margarit were pioneers of this wish to speak with their own voice, and they now enjoy prestigious reputations on the international scene. Circus For its part circus has recently undergone a profound revolution – it has combined closely related performing arts, like theatre and contemporary dance, to change its look, form and content. Companies like Enfila’t, the Circ Teatre Modern, EIA or A Tempo are examples of a totally unabashed way of understanding the circus that works in new venues and seeks a new audience that understands the challenge and the poetry, the essence of the circus, as an integral part of a richer and more global artistic proposal. La Central del Circ and the APCC have been two crucial mechanisms for positioning our circus on the international scene. Theatre direction Lluís Pasqual, Calixto Bieito, Sergi Belbel, Carme Portaceli, Àlex Rigola, Joan Ollé, Xavier Albertí, Mario Gas, or the unclassifiable Carles Santos, have contributed a personal approach to universal repertory theatre while making forays into genres like opera and incorporating dance and movement into projects. Other names like Oriol Broggi, Julio Manrique, David Selvas, Carol López and Carlota Subirós, who have recently risen to the first division of Catalan theatre, have directed plays that have connected with a wide variety of audiences. Lastly, festivals that are currently held in Catalonia, like the Festival de Barcelona GREC, the Festival Temporada Alta in Girona, Festival NEO, Escena Poblenou or the TNT in Terrassa, are international showcases that display all the richness of Catalan performing arts. A crossroads of paths and cultures, Catalonia is a welcoming, cosmopolitan country with a profoundly European vocation. If companies like Els Joglars and Albert Vidal had already conquered Europe at the height of the Franco dictatorship, in recent years the Catalan performing arts have managed to produce and export a unique discourse of their own, combining the richness of their tradition with the diverse contributions of artists coming from all over the world. Beyond the creative individualities and characteristics typical of each performing art, Catalan productions are distinguished by a curious balance/imbalance between the necessary seny (serenity) and the essential rauxa (craziness) in all artistic creation. First published in Institut Ramon Llull Image by Institut Ramon Llull
  5. 5. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - February 2014 FURTHER READING Catalan Theatre is enjoying a Golden Age Jodi Coca - Visat There is general agreement as to the current state of Catalan theatre: it is enjoying a Golden Age, both in terms of the quantity of productions and the diversity of what is on offer. Indeed it is likely that the Catalan stage has never had so many factors in its favour as now. Beginning in 1977, following a democratic end to the dictatorship, Catalonia regained a part of its sovereignty, and subsequently the control over certain competencies, including culture, thanks to the Statute of Autonomy. Fortunately, the politicians of the new era were aware of the fact that theatre is not possible without an audience and, as such, it is an eminently social art. From 1980 onwards, public money began to be spent on the theatre in Catalonia, with the renowned Grec76 festival of 1976, organised by the municipality of Barcelona, serving as a precedent. The foundations began to be laid down for what was eventually to become the current reality. Nonetheless, it would be naive to believe that these policies spontaneously emerged out of nowhere. A constant battle was waged for the right to regain the theatre in Catalan (starting in 1946 at the latest), as it figured on a long list of items which were banned by the dictatorship in 1939. The Drama Association of Barcelona (ADB) was established in 1954, led by the director and critic Frederic Roda. Unfortunately the ADB, which had made a significant aesthetic and ideological contribution, was banned in 1963. Nevertheless, in 1960 another project was begun, in this case made possible by Ricard Salvat, in collaboration with a broad range of major figures from Catalonia’s cultural universe, most notably Maria Aurèlia Capmany. It was to become the Adrià Gual Catalan School of Dramatic Art (EADAG), which was in existence right up until 1975. Both organizations, together with the Institut del Teatre, directed by Hermann Bonnín from 1970 to 1980, encouraged professionalization through the teaching of many elements of what at the time was known as Independent Theatre. These events, together with a series of awards for dramatic literature and the dedication of many people, led to a proliferation of initiatives throughout Catalonia. This became apparent in the work of theatre companies such as Els Joglars, Comediants and Dagoll Dagom and later La Fura dels Baus, some of whom made an international impact. Overall, these theatre companies operated with a very different aesthetic, ranging from experimental theatre to those with a great international repertoire, attempts to revive Catalan artists from earlier periods, mime, puppetry, musicals and so on. Initially, of course, this was done via a resistance movement, testing the tolerance of the dictatorship, which over the years was obliged to show a little more flexibility. Later, there was an uneasy partnership with the new authorities. 1976 also saw the foundation of the Teatre Lliure (Free Theatre), led by Fabià Puigserver following the model of the Piccolo Teatro di Milano, which set out to overcome the former technical and artistic shortcomings. Indeed the Lliure enhanced acting methods, the staging, programs, management, planning and prestige of the theatre, while gradually seeing its audiences grow in number. From 1980, following the continual pressure on democratic politicians, the autonomic government and local councils were obliged to set in place certain policies for the theatre. It was doubtless open to criticism, but it made possible the current offering, with all its pros and cons: the creation of the Drama Centre of Catalonia, converting el Mercat de les Flors (the Flower Market) into a theatre space, Josep Maria Flotats’ return to the theatre and the subsequent creation of the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya, the growth of the Teatre Lliure, the recovery of theatres throughout the country, support for private theatre, the consolidation of the Institut del Teatre’s reputation and so on. These are clues as to why the current situation is such a healthy one. Beginning all of a sudden, a new generation of writers and directors realised that their talents could be developed in acceptable ways. There is an awareness that Catalan is a minority language, however, people realise that it needs to go in search of new audiences while bringing the shows closer to mainstream tastes. This has led to a large increase in what is on offer and a much healthier balance between supply and demand. It has coincided with the emergence of commercial theatre which was hitherto virtually non-existent due to the lack of a market. The cost of arriving at this point, a cost which could be seen as both unnecessary and unjust, is to resign to oblivion the elements from the past I have just mentioned, except for the figure of Fabià Puigserver and the works of Josep Maria Benet i Jornet. These became a reference point for some of the new men and women of Catalan theatre. The rest have disappeared into the anonymity of the past, leading to instances of injustice, such as the fact that the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya (TNC) has taken a decade to put on works by some of the key Catalan playwrights of the twentieth century, including Joan Oliver, Carles Soldevila, Joan Brossa and Salvador Espriu, among others. Still pending are such figures as Josep Palau i Fabre, Maria Aurèlia Capmany, Manuel de Pedrolo and many more. Also missing from the programming are the majority of the writers who made Independent Theatre a reality, such as Josep Maria Muñoz Pujol, Alexandre Ballester, Jaume Melendres, Rodolf Sirera, Jordi Teixidor, Joan Casas, Manuel Molins and many more. This is the current situation. So, we join Villon in asking, ‘and now where are the snows of yesteryear?’ These so-called ‘alternative’ theatres (a term which has now fallen out of favour) sought (and continue to seek) to make up for the programming criteria of publicly-funded theatre which, with the exception of dance, tend to be profoundly conservative and similar to the interests of commercial theatre, which tries to avoid taking risks at all costs, whether they be aesthetic, ideological or dramatic in nature. So far we haven’t had our own generation of angry young artists to shake up the calm, optimistic and comfortable bourgeois scene, like the English did. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to say we’ve never had our own assortment of big names dedicated to writing and directing theatre with widely differing characteristics: commercial theatre, light theatre, theatre with
  6. 6. Pinteresque roots and so on. The list of writers is endless, but to name a few, we have: Jordi Galcerán, Sergi Belbel, Lluïsa Cunillé, Carol López, Albert Espinosa, Jordi Casanovas, Enric Nolla, Carles Batlle, Albert Mestres, Victòria Szpunberg, Marc Rosic, Emiliano Pastor, Gemma Rodríguez, Gerard Vàzquez, Carles Mallol and many more. To complete the picture of the current situation we should also mention the young directors. Contemporary Catalan theatre has the added appeal of being a land to be explored, a new land that has naturally arisen from an adaptation of major European dramaturgical currents. During the sixties and seventies Catalan writers were mostly influenced by Brecht for obvious reasons relating to political opposition to the dictatorship, or at least they had realist roots. Nowadays most are based on famous names such as Beckett, Pinter, Bernhard and so on. Nevertheless, there are those who look elsewhere for inspiration, whether in the comedies of Woody Allen, the fragility of Chekhov, or the formula of false intrigue found in the plays of Agatha Christie. Perhaps we lack the essence, but for better or for worse, it is true that one can find a bit of everything in contemporary Catalan theatre. This alone is a reason to want to wish to join in. First published in Visat Image by ACN
  7. 7. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - February 2014 FURTHER READING The Footprints of Catalan Theatre in Germany Víctor-León Oller I first arrived in Munich in 1984, thanks to a generous grant from the Goethe Institute, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the International Theatre Institute. I was to work at the Münchner Kammerspiele, where Bertolt Brecht began his career, surrounded by German intellectuals such as George Tabori, Thomas Bernhard, Herbert Achternbusch, Heiner Müller, Bernd Wilms, Bruno Ganz, Hanna Schygulla and many others. Back in the early eighties, no one, or virtually no one, had heard of Catalan theatre. So great was the ignorance of our theatre, that during the almost three years that I was to form a part of the Greek army, torturing and mistreating Walter Jens and George Tabori’s version of Aeschylus’ Trojan plays, my cries on stage in pure Catalan were taken to be a form of archaic Greek or an equally exotic and incomprehensible language, the work of Tabori’s genius as director. This is not to say that the footprints of Catalan men of the theatre, who had worked in the German language before me, whether in Austria, Switzerland or the two German states, maestros such as Ricard Salvat, among others, hadn’t left their mark. Nevertheless, the German-speaking theatre was such a vast ocean, with more than fifteen hundred national and municipal theatres, each putting on between five and twelve plays a year or so (from a thousand to one thousand two hundred premieres per season, in addition to those by numerous smaller, subsidized theatres) that the footprints of a few Catalan Robinson Crusoes went virtually unnoticed. Nevertheless, they managed to create strong bonds of friendship and opened up avenues of mutual interest. In all the years I worked as a stage director, putting on a dozen plays around the German-speaking world, I never had the opportunity to perform the work of a Catalan writer. Aside from an attempt to stage a selection of pieces by Joan Brossa at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien, a short distance from the Berlin Wall, during the 1985-1986 season, ¡Ay, Carmela! (Oh Carmela!), the first work to be staged in Austria, at the Kleines Theater in Salzburg in 1994 (after having been performed in Germany a few years earlier at the Berliner Ensemble), was the work of a man who is very dear to modern Catalan theatre, which he has done a great deal to promote with his Barcelona-based Teatro Fronterizo and Sala Beckett: José Sanchis Sinisterra. I mention Sinisterra because, while I was entering the world of contemporary German theatre, it gradually emerged who was the real star, or rather, the tip of the iceberg of Catalan theatre: the writer Sergi Belbel. His origins can be traced back to the group which formed around the Sala Beckett. I shall return to him later. Meanwhile, in the nineties the Catalan theatre groups Comediants, Els Joglars, and in particular La Fura dels Baus were in the vanguard of Catalan theatre in terms of the recognition and admiration of mainstream audiences of mainly young people. La Fura’s performances in Berlin’s Tempodrom near the Reichstag, were eagerly awaited every year, extremely well received by critics and almost always full to bursting. Their unique aesthetic, overflowing with energy, was often labelled ‘Theater der Gewalt’ (Theater of Violence). It blended perfectly with a Berlin devastated by a distant, yet ever-present war, split in two by another war, a still-warm Cold War of concrete and webs of barbed wire. An alternative city, thanks to a thrilling clash of creative forces, the waves of which had caused the Wall to fall and which are still being felt. Many theatre groups, directors like Franz Castorf and artists let themselves be influenced, whether directly or indirectly, by this group of outlandish and provocative youths from Moià, with a mysterious name. Not only the artistic community welcomed them but also the German automobile industry; Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen commissioned La Fura to promote their products. What more could one want? For the Germans it was a completely new means of theatrical expression. In Germany, it is almost impossible to connect La Fura or Comediants with the tradition of medieval or street theatre, with the dances of death and La Patum. It would take an ethnologist to do so. In central Europe such popular theatre disappeared from the collective consciousness centuries ago, their only traces being found in carnival celebrations, or Basle’s Fastnacht in the Swiss Alps, or the German Fasnet, which are far removed. If we take a look at visual theatre, with music and movement, we must mention Cesc Gelabert, who is close to the German tradition of ‘Ausdruckstanz’. Since his performance at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin in 1985, he has regularly participated in the Hebbel-Theater’s TanzWerkstatt (Dance Workshop), at the Komische Oper and of course the Akademie der Künste’s