Carolina Africa: "It is insane to finish the functions of a work and not get paid"

Carolina Africa has put together a puzzle as dizzying as it is human where she mixes life, reality and fiction based on her experience as a theater director in the Soto del Real prison in Madrid, a work that the public has adored and applauded wildly: Pythagoras' notebook. This Sunday the functions in Madrid end and a tour of Spain begins.

Much blame for the triumph of Pythagoras Notebook It has a cast dedicated to Carolina Africa's game, to a theatrical game with a great rhythm where scenes and changes in reality take place that turn the theater into a living space where the spectator has fun, gets excited, identifies and feels hooks up. The versatility of one of the great actresses on the scene, Nuria Mencia, who breathes life there into either the classic theater of Eduardo Vasco or Laila Ripoll, or the more contemporary one of Alfredo Sanzol, is a clear example of this. The Andalusian Manolo Caro, who truly fills the protagonist of the work, the prisoner Furia, is another.

There is only a shadow over this montage of the National Dramatic Center (CDN). As the director herself made public, she has not yet received anything from the INAEM (Ministry of Culture). And her actors, to date, have only received five hundred euros from the rehearsals carried out in the first half of December.

The playwright, director and actress has been at the helm of her company La Belloch Teatro for ten years, one of the happy stories of the Madrid theater that is now celebrating its anniversary with two other productions on the bill. In the Fourth Wall (Madrid), Carolina Africa has traced her work autumn in april, which will be on the bill until February 26. And at the Quique San Francisco theater, also in the capital, the piece written by Manuel Benito and directed by Julio Provencio, 337KM, which can be seen until the 27th of this month.

Your theater is clearly a theater for acting, for the actor, do you agree?

My training in theater is from acting. It has cost me a lot to accept that I am a playwright and much more that I am a director. My stage pulse, my conception of the rhythm of the phrase and of the stage rhythm is that of an actress. Even writing I am very Solomonic. I like working with each of the actors and that they can show off. I need a permeable actor to play with, who is creative. I like the emotional range and for that you need a very good and very playful actor.

It seems that many of the scenes of Pythagoras Notebook they have arisen from the acting game, is it so?

That is appearance. Everything is already in the text, even the little blood sausages. It is not improvisation. Rehearsing is repeating and repeating, everything goes like clockwork.

This work about life in prison grows out of her relationship as a volunteer to work with inmates in jail.

I have been working in the Soto prison with the inmates since 2016. We put on a play a year. They write the texts and their families come to the function. The impression I had entering the prison, that cold module full of doors that are opening, is also in the work, when Macarena, my alter ego, arrives at the prison. But after the first day it was clear that I wanted to go back, so I went back, I began to correct and type what they wrote by hand, to rehearse it with them and finally to put on the work. I went for a talk and stayed forever.

And when did you decide that there was a work there?

I decided it one day at a meeting I organize with those who have already been released from prison, with free people who have finished their sentence or who are on parole. That's where I met the free man that Fury's character is inspired by. That man has been in prison for thirty years. We had a very long interview that he let me record. He is a wonderful guy, with a great ability to see himself. He is able to reason and see how all the sadness that he had accumulated had turned into rage, how he blamed society, the prison and the officials for something that was his. All this has fed the work. Many of the characters and the things they tell are also based on people and anecdotes of the prisoners.

The charge of hope in the work is surprising, these prisoners in whom their good feelings stand out and that after so much misery their stories do not end badly, do you think you can be labeled as a good man?

That is my great danger. My work easterly winds, about multiple sclerosis, is a hymn to life and in theory it should have been a drama. I am an earthquake, I am in life and I fight in joy, although it may sound crazy. To anyone who accuses me of being a good guy, I would say that in this work there are no prisoners imprisoned unjustly, they have done what they have done, they don't cover up or call things something else, if it's murder, it's murder. In prison I expected to find some beasts that I wanted to run away from and I found people with whom I have more similarities than differences, as Concepción Arenal says in the book The prisoner's visitor. I found hope.

The work has worked like lightning selling out tickets from the beginning. When the tour at the National Drama Center ends on March 27, what will happen to the staging?

I need a producer or distributor to take a risk and want to move this show, there are nine actors and I don't have a headliner who is famous on TV. I need an investor, a Greater Wyoming who falls in love and puts up a few thousand euros. I'm sure it would work, the work is arousing a lot of interest, such as that of penitentiary institution workers, directors of prison modules, Iñaki Gabilondo, the Ombudsman or Manuela Carmena who has been a prison surveillance judge. In this montage there is a social function that is relevant. One day we will look at today's prisons and they will seem like something from the Middle Ages.

