Cuba has short-term memory. Perhaps for being a new town, according to Brazilian anthropologist Darsy Riveiro’s thesis; for our slow, unorganized, warm, and sometimes unsuccessful struggle for survival; all mixed up with the useful human capacity that allows us to live even in grieve for losses, whether for death or immigration, and we do know about that.
However, the story of Cuban actor Georbis Martinez, whom I met in the stage of El Publico Theatre and in the Pavel Giroud Cinema, could bring down any of my hypothesis.
Georbis, who immigrated to Spain six years ago, is now back in Cuba, from where he doesn’t seem to have left. He came to present La otra voz (The other voice), by Spanish playwright and director Manuel De, at Havana’s Theater Festival, but I have been told he is planning to definitely return to Cuba in January 2014.
As a gossiper I dug into his coming-and-going immigrant suitcase. I found a volume of Jose Marti’s Collected Works; Virgilio Piñera. Collected Works; The actor and the dartboard by English Declan Donnelan; a modern e-book with other authors; some amulets and many memories. Now it is your turn to dig in his suitcase.
You left for Spain and I lost track of you, why did you leave?
It has been five years and a half… I left for two reasons. I was invited to go to Paris and I jumped to Spain to see my brother Roberto San Martin. When I saw the acting scenario I told myself ¨why not give it a try?¨. I felt the need to be informed, to learn other methods…
Sometimes in Cuba we cannot test ourselves with the acting done abroad. Sometimes we just stay with Stanislavski, while there are so many contemporary masters of theatre or acting techniques that are not studied here. Having access to that information made me stay in Spain for some time and look for a job.
How was it at the beginning?
To arrive out of thin air is like being born again and say ¨I want to be an actor¨. Thanks to a Cuban girl I got the first job with the Theatre Company Camara Cervantes. I played a small character, but nice. So i started to meet people like Manuel De who worked on the lights for that play.
As theatre was not enough I started to work at a night club, as entertainer. Of course, I was totally out of place because the characters I interpreted at first were like Pinocchio (from Icarus) and others I had done in Havana. What people want is present characters, political stuff, social critics… I came from Cuba, I was not aware of contemporariness and I was not familiar with social critics as Cuban. I decided to change to dancing and I have been living from dancing in a night club Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays.
What did that mean for you as an actor?
At first I was very much disappointed. But when I realized I had to eat and struggle in life as in everywhere, I decided I had to dance. I was always a physical actor, so I started to practice with my colleagues who did graduate from dancing schools. It has been fun and I have learned a lot. That night club offers really hard training, where people doesn’t go to enjoy your performance, but to drink, dance, and talked to their friends. Managing to get the attention of people who are not interested in your performance is something I have learned there. In addition to the physical exercise which is always good for the body.
What happened with the theatre?
It has been difficult although I don’t complain about it. At least I have had two plays per year. As these are not commercial companies I kept my job at the night club.
This time has been useful, I learned something that is not taught at Cuban schools (I don’t know if now they do) which is text work, voice work…, mostly text. I still have a lot to learn.
And what about the big screen or the television?
I have made a few food spots. I played a character in an Andalusian TV series which I enjoyed even though it was small.
The movies and the television are very difficult for foreigners. I tried to work as Spanish actor because I have white skin and I am not much of a Cuban stereotype. I took diction lessons. In fact, this character in the series was a Spanish man. But it has been difficult to continue.
Now that you have got some recognition, you want to come back. Why?
That is just life. I am thinking about coming back in January. I have got more recognition from the press; I have been working in two plays at the same time: La otra voz by Manuel de and a version of Dollhouse by Henrik Ibsen.
I have been struggling for a while. I used to be pleased from the work at the night club. Money and long nights, knowing that you get people´s attention, no longer satisfies me. Mostly what pleases me at the age of 31 is to wake up thinking of the character I am going to play. And I can only do that here because one just manages to leave and there is no winter. I am pleased to make movies, theatre plays, television, in my country, with my family.
What is on your mind?
I want to work with Carlos, I feel like teaching at the National School of Arts (ENA by its acronym in Spanish), at the Higher Institute of Arts (ISA by its acronym in Spanish)… And more than that, I would like to create an academy of my own to share what I have learned. Schools demand method and I have got my own book. I would give it a try if I can pass it on to others, which I don’t know yet.
What can you say of La otra voz in the Cuban context, which is so different from the Spanish where there is a law for marrying people of the same sex?
There is news that in Cuba there were and there are problems with homosexuality. But I think there are not so many. Perhaps I am mistaken because I have never had problems with my sexual orientation. We don’t have laws but with the people´s this is no longer such a big conflict as it was in Parametracion 1 and UMAP 2. Still we have to fight for improvements in the government, State, on a legislative level.
Spain, where there is marriage, where I married, is not that different from Cuba. For example, Gay pride festivities have been considerably reduced; in fact, they are maintained because there is an intense struggle.
I think this play can contribute with the normalization of this topic because it is approached naturally. It was written with a humanistic perspective, it is a human problem so you accept love between humans. What matters is that there are two people that have loved each other and one of them still loves the other. I hope everyone in the audience had loved and had been loved, although they are no longer in that relation.
La otra voz portrays a character that, despite being gay, doesn´t get out of the closet. There is no problem if you do get out of the closet. But that is not the icon. Here gays still have to get in a stereotype as a means for struggling, though that is increasingly less common.
I wrote in a comment on the play that I felt like a voyeur…
In the interviews I have had on this character I say that when Manuel gave me the play, with the whole history of performance artist, I studied these people. I stopped to think on their thoughts, their vision about something.
For that I took this play as performance. It is not like: ¨silence, the show is about to begin¨ but rather like ¨coming my friend, take a look¨. I tried to portray a piece of life in that play, I wish I had made it.
Would you like to take part in project like Antigonon or other by young Cuban playwrights?
I would be fascinated. Last year I enjoyed a piece of the rehearsals of Antigonon, and I was devastated. To see it now with Carlos is a privilege. I believe Rogelio´s writing was necessary. It needed new voices. I already saw that light when Norge Espinosa and I played Icarus. But with Rogelio and Fabian Suarez, in the movies, I feel like staying here to do things of that people that is talking about you, me, about now.
What else do you bring in your suitcase?
I always bring Saint Lazarus, a gift from my grandmother; a Virgin of La Caridad, a gift from a friend; a white beads necklace that I wore in the play Art; a bag of The witches of Salem, with things I had at that epoch; another that was a gift from my roommate at the ENA when we were 14 years old; pictures of my mother, my grandmother, my brother, my cousin, my aunt and her husband; somecascarilla, tobacco and that´s it.
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