On October 10, 1950, Alfonso Sastre, aged 24, published the Manifesto of the TAS (Theater of Social Agitation) together with José María Quinto. Manifesto that began by saying: “We conceive the theater as a ‘social art’, in two senses. A) Because the Theater cannot be reduced to the aesthetic contemplation of a refined minority. The Theater carries in its blood the existence of a great projection b) Because this social projection of the Theater can no longer be merely artistic. “
Thus began a new theater that claimed its connection with the symbolism and experimentation of the avant-gardes of the beginning of the century and denied the bourgeois and accommodating theater of Francoism. A theater with symbolist overtones that would soon become more realistic, more political, more radical. Thus began one of the most relevant theatrical careers of the last century.
Alfonso Sastre’s beginnings in the fifties were not easy, his works suffer over and over again the censorship of the Franco regime. The 1953 premiere of Squad to death of the Popular University Theater directed by Gustavo Pérez Puig was a considerable success. But at the third performance the play was censored, the theater closed. This work, one of the author’s greats, would be represented numerous times in a democracy.
The following year, in 1954, his works Pathetic prologue and Everyone’s bread (which would premiere three years later, in 1956, at the Windsor Theater in Barcelona) were also censored. Hard years of Francoism that with the “openness” of the sixties were leaving little loopholes to be able to release. The start at Windsor would be fundamental for the Sastre theater, the play was directed by a young director, Adolfo Marsillach. Director who would get his work premiered at the Lara Theater in Madrid The goring in 1960 and thus open the space of capital possibilities to the author. The following year, at the now defunct Teatro de Recoletos in Madrid, the play premiered under the direction of Juan Antonio Bardem In the net. Its ideologization at this time is being forged, already in 1963 Sastre would join the Communist Party of Spain. Those were the times of bitter controversies with Buero Vallejo in which while he defended a “possibility” theater that the public could understand and save the obstacle of censorship, Sastre opted for a scenic art that broke with Francoism, a theater that was both artistic and politically much more radical.
In 65, Antonio Malonda’s independent group Bululú premiered one of its great works Guillermo Tell has sad eyes. This relationship with the independent theater would be vital for Sastre’s work. This will not only be an author: in 1968 Marsillach would have one of his great successes with the adaptation that Sastre made of Marat Sade by Peter Weiss, thus also demonstrating Sastre’s nose and wisdom to represent European epic theater. Already in 1977, after his wife Eva Forest was arrested for having collaborated in the attack on ETA’s Calle del Correo, and he himself was arrested and imprisoned for eight months, Juan Margallo, with his company El Búho, premieres The blood and the ash, Miguel Servet, work with which they toured throughout Latin America.
On that continent, Juan Margallo, a historical actor and theater director, is caught by the news of Sastre’s death. Margallo, one of the great architects of Spanish independent theater of the seventies, rehearses the play that premieres this Saturday, September 18 at the Sala Mirador in Madrid, Until Alzheimer’s devours me (based on his book Live on air). After an outburst and a curse upon hearing the news, Margallo comments to this newspaper: “It’s not a joke, just now I was remembering Alfonso, the play that will premiere tomorrow is a bit of my memories and of course! I’m talking about him” , explains this Extremaduran director who, upon hearing the news, decided that the first performance of his new production would be dedicated to Tailor. “He was the forerunner and the antecedent of independent theater in Spain, before us he had already mounted with the university theater or created a theater cooperative in front of the Café Gijón. The independent theater was a theater based on three assumptions: its structure was the cooperative, it had to be independent from power and its theater had to be social. Its texts were perfect for our theater, “says Margallo. “In the year 77 we mounted The blood and the ash With a wonderful team, Petra Martínez, Santiago Ramos, Gerardo Vera… and at the premiere in Barcelona, at La Villaroel, they put a bomb on us, a bomb that also exploded right next to the dressing rooms, I had passed by there two minutes before. Anyway, we did the show “, recalls Margallo that two years later, in 1979, already with the company El Gallo Vallecano, he premiered another work by Sastre: Ahola is not from leil.
Those were the years when Sastre distanced himself from the Eurocommunism of Santiago Carrillo’s PCE, a party he left. Little by little, it was establishing itself in positions of the Basque nationalist abertzale. “In the eighties I presented his work The dark comrade to the National Dramatic Center, a tough play about the communist left in this country, they logically rejected it “, Margallo comments, pointing out a drift from Spanish theater to the production of Sastre: it is being released less and less, it is more and more remote.” The theatrical profession cornered him, it was not valid for democracy … “, recalls bitterly Guillermo Heras, President of the Association of Theater Directors who also recalled how his first two forays as an actor in an amateur neighborhood theater were with works by Alfonso Sastre .
“It’s a shame, surely many people today do not know who Alfonso Sastre is because we live in a country that burns his own memory. Playwrights like him or Francisco Nieva in any other country in Europe would be pure repertoire and we would be seeing current productions of his works, lively and controversial montages. If today there are no longer even debates like that of Buero and Sastre on possibilism, today there is only the holy market, “he reasons. “Now I am very sad, I cry a lot, but I wanted to make an appeal from here so that public and private stages dare to raise montages of one of the most important dramaturgies of our country, a complicated dramaturgy but with great force that today With the new possibilities of the scene and with the new hybrid languages, it could renew itself, be alive again and teach us “, reasons Heras, a Spanish director who has also participated in independent theater from Tábano, a company in which he was closely related to Sastre.
When asked whether Alfonso Sastre has been well assembled in Spain, Heras doubts, states that he has not seen the assemblies of the 50s and 60s, but affirms: “I think that with Juan Margallo they got on wonderfully, those montages were very good. And already in the nineties, in 94, a Basque company, Eolo Teatro, made a very interesting show about his work Where are you, Ulaume, where are you?“.
Already in his Gipuzkoan exile, Sastre continued to write plays and essays. “What seems to me most important about Alfonso Sastre is his capacity for transversality, he is one of the great theater theorists, a very good poet and a great playwright. In addition, he promoted a publishing house like Hiru that now that I am looking at my library I see that it is full of his books “, Heras affirms about this Basque publishing house that introduced in Spain the texts of Heiner Müller, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Georg Büchner, Thomas Bernhard and Peter Weiss.
“I just received the news,” says Ignacio Amestoy, a well-known playwright from Biscay, visibly affected, “in recent years I had a close relationship with Alfonso, we saw each other in the Basque Country and talked about the situation in the Basque Country, reflecting on what It has happened in the last two decades. In his last stretch he isolated himself, it was a shame because he was a man who had a lot to say, in a moment of confusion like this, Alfonso was clarity. Besides being a great playwright, he was the great resistance in the theater in Spain during the Franco regime, we have lost a man with a great capacity for analysis and reflection “. Margallo, in turn, agrees: “His books Drama and society or Anatomy of realism for me they are fundamental. He is the great theorist of 20th century theater together with Pepe Monleón. But really what would stand out the most about him is his maintenance, the firmness of his position throughout his life, always trying to be with the people and the Revolution. “