On February 14, between so many messages in love, Carolina Africa, published a tweet in which she stated that what would "fall in love" with her was that the INAEM had "paid one of the two invoices for the direction of The Pitágoras notebook" that aired, one in November for rehearsals and another in January for the premiere. "Not a hard one, gentlemen. Of course, my VAT has already been charged to me," she added.

It is not the first time that delays in the payment of invoices and payroll of the INAEM have been made public. The African tweet caught on among actors from other units such as the National Classical Theater Company, regarding which the actor Israel Elejalde said: "Same situation in The feigned true. The INAEM and its production centers mistreat their artists in this way that goes on for too long". The same thing was done by the actress of a different production of that same company, Irene Serrano, who denounced that after two and a half months they had only received 600 euros. These messages coincide in time with the resignation of the deputy director general of this public body, Fernando Cerón. By means of a harsh letter, Cerón criticized and justified his departure for not having been able to "face the urgent needs for reform" of the INAEM and the "search for new instruments of relationship and support for the sector" This occurs at a delicate moment, after a negotiation with the unions to change the conditions of access to public places and the provision of more than 70 million European funds to invest in the profession.

Has anything changed since you posted the tweet? Has someone from INAEM told you when they are going to pay?

Nobody has told us anything else that we have to wait, that it is a matter of the Ministry of Finance. It is true that we had already been warned that it happened every year. Alfredo Sanzol, director of the National Dramatic Center, told us to anticipate that this could happen, which has been happening since the 2014 Montoro law. But it's insane, this week we finished the shows in Madrid and I haven't received any of the two bills. And the actors have only received the first fifteen days of rehearsals.

So just wait?

Wait and pay VAT to the Treasury as a self-employed person. Of course, if I delay the recharge, no one takes it from me. On the other hand, if they are late, nothing happens, being they themselves who made a law to set a limit [de 60 días] to pay bills to public administrations. It's incomprehensible. INAEM is stagnant and it doesn't seem like anyone can change it. Last year Ramón Barea decided to leave the work shock, who was also in the Centro Dramático Nacional, because the INAEM cannot pay per diems or lodging for a person outside of Madrid and they put [los gastos] on payroll It is absurd, apart from fraudulent. Tax-wise, a per diem or rent is not the same as when you are paid on a payroll. And furthermore, with these delays, Barea saw that to work at the CDN you had to pay your flat and allowances, work for months and not receive a single euro. It doesn't surprise me that Cerón has resigned, he has burst because he couldn't take it anymore. My youngest actors have no financial cushion and are supposedly in the best place you can be.

The Belloch Theater celebrates ten years, Could you summarize these ten years in a breath?

Ten years ago I came from Buenos Aires with a written text, summer in december. I went with a scholarship to write for Timbre 4, Claudio Tolcachir's theater. When I returned to Spain I brought back something I learned in Buenos Aires: when people want to do things, they do them. I got into a hair salon and started the project To the theater x the curlers. I sold rollers for eight euros and with that I put on a show at the hairdresser's own, The penultimate. In 2012 she won the Calderón de la Barca Award with summer in december. With the ten thousand euros I rented a place, four friends got together and we began to put on that play with the actress Carmen Belloch. We didn't have a name for the company, her last name means beautiful place, so it seemed obvious to us. When Carmen saw that we had put up a sign outside the premises with her name, La Belloch Teatro, she told us: "What's the matter, are you already killing me?" Precisely Carmen passed away shortly, she did not get to premiere the work, she just made a sample of the work in the premises. I think whoever was there, like me, will remember it for life. When Ernesto Caballero, director of the CDN at the time, saw the performance he gave me the opportunity to stage it there one day. It was a wonderful performance and the applause is still etched in my head. With that work we swelled to bowling, we went to Mexico, Colombia, Uruguay... We have been with the show for ten years, it is still alive today, there is even a project to make a film with Chema de la Peña for which I have already written the script.

From there…

In La Belloch we are four so we are mounting more works. zombie zombie by Virginia Fruits, Levante Winds that was mine, Modern with actress Lola Cordón and directed by Julio Provencio. We were saving and daring to produce a little more ambitious. And the pandemic arrived, we had to leave our headquarters, it was suicide to continue paying the rent without a single bill, then I became a mother... La Belloch is that beautiful place that we created between four colleagues, which we continue to be. It is a theater that we do in an artisanal way, among friends who have an artistic affinity and with projects in which we believe. The industry sucks so we set it up ourselves and at least we work and we do it with love. Now, I don't have a new text, Laura Cortón wants to act, we have a text by Paco Gámez who is a wonderful author who wins all the prizes and nobody rides him, because I direct him and go ahead. That is La Belloch. We are contemporary dramaturgy, yes, but with an emotional component.

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