dance festivals since 1988, both with the Gelabert-Azzopardi dance company and alone. Thanks to the attention he has received as a choreographer, he was granted a scholarship by the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) in 1992. He is not only admired for his work in Berlin but also in Leipzig (1998), Dresden (2003), Munich (2006) and many other places. Obviously, it is not possible to list all the appearances of the numerous Catalan collectives and companies which have performed over the last twenty-five years in German-speaking countries, even those by the companies I have already mentioned. Nevertheless, I would like to emphasize the degree to which Catalan theatre and culture have gradually come to be known on the German theatre scene and in the public Central-European consciousness in general. This is not only thanks to the work of public institutions, but also, and foremost, down to individuals with very diverse interests who are enthusiastic and committed to the dissemination of Catalan theatre. This has generally not been for its own sake, but due to the impact certain works made or written in Catalonia have on the German public. Translating a work inevitably involves removing it from one cultural context and inserting it into another, though we could put it another way. In other words: if one wants to perform a text from Catalan theatre in Germany, it will become a German play translated from Catalan. The
  8. 8. average Bavarian, Saxon, Prussian or Swabian audience-member will be unable to discriminate the ‘Catalan’ nature of the text, unless it is explicitly pointed out, from the ‘High German’ or ‘Biblical German’, which is the language that has been used on the stage for centuries. This means that the audience of Àngel Guimerà/Xavier Bru de Sala’s Mar i cel (Sea and Sky), translated and staged by Hartmut H. Forche at the Halle Opernhaus in March 2007, won’t have appreciated it as a classic of Catalan theatre hidden within the form of a musical. Rather, they will have seen reflected the conflicts that they were witnesses to, in Halle or other places, between the German (European and Christian) and Turkish (Asian and Muslim) cultures. It is the same when we see Romeo and Juliet in Catalan. We don’t think about British culture, even though it was written by Shakespeare, instead we let it transport us directly to Italy or conflicts between large families in our country or the tragedy of forbidden love. The universality of plays which have been translated into another language often blurs the peculiarities of a work’s origins. This makes the efforts of certain German intellectuals, scholars and professionals to spread the word about Catalan theatre in their country all the more commendable. One who has achieved such a feat is Wolfgang Schuch, the former director of the publisher Henschel Schauspiel, which, in the dark days of the German Democratic Republic, translated and published James Melendres’ Meridians and parallels, thus taking on the risk that it would not be performed. As he himself told me, a German director who worked in Barcelona told him about a young writer who had just had performed a very interesting play entitled Tàlem (Thalamus). He contacted him and obtained a copy of his latest work, Carícies (Caresses). The young writer was Sergi Belbel. In the early nineties Schuch invited him to do some readings of his plays at the Deutsches Theater and the Literaturhaus in Berlin. Nevertheless, the publisher, who also acted as an agent, took around two years to get a theatre interested in putting on works by Belbel, in spite of the fact Klaus Laabs had already translated them for Henschel. Carícies was first performed at the Münchner Kammerspiele on March 25, 1995, where my German adventure had begun. The work was well received, but talking with the actors I realized, as was soon to be confirmed, that they were excited about the text, as it leaves plenty of room for the actor’s creative freedom. Unfortunately, the public and the critics did not share in this enthusiasm, though in general one can speak of the success of the first performances of Liebkosungen as well as the other seven times it has subsequently been staged. A short time later, on November 17 of the same year, the Hamburg Schauspielhaus premiered Després de la pluja (Nach dem Regen, After the Rain), also from a translation by Klaus Laabs. It was to be Belbel’s first great success in the German-speaking world. Thirty-seven productions in different theatres are an excellent testimony to the welcome the text received. A year and a half later, on 25 March 1997, Tàlem opened at the Landesbühne Esslingen in Württemberg, in a translation by Klaus Laabs (Spielweise, zwei im Quadrat in German). The first production took place six months later in Basel, Switzerland under the guidance of the Catalan director and translator Maurici Farré. To date there have been seven different productions of this work in German. On 18 September 1998, Bielefeld Theater put on a production of En companyia d’abisme (In Gesellschaft von Abgrund, In the Company of the Abyss), together with the short piece L’ajudant (The Helper), which have both been performed twice since. However, four months earlier, on 30 May 1998, the State Theatre of Dresden (Staatsschauspiel Dresden) premiered what was to be Belbel’s second major success in Germany, Morir (Die). Klaus Laabs, the translator who had become something of a specialist in Belbel, entitled the play Ein Augenblick vor dem Sterben (A Moment Before Dying). Thanks to Morir having been staged thirty-two times, Sergi Belbel consolidated his fame as a playwright throughout the German-speaking world and Catalan theatre finally began to make an impression on the contemporary Central European theatre scene. Since the turn of the century Belbel has released Sang (Blood) (Mannheim, 2000), with five different productions; El temps de Planck (Planck Time) (Frankfurt, 2002), with four productions; Forasters (Strangers) (Leipzig, 2006), with an excellent title in German Wildfremde, by Klaus Laabs, and the new hit comedy, Mòbil (Mobile) (Hanover, 2006), which has already had eleven different productions. Although Berlin’s Deutsches Theater‘s production was somewhat flawed, there have been others, such as the Hans Otto Theater in Potsdam, which was a complete success. A few years ago, at the end of 2007, the publisher Henschel Schauspiel even published a book with three works by Belbel. Wolfgang Schuch’s dedication has borne fruit: Klaus Laabs, who was a translator from Spanish and French, learnt Catalan at nearly fifty years of age in order to translate Belbel from the original. Now it is up to others to join him. Josep Benet i Jornet has had five works translated into German, also by Klaus Laabs. Three of them have been performed: Desig Desire (Bonn, 1997), which has had four productions; Testament (Constance, 2000), which was performed in Constance, and Això, a un fill, no se li fa (One Doesn’t Do This to a Child) (Graz, 2002), Slips in German, which has had three productions. The publisher Merlin has translated four works by Carles Batlle, and published his play Trànsit (Traffic) which included an interview with the author. Versuchung was staged in German at the Burgtheater in Vienna on 3 December 2004, and has been performed in Tübingen (2005) and Krefeld (2007). The Grönholm method by Jordi Galceran, has been another success, with over fifteen productions since it was released, and if I’m not mistaken, it is currently being performed at three German theatres. Contemporary Catalan drama is unquestionably becoming established in the German-speaking world. Many years have passed since my exotic cries on the stage of the Münchner Kammerspiele, and today, after the many vicissitudes of representatives of the world of Catalan theatre in Germany, the ever-scarce backing of institutions for possible translations of plays, the Olympic Games of 1992 and the Frankfurt Book Fair of 2007, there are very few intellectuals or indeed members of the public with an interest in the arts who are unaware of the existence of Catalan culture and theatre. First published in: ARNAU PONS i SIMONA SKRABEC, Carrers de frontera. Passatges de la cultura alemanya a la cultura catalana. Barcelona: Institut Ramon Llull, 2008, vol. II. Image by ACN
