Monday, August 3, 2020

“You just need a story and a viewer”

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Israel Elejalde felt “Martian”, despite his experience as an actor and director, the first time he got in front of the camera of his iPad on the set he had prepared and began to interpret the monologue ‘Esto es agua’ by David Foster Wallace. There were twenty spectators at that show, each at home, watching him through the Zoom app. «All the others are silenced, I speak and look at the camera. Little by little, you find the mechanisms ». New technologies “allow you to do something that smells of theater” without breaking the confinement. At the end the microphones open automatically and people clap eagerly, with excitement. There are many lovers of the performing arts “who feel this and thank you” for taking them out of their confinement.

The confined theater is a small seed that grows fast, because unfortunately it has no rival. When we regain a certain normality, “the closed meeting spaces will be the last to get a health permit to function”, assumes Carlos Aladro, director of La Abadía. The Madrid center was the one that launched this initiative on March 27, to celebrate World Theater Day. “We received public money and we wanted to continue giving service in some way,” he explains. Go one step further in front of the growing offer of works in streaming, which he conceives “more as a study tool than for intellectual enjoyment”.

A live performance “for a congregation of people in real time.” This basic rule of an ancient art is fulfilled, which has found the complicity of new technologies to overcome the barrier of space. Also the public follows a ritual. The first, buy the ticket, “a social contract” and a way to remind us that artists do not live off the air, although what is collected from the localities (at five euros) goes to the #Yomecorono campaign to fight the coronavirus . As always, it is convenient to be punctual. Half an hour before the performance, a message is received with instructions and the room managers attend to the spectators. “Do you hear well?” “You have the camera on your left.”

With cello music

The most difficult thing is to get a seat in this necessarily intimate virtual room. “There are technical limitations and also a closeness component. We can go from 20 to 30 people, but we must seek balance. Tickets fly in minutes for all shows, increasingly varied. Bella Batalla and Sleepwalk Collective, from the community of creators of La Abadía, began with the monologue ‘Sea wall’ and ‘Actress 2020’, which unites text and sound space. Then another monologue, a performance piece and a document theater montage have been added. There are more creators preparing new pieces, adapting their stage language to this format. The Bilbao company La Pacheca Collective has already done so and this weekend presents ‘Hipólito’, by Antonio Morcillo López, with actress Bea Insa in her living room and cellist Nerea Aizpurua in hers.

This contemporary version of the Phaedra myth was released in 2011 and won an award at the Zenith Theater Research Festival. “He is a character that I always carry with me,” says the Valencian actress based in Bilbao, who records with her computer’s webcam. Phaedra «It does not exist without the gaze of Hipólito as we do not exist without the public», he reflects. She has worked in very different settings -among them a ship’s hold and a hotel room- and it is clear that to do theater, “you only need a story and a spectator. That is its purest essence », the one that continues to savor an irreducible community.

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