With Roger Orizando I fell again in what for me was past prejudice: I could not believe those crude and provocative texts, which turn my stomach and made me wonder everything ad nauseum, emerged from that pristine image he projects. It was hard to think that a boy of his generation could be feminist, even without knowing it, without trying to be fashionable, and gain more adepts and funding .
By then I had only read ¨Vacas¨ (2007 UNEAC David Award). After that I read ¨Ayer dejé de matarme gracias a ti¨, ¨Heiner Müller¨ and ¨Perros que jamás ladraron¨ ( I could not read ¨La hijastra¨. Censorship beat me for being out of Cuba). I increasingly admired Rogelio until I met him and loved him-I can admit it because I never believed in the objectivity of my trade.
On September 29 th, Carlos Diaz, director of El Publico Theatre, will premiere his finished version of Antigonon, an epic contingent, a text he entrusted Rogelio for the graduation of novice actresses Deisy Forcade and Giselda Calero, and we could see its work in progress at the beginning of 2013, at Havana’s Raquel Revuelta room.
This interview may serve as an invitation to see the show of Diaz and El Publico Theatre. This time, the stage to recreate the Greek myth will not be Thebes, but Cuba, which has, according to Rogelio its own Antigone.
Turn off your mobile phones . The function will begin.
Why going back on Antigone, one of the stories with more theatrical versions, even in Cuba?
I always made resistance to work with the Greek classics because they seemed much worn out to me. Furthermore, Yerandy Fleites had just done a really interesting work with adolescents from Ranchuelo municipality, which was associated to Greek heroines. For that reason and also because it was mandatory as theme for a seminar at the Higher Institute of Arts (ISA by its Spanish acronym), I made a lot of resistance to make a play on a Greek classic. I even suggested to my teacher, Nara Mansur, making a more contemporary work and we made a version of ¨Tres hermanas¨ (Three Sisters) that semester.
However, when Carlos Diaz agreed to stage the play with which Deisy and Giselda would get graduated, he told them they would work with Antigone. He ordered them to read all the books written about this character for them to have a background and asked me to write something new about Antigone to make a show. It was something I never wanted to do, but he was Carlos Diaz and I was not going to say no because, it was a dream of mine to work with him.
Upon what did you start working?
Carlos took the two actresses to a sandy hill, destined for the construction of the theater, and asked them to bury a few pieces of polyfoam there. When they did it, he told them they had already performed Antigone, that they had buried her brother and that they must return to the stage with their hands full of sand and they made a tour of the stage in such state…
Then he commanded us to read ¨Sueños con claustros de marmol¨ and ¨El padre Suizo¨, two poems by Jose Marti. We would make a reading of the Greek myth from there.
How common is this type of pattern in Cuban theater ?
It was and is a very rare thing. I expected him to ask me a work with dialogues; with dramatic situation, updater … I would do it because he is Carlos Diaz and I was not going to say no, but he gave me complete freedom to submit proposals.
Besides, there was the fact of sharing in rehearsals with the two actresses and Carlos. I took a block of text, and then it was discussed and approved. There I discovered how and towards where to continue. It was like being back in college, in drama classes, but specifically with the best country theater director and two actresses.
I know you’ve done an extensive research to write this text, what did you search? What were your other influences?
I began with Marti and with those two poems that I had not read. It was a total discovery and a hard start. It meant to start from ourselves: Who have been our Antigone? What things did we bury? Which have been the monsters that are been created in this country? What is the need to bury heroes? …
At that time my father was sick with cancer and I had death very close. I had to interact with death all the time. Maybe that gave me a closer view of the living world, of what must be buried and how to face death.
At that time, I took refuge in Sylvia Plath’s poems (I really like how she develops pictures). I remember that there were things that marked me. The monologue of the woman lying on the mortuary stretcher while doctors sniff her body, I take it from a Plath’s poem, something I had never said . This is the most personal experience that you can see in the work.
Then I found out a questionnaire on Abdala in a book of teacher´s trainers of the early 1960’s (my aunt and my grandmother were teachers). It was a summary that served me a lot to study when I was in primary education. I enjoyed the questions. I showed it to Carlos and he also liked it. I started thinking about how to respond them from different sources. At first it was thought that the actresses had to improvise the answers, but we realized that we had to provide them to them, those answers had to be found in different sources of our political, patriotic and sentimental education.