  9. 9. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - February 2014 OPINION 9-N: The Problem or the Solution? Victòria Forns Nationalism varies depending on the individuals involved. It has become stronger in Catalonia, while Madrid continues to insist that the referendum of November 9th won’t take place. The latter appears incapable of dealing with what some political parties consider to be a problem, but which many others see as a solution. Some seek to label the process ‘secession’, while others call it ‘an end to bad habits’. When the Parliament of Catalonia voted in favour of a motion calling on Congress grant them the power to hold a referendum, it was a major step. However, it has been received in Madrid with fear and mistrust, whilst causing a rupture within the PSC and putting its leader, Pere Navarro, on the ropes. The fear arose from the fact that Artur Mas’ government has refused to back down over its inability to hold talks due to the lack of substance in the other side’s arguments. In the near future, a future which is fast-approaching, a referendum will be held in Scotland, just two months before Catalonia’s. While it is true that we must interpret the results carefully, we must be equally careful not to extrapolate their significance. This is mainly because things are being done very differently in the UK. The British government has temporarily relinquished its powers to Scotland in order to carry out the referendum, while in Catalonia we have been met with a resounding ‘no’ from the very start. The Tory Party, one of the most conservative governments in Europe, has taught the PP (a party which revels in being labelled archaic and retrograde) a lesson. We already knew that Madrid would stand in our way, but the position adopted by certain parties within the Parliament of Catalonia never cease to amaze. They have helped to challenge the people of Catalonia, who have historically been subjected to a legal situation of insecurity and a lack of respect. For them the future is also to be feared, since they have no wish to see beyond the guidelines laid down by their party leaders in Madrid. President Mas made himself clear to the BBC when he enquired, ‘How can you convince the Catalans that they don’t have the right to vote?’, since democratic reasons need to be found to impede a referendum and these, as much as we might look for them, do not exist. Those who threaten us only serve to strengthen those of us who wish to vote. By imposing their view they provoke an intellectual, cultural and social rebellion which weakens them, while uniting us all. Nevertheless, in spite of fierce opposition and a lack of respect, November 9th will come and we will have to make a decision. The world is watching us closely and respectfully to see how we behave, while closer to home we are despised. Luckily, while Spain’s president Mariano Rajoy claims he has a plan for Catalonia (which is his excuse for refusing the referendum) Catalonia’s president, Artur Mas, with the support of the majority of parliament, is helping us achieve our goal, which is also a challenge. The dream will soon become a reality: the ability to decide on our own future. First published in: e-Noticíes Image: Victòria Font’s Twitter
  10. 10. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - February 2014 OPINION Catalan leader Artur Mas praises UK mentality BBC News The President of the Generalitat de Catalunya Artur Mas, has praised Britain’s pragmatic approach to the referendum on Scottish independence, saying it is likely to hold the UK together. In contrast, Artur Mas told the BBC that Spain’s tough stance is driving Catalonia further towards independence. Below you can see the interview with Artur Mas by the BBC: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-25777467 First published in BBC News
  11. 11. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - February 2014 OPINION Dialogue Requires a Referendum Núria Bosch - Diari ARA We Catalans view the process taking place in Scotland concerning a referendum as to a possible secession from the United Kingdom with a mixture of envy and admiration: the British government is behaving completely the opposite of the Spanish government. First, the British government recognizes the Right to Decide, thus demonstrating a fully-democratic attitude in response to calls from society to exercise the right to vote, something which no democrat is able to ignore. Second, the UK government is trying to minimize the cost of the process, by seeking to reduce the extent to which the functioning of the economy will be distorted. An example of this is the announcement that it will assume all of the UK’s debt if Scotland gains independence. It wishes to send a signal to the markets that Scottish independence won’t have disastrous consequences. It wants to reassure investors and the markets and avoid increasing the risk premium, which would occur if investors thought that Scotland would assume part of the debt, since it has no credit history and therefore would be seen to be less reliable. Such an approach means that the British government will wage a positive campaign in favour of the union, i.e. in favour of a ‘no’ vote in the Scottish referendum. Rather than emphasising the potential disasters that might follow Scottish independence, it stresses the advantages for the Scots to staying in the UK. Meanwhile, the process we are experiencing in Catalonia is completely the opposite. First, the Spanish government is refusing us the Right to Decide, thus ignoring the wishes of 80% of Catalans who want the referendum. Second, it is conducting a negative campaign. It only focuses on the misfortunes that would befall Catalonia if it were to become independent. They have not made an offer which is in the least bit attractive to Catalan citizens in order to make them reconsider whether it is better to remain within Spain. They are utterly inflexible. They are not even prepared to play along by tempting Catalonia with the carrot of unique regional funding. Many Catalans may well choose to remain part of Spain out of fear, after hearing what the Spanish government has to say on the subject. In spite of total intransigence and negative campaigning against Catalan aspirations, progress is being made in Catalonia towards a referendum. It is apparent that if the Spanish government refuses to move and if Catalonia continues to advance in the opposite direction to what the state wishes, eventually a rupture will occur, or what many are calling a ‘train wreck’. Indeed, it may become a question of the size of the train wreck, since the crash is already occurring every day. To avoid the crash, some are calling for Catalonia and Spain to turn to dialogue and reach an agreement once more, as they have been doing for the past 300 years. But these individuals ought to realise that the best means of conducting a dialogue between the two sides is by holding a referendum. Last week a large majority of the Catalan Parliament asked the state if it could hold a referendum by employing one of the several legal avenues which are available