Two thirds of the works most represented in Spanish theaters in the last four decades correspond to dead authors. Among the 30 most premiered are only four that are currently alive (José Sanchis Sinisterra, José Luis Alonso de Santos, Sergi Belbel and Juan José Alonso Millán) and five others who died in that period (Tennessee Williams, Jean Genet, 1986, Samuel Beckett , 1989, Harold Pinter, 2008, Dario Fo, 2016). The list is headed by Shakespeare, followed very far by García Lorca and further still by Molière, Lope de Vega and Calderón. There is no woman.
The figures are the result of the analysis made by this newspaper to the databases of the Theatrical Documentation Center, unit of the Ministry of Culture that registers the scenic activity of the country since 1982, with almost 31,000 premieres counted since then. The general conclusion is that the Spanish billboard has been nourished basically from the traditional repertoire since the arrival of democracy: above all of the great classics and the renovators of the 20th century (Lorca, Valle, Chekhov, Brecht, Beckett, Ionesco, Ibsen). Another revealing fact is that the most released work is Don Juan Tenorio, by José Zorrilla, as it is replenished in a ritual way every November 1, followed by two by Lorca: Bernarda Alba's house Y Blood Wedding.
However, in a more detailed study of the data for decades, an ascending curve is observed in the percentage of signatures of living Spaniards. Guillermo Heras, director of the Sample of Spanish Theater of Contemporary Authors of Alicante, has a clear explanation: "The Francoism generated a great hostility towards Spanish dramaturgy, especially towards those who premiered during the dictatorship (Mihura, Casona, Benavente). A great fracture had also been created between those who defended Buero's possibilism and Sastre's radicalism. So when democracy arrived, the idea spread that there were no Spanish authors. " Only two were saved from the great burning: Lorca and Valle, prohibited during the Franco regime and reviewed with anxiety after the death of the dictator. The Grenadian even surpassed Shakespeare in the last two decades of the twentieth century.
This is what Heras found when, in 1984, the Ministry of Culture commissioned him to create the National Center for New Performing Trends (CNNTE), which he directed until his disappearance in 1993. "They told me he was crazy, he was not going to find new authors, but I found them. There some of the most represented were forged today not only in Spain but in Europe, from Juan Mayorga until Angelica Liddell. What shows that when you really bet on the new creation you achieve great results, "Heras recalls.
The alternative rooms took over from CNNTE in the nineties, Sanchis Sinisterra it created a school in Barcelona, the institutions began to give visibility to the new voices … and little by little the Spanish dramaturgy began to resurface. Today it is not uncommon to find authors not only alive, but also young, although this is not yet reflected in the statistics as it is a recent phenomenon.
In the global figures, wherever you look, the classics are recurrent. The National Drama Center (CDN) premieres this Friday The Cherry Orchard, by Chéjov, directed by Ernesto Caballero. At the National Theater of Catalonia (TNC) they are on the bill The good person of Sezúan, of Brecht, with the direction of Oriol Broggi, and Lost love jobs, by Shakespeare, with staging by Pere Planella.
"There are many factors that explain this recurrence. On the one hand, the attraction that these authors continue to awaken in the directors and actors of today: we want to measure ourselves with this great material, make it our own. And on the other hand, institutions like the CDN have as a mission to bet on contemporary dramaturgy, which we do very well, but also to make known to the new generations the great repertoire of the 20th century, which can hardly be addressed in commercial circuits because it is expensive: they are usually works of many characters and they demand complex scenography, "explains Caballero, director of the CDN.
Broggi, who in addition to premiering his Brecht at the TNC also runs the La Perla 29 space in Barcelona, with mixed funding, says that his goal is to reach a broad audience. "That's why we bet on the great repertoire theater, capable of speaking to many different people. That includes not only past names such as Brecht, Chekhov or Beckett, but also new ones that are incorporated as Wajdi Mouawad or Eduardo de Filippo, "clarifies.
Xavier Albertí, director of the TNC, bets on his programming for works "that feed the present and at the same time connect with the great energy of the past", but always bearing in mind, he assures, that the theater is not a museum. "The theater takes place in real time, so it is always contemporary even if it was written in another time," he clarifies.
In commercial circuits other factors linfluyen. "History is the most important thing. We look for arguments that connect with the current public, with their concerns and with their humor. Of course a playwright and some well-known actors help, also that there are not too many characters that make the production more expensive, but I always put the story ahead, "explains Jesús Cimarro, director of the production company Pentation. That's why in the commercial billboard live authors and small distributions abound more.
Explosion of dramatists
Just as in the first years of democracy Spanish dramaturgy had a bad image, today there is talk of a boom of young authors and, in particular, of an explosion of female names. In the analysis of the last decade we find among the 30 most premiered Jordi Casanovas, Carlos Be and Juan Carlos Rubio. If we expand the relationship to 50, names like Jordi Galcerán, Ernesto Caballero, Paco Bezerra, Pablo Messiez, Alberto Conejero and Denise Despeyroux appear. In 2018 the list is full of women: Marta Buchaca, Carol López, Lucía Carballal, Lucía Miranda, Lola Blasco …
The data offers other interesting conclusions. For example, that collective creation works have increased in the last decade. Also that anniversaries, if they are well organized, raise the price. Cervantes experienced a spectacular rebound due to the celebration in 2005 of the 400th anniversary of the publication of the Quixote, but not so much with the fourth centenary of his death in 2016. And the awards influence: Dario Fo multiplied in the scenarios after winning the Nobel in 1997.