In that process, I got a text by Eusebio Leal, the Historian of Havana, in which he describes the death of General Antonio Maceo and his assistant Panchito Gómez Toro. Right there I discovered our Antigone: that boy who was less than 30 years, who stays with the corpse of his general and who commits suicide for his body not be profaned.
It was very nice to find that Cuba had its own Antigone in Panchito Gómez Toro. That gave a turn to the process by landing it into the country’s history. For me, reading the history of Cuba from Antigone has been very enriching.
And the character of Mariana Grajales that we did not see in the work in progress, when will be displayed? Why?
It coincided with the news of the body and its beatification. I wanted to incorporate and Carlos specifically asked me for a monologue about Mariana, which will be performed by actress Lineth Hernandez, because he wanted her to be a black actress.
For this I rescued a text by Aurelia Castillo speaking women in the bush who lost their children as not to lose the war against Spain. But Mariana is not only Mariana, but the Motherland, Yusimí the reggaeton lady, or any Cuban woman from before or now.
What was the purpose of the work in progress?
I think it was very interesting that Carlos would like to show that, although we thought, somehow, that the play was not going to suffer many changes. Carlos said the process had to be shown to people, which is not usual, and then put them in front of the end result.
For example, after one of the presentations of the work in progress, a historian told us that the play had allowed him to land his research, which had put into question the entire history of Cuba.
Today the question for many people is what Carlos did with the work in progress, because many people qualify as perfect the presentations in Raquel Revuelta room. And I’m also waiting because, as you see, the costumes and projections, which are essential to this new proposal, are not here.
But have you seen the work of costume design by Celia Ledón and Roberto Ramos Mori? What do you think about that?
Spectacular! It is above all very contrasting with what we saw in the work in progress. Although I liked it because it seemed like a very contemporary proposal to me, now you’ll see it in the Carlos Diaz way, a major show capable of filling the Trianon Theatre.
I’m not sure about that. I wonder much, if all youth who are making theater are really artists, if we all need to express something or if we just have facilities to build something. But if you think about it, the same happens to people who are doing theater in Cuba at all levels. Anybody has a theater group having had a more or less satisfactory career. You wonder where the artist is, where the art that can reach people is.
Thinking about this depresses me, because there are many people who do not go to the theater and if they would do it, they could find a bad work. They not only would not go anymore, but would assume that that’s the Cuban theater. Our audience is not specialist, but they are learning so fast and our competencies are increasing too. People watch U.S. series circulating in a gruesome way. This leads to playwrights, TV and film scriptwriters to raise their level. What will Cuban scripwriters write, if everyone is watching American Horror Story?
In the end, I think people are not finding in the theater something to communicate. They prefer humorous genre. But there is another audience that needs a different type of experience. There are some young people who are trying things with language; others are trying to train themselves as directors .
What would motivate you to see then as a playwright and spectator?
What would motivate me the most would be seeing that status of artist, where is your ego, your expression, you as an artist, as a citizen, as a playwright of this country.
We saw you as screenwriter in ¨La Trucha¨ (The Trout), a short fiction film by Luis Ernesto Doñas. Do you continue this way? Are you interested in cinema and television?
My writing has become increasingly personal, of personal expression. That’s why I do not like to use dramatic characters or situation and I write virtually blocks, to be said in the theater and not for people to read them. That’s the difference in why I do not see it as poetry but as statements on stage.
It takes me some work to get into a so mechanical script, such as film or television writing. But I do not deny that, if a working group that interests me appears, I could write a series, or if someone asks me for a specific script as The Trout, I could also do it.
I love cinema and television. But I have very clear that I will not prostitute myself. I prefer working in a bar than making a play for money, for a director who is going to pay 5,000 Cuban pesos for something that does not interest me. I will not prostitute myself with my writing . I have it very clear.
From my feminism I consider you a feminist, how do you see yourself?
I think I’m not. I grew up in my grandmother’s house; with 5 aunts … Suddenly it was all a female world with which I had to talk somehow. Maybe that’s why I have a fresh image of woman.
I really like some women writers like Plath, Virginia Woolf and Sarah Kane, who have connected a lot with me. But I have really never thought about if I have to defend the right of women or if I have to have a female viewpoint.
What do you have for 2014?
I’ll be working on a play with Cirenaica Moreira and her daughter Mariana Alom. I also want to do something for the bicentennial of Tula, with actors Laurita de la Uz and Osvaldo Doimeadiós and staging my text ¨Yo estuve en la misma escuela de William el Magnifico.¨
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