to it. This is a serious offer of dialogue between the government of Catalonia and Spain. What better form of dialogue can exist than to let the public be heard? The Spanish government must appreciate that a referendum is not synonymous with independence. Indeed, it is a means for supporters of the union to express themselves and present their arguments, in the same way as supporters of independence can do so. Thanks to the campaign preceding the referendum, both sides will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of independence and unionism. The public will be able to speak. Holding the referendum and agreeing to respect its outcome would avoid the potential train wreck that is so worrying to some, while avoiding statements that only mention the possible negative consequences of the independence of Catalonia. One such report is the prediction made recently by the credit rating agency Moody’s, which said that Catalan secession would be catastrophic for Spain and that Catalonia would also suffer negative consequences. If the Spanish government authorized the referendum it would send a signal to the world that the path Catalonia is following is well on-track, that whatever the outcome may be, everything will be fine. If there is agreement, if the outcome were favourable to the secession of Catalonia, numerous solutions could be found to ensure there were no negative consequences for the Spanish economy. Obviously, dialogue is of utmost importance, but the best dialogue necessarily involves holding a referendum. It should also be said that although the Spanish government currently opposes it, if the train crash occurs and Catalonia becomes independent, sooner or later it will be forced to negotiate for economic reasons, largely because it is unable to take on the entirety of Spanish public debt alone. First published in diari ARA Photo published in Investigaciones Regionales
  12. 12. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - February 2014 IN DEPTH Improving the quality of liberal democracies in plurinational contexts Ferran Requejo - Catalan International View Liberal democracies are always incomplete systems when we compare their values and legitimizing language with their constitutional rights, institutions and practical decision-making processes. Scepticism regarding the interpretation of liberal-democratic values always appears when we contrast what these values say with what reality shows us. It would appear that the first step in solving a problem is to try to describe or to define it correctly. This involves establishing at least three aspects. The first is knowing how to recognize what the basic issue is, identifying the key question that needs to be answered. The second is that defining a problem also involves knowing how to define it with the utmost precision. This implies both a careful conceptual treatment and the inclusion of elements of a historical nature and the most important empirical data related to the problem. Thirdly, defining a problem involves knowing where one has to look to find possible solutions, both in the sphere of political theory and in that of comparative politics. When we have a question and do not know where to search for the answers, it normally means that from an epistemological perspective we are not on the right track. One of the most important questions with regard to the case of plurinational democracies is the recognition and political accommodation of the national pluralism of these democracies. Clearly, in addition to this question there are probably a whole series of interrelated aspects: economic development; inequalities of income; multiculturality; or integration in supra-state organisations, such as the European Union. However, it is methodologically improper to conflate all of these elements from the outset. In this case, the key point is not to establish how the demos becomes kratos (this would be the traditional vision of democracy) but how the different national demoi which coexist within the same democracy are politically and constitutionally recognised and accommodated in terms of equality (between the national majorities and minorities) in the kratos of the polity. This involves dealing with and introducing aspects of both a ‘democratic’ nature (participation between majorities and minorities in the ‘shared government’) and, above all, of a ‘liberal’ nature: the protection and development of minority nations confronting the ‘tyranny of the (national) majority’, both in the internal sphere of this democracy and in the international sphere. It is, therefore, a matter of establishing the ‘checks and balances’ in a collective dimension which have received little or no attention from traditional political conceptions, but which constitute specific dimensions of core questions of liberal political theory and constitutionalism. Almost a decade ago, the United Nations clearly established that a politics of recognition is an integral part of the struggle for human dignity (Human Development Report, 2004). Moreover, it established that national and cultural freedoms, which include both individual and collective dimensions, are an essential part of the democratic quality of a plurinational society. Moreover, the importance that cultural and national features have for the self-understanding and self-esteem of individuals has been highlighted in the last two decades. As a result, values such as dignity, freedom, equality and pluralism become more complex in plurinational contexts than in those of a uninational nature. The overall challenge of plurinational democracies can be summed up in the phrase ‘one polity, several demoi’. Research linked to this challenge has also revealed the inability of the liberal, democratic and social rights included in constitutions to regulate an egalitarian and equitable treatment of individuals belonging to national minorities. Moreover, it has revealed the fact that it is impossible for states to play a culturally and nationally neutral role similar to that which they could establish (at least in principle) regarding other phenomena, such as religion. Consequently, in many cases, national groups have an important moral role to play in not exhausting the individual components and dimensions of the basic values of liberty, pluralism and political equality. Analyses undertaken in political science, political theory and constitutionalism have identified certain elements for the construction of increasingly refined liberal democracies in terms of the political accommodation of cultural and national pluralism. The following is a simple list of factual, analytical and normative elements that, I believe must be taken into account in the analysis of this kind of democracy. A) Factual elements 1) In practical terms, most human beings are culturally and nationally rooted. 2) Classical liberal and democratic political theories were created in much simpler contexts than present-day societies. 3) Nation-building processes exist in all states, including liberal-democratic ones. Every state is an agent of nationalism and nationalisation. There exist values, interests and identities which are at least partially competitive in plurinational democracies. Also present are competing narratives and reconstructions of history and collective memories. 4) The abstract and universalist language that underlies the liberal values of liberty, equality and pluralism has contrasted, in practical terms, with the exclusion of a number of voices with regard to the regulation of specific liberties, equalities and pluralisms of contemporary societies (those who did not own property, women, indigenous peoples, ethnic, linguistic and national minorities).
