Gabriel Calderón: «I work from the rear, with what the current theater has rejected»

Do you like that in all your biographies you are defined as an innovator of the 21st century staging?

Honestly, I don’t consider my work very innovative. The innovation of which I speak comes from a theater that in the twentieth century innovated in its forms and mechanisms. But my theater is very conventional since it builds conservatively, with actors who tell stories in a traditional way. Stories that are not self-fictional, but I reflect a lot on the capacity of theater to tell stories and to make, through lies, feel the truth. Something like saying that “this does not happen to you, but to people who have nothing to do with you, but maybe you have an empathic job.” It is not even a theater of identification, but seeing the actors one is moved because one understands the history they are going through.

Do you think, then, that going back to the traditional is truly avant-garde today?

I like to feel almost in the rear, not in the avant-garde, working on everything that contemporary theater has thrown away a bit like over-acting, telling stories, but not because I oppose myself, but because that’s what I do. I work in the line of recovering stories and telling them basically with the actors. Do something that moves you for acting work. Do just that well without adding a lot of originality to it.

It’s funny how, in the meantime, reformist, that sounds fresh and even original.

If I have something that deserves to be highlighted, it is a conservative theater that does not react against the new. An anchor where the new needs a strong tail. And even if it is necessary to put something from the Comedy of Art or Elizabethan theater in the modern context.

“The acting is the work of the dialogues, to see the cinema and to read the literature”


But there is no doubt that his works pursue theatrical study during the same performance. How do you do it without losing the viewer’s attention?

In Half of God, from 2015, there is a character playing the Pope, another a Muslim and a priest pregnant by Immaculate Conception. It is a miracle and, therefore, who is going to question it. And that priest believes that he has had a miracle and has to accept it. Here is basically connecting things that exist. What if miracles happened? The loaves begin to multiply, the water turns into wine, etc. In Something from Ricardo to an actor, who has been secondary all his life, he is given the opportunity to play Ricardo III. The rehearsal comes and the director is a donkey and the whole cast is pathetic and realizes that the play is going to be horrible. So, as the characters progress and die, they also take people out of the cast. He is left only with the female characters, the queens, who are the most valuable. In Or, maybe life is ridiculous, a family searches for a missing girl from the dictatorship and thirty years later learns that she was abducted by aliens. And he finds out because they come to return it, so he has to join the military whom they hated during all those years. In Ex, let the actors reinvent there is a girl who loses her family in the dictatorship and invents a time machine that she brings back so they can tell her what they lost. Ultimately, everything becomes a curious theatrical language with things that they cannot say.

Do you therefore make a theater thinking only of the actor?

Literature exists to tell stories and cinema to see them, theater exists through the actors’ dialogues. And the actor was born as an archetype when in the car of Thespis a member separated. Before there was only one voice that was the choir. But here the unique voice begins. Thespis sees what happens and that made him create an actor. And from there the dialogue is not to say an idea but to challenge it. In Ana contra la muerte, my latest show, I talk about a woman who, to save a son with cancer, illegally uses drugs. The woman is arrested and the judge frees her to accompany the last three days of her son’s life. I build everything through the most difficult dialogues she has ever had in her life. They are conversations that one would pay to know and the conjunction of all that makes a theatrical bomb.

And how have your works worked in Europe?

I did a cycle of my works in Paris. Then in Switzerland and Italy. In 2017, at the National Theater of Catalonia, I premiered Ex, that actors burst, with Catalan actors.

“The premise of the workshop is above all to work on mistakes and difficulties and not on achievements”


And how have you planned the workshop you are working on?

The premise of the workshop is to work on mistakes and difficulties and not on achievements. We are going to see how it is done and we are going to try to get it wrong. And that’s why it’s called The Last Bad Work. If we do the last bad deed well, from there we can do a good deed. We reflect on the impossibilities of creation such as not being a writer that does not allow you to advance. We work on three premises which are not being, not knowing what to do and that others do not understand. And then on specific problems of dramaturgy such as what is poetry in drama. Why does a character say something poetic. Poetry has to convince, it doesn’t have to be beautiful. As Voltaire says, it is about poeticizing to transform the essence of the character, of transmuting the essence of things like the poetic metaphor of Cervantes and the mills as giants. An artist must be working as a craftsman for the poetic function so that in the drama it becomes the correct breathing of the actors.

And what have been your teachers in that sense?

Very different authors such as Pier Paolo Passolini, Sergio Blanco or Juan Mayorga, who can say the most complex things in the simplest possible way. Come to the conclusion that perhaps by not being unique and original we have achieved something that can move people’s hearts and in that field I like to compete, in the commitment to theater.

In your particular case, what was the reason why you decided to direct theater?

For something that we were stained by. I remember the first three works that I saw and that changed me forever. I came out of one of them angry, but he stayed with me for years. And I changed my mind over time. I left feeling bored but everything stayed with me at work. With the theater, one is the one who has to make the move. The commercial is what he does to like you. But the one who is not in that area moves in another area. Going to the theater is a huge difficulty, there are so many things to distract you, but we have already achieved something with a spectator. Even when it says, “I didn’t like it,” because it has been part of a slightly more complex experience.

“A theatrical spectator is always an achievement because he has become part of something more complex”


And does that also change between the creators themselves?

We cannot do only the theater that we like. We have a very traditional view of the viewer. Piglia says that the contemporary reader is much more distracted, that he does not necessarily enter at the beginning and end at the end. But we have transformed the theater into laughter, enjoyment and surprises. And if you have any of those three things then the play is good. But maybe there is something else. Like there are books that disturb us and do not let us sleep.


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