  13. 13. 5) National hegemonic groups in a state usually treat the internal, national differences of democracies as ‘particularist deviations’. A practical response has been to promote the cultural and national assimilation of minorities in order to achieve their ‘political integration’. The practical consequence: the marginalisation of internal national minorities in the name of ‘citizenship’ and ‘popular sovereignty’ (of the state). 6) Minority groups give rise to specific questions regarding recognition and political accommodation (group rights, self-government, defence of particular cultural values, presence in the international arena, etc.). They also highlight the lack of liberal, democratic and social rights to protect and develop the cultural and national features of minorities. 7) Nation-building and state-building processes have conditioned the conception (theory) and evolution (practices) of institutional solutions, such as federalism. B) Normative elements 1) Cultural and national liberties are elements contributing towards the quality of a democracy. These liberties are important for the self-understanding and self-esteem of individuals (United Nations, Human Development Report 2004). 2) The normative importance of historical events. The political contexts in which individuals are socialised are often the result of historical processes that usually include violent elements (wars of annexation, exterminations, mass deportations, etc) which are sometimes at the root of modern-day struggles for the recognition and selfgovernment of minority (stateless) nations. 3) Two general theoretical attitudes in policy-making when dealing with national pluralism: pragmatic (to try to avoid conflicts in the least costly way possible) and moral (to approach them as a question of ‘justice’ -fair relations between permanent national majorities and minorities). 4) Two general theoretical paradigms in relation to questions of socioeconomic or cultural/national justice in pluralist societies: a paradigm of equality (distribution) versus a paradigm of difference (recognition and political accommodation). 5) The lack of a theory of demos (or demoi) in traditional theories of democracy (whether they be of a more liberal or a more republican nature). The lack of a liberal theory of legitimised borders. 6) The state as a ‘culturally neutral’ entity is a myth of traditional liberalism. 7) Individual and collective identities are not fixed, but rather we make choices from them. The belief that we are ‘autonomous individuals’ who choose our national, ethnic, linguistic, religious, and other identities is, to a great extent, a further myth of traditional liberalism. 8) Flaws in traditional liberalism based on its individualist, universalist and statist elements when they are applied to plurinational societies (nationally homogenizing conceptions of ‘citizenship’ and ‘popular sovereignty’). Classical institutional responses Whatever the most suitable liberal-democratic solution or solutions may be will obviously depend on the context of each specific case (its history, international situation, types of actors, political culture, etc.). Nevertheless, it seems apparent that in contexts of national pluralism it is necessary to establish a much more refined interpretation than that offered by the basic values of traditional liberal-democratic constitutionalism: liberty, equality, individual dignity and pluralism. This complexity demands theories that are more sensitive and modulated to the variations of empirical reality when one attempts to clearly identify its basic legitimising values. Moreover, it demands, above all, practical, institutional and procedural solutions that are much more suited to the type of pluralism that one wishes to accommodate. This continues to be aspects of the liberaldemocratic agenda that have yet to be satisfactorily resolved. The three ‘classic’ institutional responses for societies with a strong component of national diversity have been: 1. Federalism: in a wide sense, including federations (mainly asymmetrical), associated states-‘federacies’, confederations and regional states. 2. Consociationalism: institutions and processes of a ‘consociational’ nature (based on consensus between the majorities and permanent national minorities). One can find examples of these institutions and processes in the democracies of Switzerland and Belgium, in both cases in conjunction with federal solutions. 3. Secession: in recent years, a number of analyses have shown the biased and impoverished nature of traditional liberal theories when they are applied to contexts with strong components of national pluralism. In other words, when they are applied to plurinational democracies such as Belgium, Canada, Spain or the United Kingdom. One might enquire into the theoretical roots of such partiality or bias, which is present in the interpretation of the individualistic, universalist and statist components of those roots (beyond the institutional and procedural questions that these analyses have revealed with regard to the difficulties of establishing a satisfactory recognition and political accommodation of national minorities in these contexts). A final generic question is what is the basic conceptual framework to which the notion of pluralism present in the classical liberal theories is linked. I believe that at least part of the intellectual difficulties of classical liberal theories in plurinational contexts is related to their philosophical foundations, which in many cases refer only to Kantian approaches. Somewhere I have proposed what I call a specific ‘Hegelian turn’ in order to provide a number of philosophical foundations that are more suitable to approaching and regulating, in liberal terms, the kind of pluralism present in plurinational democracies, but this point would deserve an article of its own. Ferran Requejo: Is full Professor of Political Science at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Barcelona). His recent books include Federalism, Plurinationality and Democratic Constitutionalism: Theory and Cases, (Routledge, 2012) and Federalism beyond Federations (Ashgate, 2011). First published in Catalan International View Photo by Catalan International View
  14. 14. seven communities, one language eurocatalan newsletter The Catalan Theatre Scene. A Story of Survival issue #24 - February 2014 OUR CULTURE OUR HISTORY Dramaturgy Culturcat - Generalitat de Catalunya Modern Catalan theatre commenced with Serafí Pitarra and continued with authors like the romantic Àngel Guimerà, the naturalist Ignasi Iglésias, Santiago Rusiñol, who cultivated symbolist theatre, and Joan Puig Ferreter. Later on, the bourgeoisie comedies of Carles Soldevila arrived, as did the poetical dramas of Josep Maria de Sagarra, the ‘Antígona’ [Antigone] by Salvador Espriu and the stage poetry of Joan Brossa. From the 1960’s onwards a new generation of playwrights appeared, with names like Josep Maria Benet Jornet and Jordi Teixidor. In the 1980’s, with Sergi Belbel, a new period commenced in which they dealt with contemporary themes and reflected upon the preoccupations of the individual. After the second half of the nineteenth century, with the ‘Renaixença’ movement, Catalan theatre experienced a notable revival, as did other literary genres. Amongst the most highlighted playwrights, we find Frederic Soler, known by his pen name ‘Serafí Pitarra’, who is considered to be the founder of modern Catalan theatre. He wrote both parodies – ‘L’esquella de la torratxa’ [The bell of the tower] (1864) and ‘El castell dels Tres Dragons’ [The castle of the Three Dragons] (1865) – and bourgeoisie dramas – ‘Les joies de la Roser’ [Roser’s jewels] (1866) – and completely romantic pieces – ‘La dida’ [The Wetnurse] (1872) and ‘El ferrer de tall’ [The cutting blacksmith] (1874). Pitarra moved the colloquial language and popular themes to his texts and, with Àngel Guimerà, is one of the best exponents of romanticism. In his works Guimerà crossed linguistic frontiers. In his theatrical pieces we find problems often tied to the social context and which approach human conflicts and from which there derives a conservative vision of reality. ‘Mar i cel’ [Sea and sky] (1888), ‘Maria Rosa’ (1894) and ‘Terra baixa’ [Low lands] (1897) are examples, amongst many others, of pieces which gained large audience successes and which have become classics. In the Valencian region, Eduard Escalante had a lot of popular success with pieces like ‘Bufar en caldo gelat’ [Blow on cold broth] (1869), ‘La xala’ [The party] (1871) and ‘La Patti de Peixcaors’ (1884) and created a trend which many later playwrights have followed. These are pieces of large comedic strength which have emerged from the Valencian artisan barrios, as can be seen in the colloquial dialogues, of great documental value. The modernists were the great introducers of the European theatrical tendencies onto the Catalan stages. Therefore, Ignasi Iglésias, who was influenced by Ibsen and Maeterlinck and Hauptmann, wrote naturalist dramas which were very rooted in the working-class movements, like ‘El cor del poble’ [The heart of people] (1902), ‘Els vells’ [Old men] (1903) and ‘Les garses’ [The herons] (1905). Santiago Rusiñol, who approached the bourgeoisie drama from the hypothesis of art for art, cultivated symbolist theatre in works like ‘L’alegria que passa’ [Happiness that goes] (1891) and ‘El jardí abandonat’ [The abandoned garden] (1900), and the poising of collective conflicts in ‘L’heroi’ [The hero] (1903). The theatrical production of Adrià Gual is also framed in the theories of art for art and, furthermore, various artistic manifestations converge in it, as we see in ‘Nocturn’ [Nocturne] (1896). We must also point out ‘Misteri de dolor’ [Mystery of pain] (1904) with which he had a lot of success. Joan Puig Ferreter, who was influenced by Ibsen and Chekov, triumphed with ‘Aigües encantades’ [Enchanted waters] (1908) and ‘La dama enamorada’ [The maiden in love] (1908), where passions are mixed with collective conflicts. Juli Vallmitjana portrayed the low Barcelonan depths in his works and the customs and language of the gypsies in ‘Els zin-calós’ [The gipsies] (1911), ‘Cants d’orient’ [Chants of orient] (1923) and ‘La caravana perduda’ [The lost caravan] (1929). With regards to the ‘noucentista’ theatre, we find in Carles Soldevila the greatest representative who tried to educate and Europeanise the Catalan bourgeoisie with custom-inspired bourgeoisie comedies like ‘Civilitzats tanmateix’ [Civilised, nonetheless] (1922), ‘Bola de neu’ [Snow ball] (1926) and ‘Els millions de l’oncle’ [The uncle’s millions] (1927). Holding a more critical position towards the bourgeoisie, Millàs-Raurell debuted ‘La llotja’ [The lodge] (1928). In the gypsy population he also found a plot for the play ‘Xandí’ (1931), although the end result was more cartoon-like than that achieved by Vallmitjana. In the 30’s, Josep Maria de Sagarra became very popular for his dramatic poems, especially with ‘La corona d’espines’ [The crown of thorns] (1930), ‘L’Hostal de la Glòria’ [Hostel of Glory] (1931) and ‘El Cafè de la Marina’ [The Marina Café] (1933), although he also cultivated other genres such as comedy, tragedy, musical magazine and the custom-inspired ‘sainet’ [one-act farce], similar to ‘La Rambla de les floristes’ [The florists’ Rambla] (1935). The years before the Civil War, Joan Oliver debuted works which already demonstrated his critical sense and ironic expression, for example ‘Cataclisme’ [Cataclysm] (1935) and ‘Allò que tal vegada s’esdevingué’ [That which perhaps happened] (1936). During the Civil War he wrote ‘La fam’ [The hunger] (1938), a work which was committed to the cause of the revolution. Between 1939 and 1946, Franco’s regime prohibited all public theatrical performances in Catalan. With the restart, Oliver contributed to the renovation of the theatrical panorama and continued to write texts which denounced conventions like ‘Ball robat’ [Stolen dance] (1956) and ‘Primera representació’ [First performance] (1959). Sagarra wrote works of existentialist tendency like ‘La fortuna de Sílvia’ [Sylvia’s fate] (1947) and ‘Galatea’ (1948), which were not well received by the audiences, and this is why he returned to writing dramatic poems like ‘L’hereu i la forastera’ [The heir and the foreigner] (1949) and ‘Les vinyes del Priorat’ [The Priorat
  15. 15. vine yards] (1950) and gained much success with his incursion into religious drama in ‘La ferida lluminosa’ [The luminous wound] (1954). Before the end of the Civil War, Salvador Espriu had written ‘Antígona’ [Antigone], which he did not publish until nearly twenty years later, in 1955. In this work, the writer, playwright and Catalan poet reflected upon the fratricide war and the role of the vanquished. Later on, he wrote ‘Primera història d’Esther’ [First history of Esther] (1948), in which is unfolded a great variety of linguistic resources from Catalan in defence of the contempt and persecution by Franco’s regime. The works of the playwrights who appeared in the 50’s encountered many difficulties in order to reach the audiences. Years often passed-by between the writing and the début of a text (if this text could be produced at all). A paradigmatic case is that of Joan Brossa, an exceptional author who considered his theatrical production to be ‘stage poetry’. In his theatre, popular, traditional, mythological, avant-garde, magical and experimental elements coexist. He moves from everyday life to the grotesque, passing through cabaret theatre and the rupture of theatrical conventions. Amongst his vast output, which has encountered so many difficulties to arrive to the stage, we must point out ‘Sord-mut’ [Deaf-dumb] (1947), ‘Or i sal’ [Gold and salt] (1959), ‘Calç i rajoles’ [Lime and tiles] (1963), ‘Suite bufa’ [Comic suite] (1966) and ‘Striptease i teatre irregular’ [Striptease and irregular theatre] (1969). Josep Palau Fabre, who was very tied to the French literary movements, wrote a dramatic cycle of Don Juan in the 50’s with titles like ‘La tragèdia de Don Joan’ [The Tragedy of Don Juan] (1951), ‘Don Joan als inferns’ [Don Juan in hell] (1952) and ‘Esquelet de Don Joan’ [Don Juan’s skeleton] (1954) where, from the basis of this literary character, he analysed the forms of love and eroticism and the repression in a closed society. The dramatic pieces of Manuel de Pedrolo were considered representative of the theatre of the absurd. Like the other European authors of this movement, Pedrolo demonstrated the absurdness in language, and in reality through characters who were abstract and communicative obstacles in works like ‘Cruma’ (1958), ‘Homes i no’ [Men and no] (1959) and ‘Tècnica de cambra’ [Chamber technique] (1961). In the 60’s, Maria Aurèlia Capmany, who was committed to independent theatre and very active in the renewal of the Catalan stage, débuted some pieces of social criticism like ‘Tu i l’hipòcrita’ [You and the hypocrite] (1959) and ‘Vent de garbí i una mica de por’ [‘Garbí’ wind and a little fear] (1965). Also, a piece of document theatre written together with Xavier Romeu: ‘Preguntes i respostes sobre la vida i la mort de Francesc Layret, advocat dels obrers de Catalunya’ [Questions and answers about the life and death of Francesc Layret, lawyer to the workers of Catalonia] (1971). Young playwrights were trained with the blossom of independent theatre. The Josep Maria de Sagarra Prize, which gave name to the generation of playwrights who appeared between 1963 and 1973, created a platform to let the new names become known. This is the case of Josep Maria Benet Jornet, who won the prize with ‘Una vella, coneguda olor’ [An old, known smell] (1964) the first edition of the Sagarra Prize. This work is the starting point of a fertile and still productive career. He mostly wrote realist works which dealt with problems of social context and which often offer a generational vision, for example: ‘Berenàveu a les fosques’ [You had an afternoon snack in the dark] (1972), ‘Revolta de bruixes’ [Witches revolt] (1976), ‘Desig’ [Desire] (1991), ‘Olors’ [Smells] (2000) and ‘Soterrani’ [Basement] (2008). Another author who came from independent theatre and who has been considered as belonging to the Sagarra generation is Jordi Teixidor, who gained an unprecedented success with ‘El retaule del flautista’ [The flute player’s altar] (Sagarra Prize 1968), which is a piece of Brecht ascendance. Trained in the independent movement of the Valencian region, Rodolf Sirera was very critical of the Valencian history and context in works like ‘Homenatge a Florentí Montfort’ [Homage to Florentí Montfort] (1971) and ‘Plany en la mort d’Enric Ribera’ [Laments for the death of Enric Ribera] (1975). Together with his brother Josep Lluís, he has written, amongst other pieces, the trilogy ‘Cavalls de mar’ [Sea horses] (1989),which is set in the Valencia of the restoration period. In the European theatrical context between the end of the seventies and the 1980’s, the non-textual dramaturgies went through years of plenitude which, together with the apogee of collective creations, made the textual theatre of realist inspiration enter into crisis. This tendency was also felt in the Catalan theatre. With the rise to the stage of Sergi Belbel a new period of creative plenitude of Catalan dramaturgy opened, characterised by the return to textual theatre. Often, from the point of view of a formal game approached in the text, the works of Belbel are characterised by the treatment of themes tied to the contemporary context and the reflex of the preoccupations of the individual. The following titles are examples: ‘Elsa Schneider’ (1987), ‘Carícies’ [Caresses] (1991), ‘Després de la pluja’ [After the rain] (1993), ‘El temps de Planck’ [The time of Planck] (1999) and ‘Forasters’ [Foreigners] (2004) and ‘A la Toscana’ [In Tuscany] (2007). Later, Lluïsa Cunillé appeared who created her own dramaturgic universe through the problems arising from language in un-contextualised situations in which it is difficult to situate the basic referents of a plotted text. From the vast and widely prized career, we can highlight ‘Accident’ [Accident] (1997), ‘Passatge Gutenberg’ [Gutenberg Promenade] (2000), ‘Barcelona, mapa d’ombres’ [Barcelona, map of shadows] (2004) and ‘Après moi le déluge’ (2007). Today, the spaces of dramaturgic training and the diversity of salons guarantee the continued apparition of new authors for the Catalan theatre, which is enjoying an exceptional period with regards to translation and promotion throughout Europe. First published in Culturcat Photo by Culturcat ISSN: 2014-9093 | Legal deposit: B. 2198-2013

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